E-mail, Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Voxer. Social media is a wonderful tool that allows us to connect with one another. For me, it's been a great way to meet people virtually, create relationships, and then meet them in person when I'm on the road. Being on the road every week is an honor because I get to do the work I have put a lot of time and effort into, and social media has allowed me to create relationships with people to the point that we have become friends. Not social media friends, but real friends.
What people may not know about me is that I'm actually an introvert. I run workshops and give keynotes which means that I am constantly with people, and I love interacting with teachers, students and leaders because they challenge my thinking and make me a better educator. However, when I go back to my hotel room I need to work out and spend time by myself. I need to re-energize and recharge. Social media help me connect at the same time I could respect my introverted ways.
Unfortunately, over the last few years I have fallen into the social media trap. I have fallen into the trap of checking social media every free moment that came my way. In an article titled, Do You Need a Digital Detox Danielle Friedman wrote that "The average number of times per day people check their phones is 47." Some of you may be thinking, "Really? I check my phone much more than that." Personally, I feel like I could double that number.
When I posted pictures, I felt a sense of security when person after person after person "Liked" them. Until there were times when people hardly liked them, and then I considered removing the pictures because they didn't have the appropriate number of likes. In the excellent article How To Be Centered In a Crazy World, Ginny Graves writes, "Technology is addictive. Every ping and buzz zaps your brain with a hit of the pleasure chemical dopamine."
I actually found myself going through my Facebook and Instagram feeds liking friends' pictures because I wanted them to feel the love. And then I would look up at the clock on a Saturday morning or week night while I was on the road, and realize that I wasted well over an hour or two of my time. Time I could have been doing something better for my soul.
Pressure to ConnectAs an author and consultant I live my life on social media, and all that it exposes me to. We not only want to connect with others, there are times we feel the pressure to connect with people through a variety of different venues so they can put a face with the name. Perhaps, if you see me on social media you will see that I have the right background, and talk about topics you care about too.
Unfortunately, instead of living in the real world, I often went to my virtual world. I spend a lot of time on the road, and when I go to eat at the hotel restaurant or the restaurant near the hotel, the host or hostess often looks at me and asks, "Eating alone or are you meeting someone?" I quickly answer, "Alone. I'm in town for work," so they don't think I'm completely without friends or a partner.
At the table I hurry up and take out my phone. It helps signify I'm in town on business, or that I have so many friends and fans that I can only keep up with it all by eating and social media..ing at the same time. My phone became my constant companion.
Unfortunately, at the same time I was keeping myself busy while eating, I was also exposing myself to negative news story after negative news story, and when I would go to twitter I would end up seeing Tweets from people who seemed like they were trying to bait me into a debate that would ultimately have no winner. I walked away from it, but I could not get it off my mind. It actually prompted me to write this blog about 3 reasons I do not engage in debates on Twitter. Why? At some point over the last few years the constant exposure to social media has gotten to be too much, and I needed a change.
A Change of BehaviorOver the last year, I have been practicing meditation. I have written about it a few times, but by far the most popular blog post I wrote on my meditation experience is 5 Ways I allowed Stress and Anxiety to Control My Attitude. To date, I have practiced meditation for a year straight. 365 days. Twice a day, every day for a year.
However, it's been more than meditation that has led to my present feeling about social media, and overall exposure to the noise that comes at me every day. Although I have felt the struggle over the last few years, I began reading articles and books on mindfulness. I found myself watching House Hunters International. Why? I'm tired of constant violence in television shows and then hearing about shootings around our country, where people are consistently surprised by violence. I'm tired of seeing arguing on television among politicians saying things about each other that we would never allow from students, and then seeing it play out the same way on Facebook and Twitter.
So, I'm slowing down my use of social media and taking a break. I'm going into digital detox, and I know it will not be easy. Instead of spending so much time in my digital world, I'm heading back into my real world. Instead of constantly feeling like I need to defend a position, I'm taking a position outside where I will practice a bit more meditation and mindfulness.
I will be taking an extended break from writing this blog to focus on my real world and to finish some writing projects that have a hefty deadline. However, I will be posting some engaging and inspiring guest blogs (so I will have to use social media to post them). It's time for me to get my priorities straight in a way that will work best for me and the relationships I have with family and friends. I hear the "Ohm," calling me now.
Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. is the author of several books including Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (Corwin Press. 2016), School Climate: Leading with Collective Efficacy (Corwin Press. 2017), and Coach It Further: Using the Art of Coaching to Improve School Leadership (Corwin Press. 2018).