In early January I was in LA and my parents invited me to go a whale watching cruise for a few hours. I’d never been whale watching and decided it sounded like a great way to spend an afternoon with my family. About an hour into the voyage, the captain said that they’d spotted killer whales and that we’d try to go find them. He was really excited. He told us he’d been doing these tours for 10 years and only seen killer whales one other time. I started to get excited too.
Thirty minutes later, someone spotted them. It was a pod consisting of a large male, a mom, a baby and a few other smaller males. I rushed to get my iPhone to snap some pictures, but they were so fast! It was hard to catch them! I got some decent shots but nothing turned out that great. If you didn’t know what they were, you mighta thought they were something on one of those lake monster specials on the history channel*. I was a little disappointed. After sharing the killer whales on Facebook and Twitter, my pocked buzzed a few times as friends liked, commented, tweeted, and retweeted.
Cruising back, I should have been really happy. I’d gotten lucky enough to see something amazing that most people don’t get to see, but instead I felt a little disappointed my pictures didn’t come out well. I realized that I spent the entire time trying to snap a picture of the killer whales so I could show my friends what I’d seen. I ended up watching the whales through a little electronic screen, focusing on getting a picture, rather than simply enjoying their majestic beauty of what could be a once and a life time experience. I really didn’t like those implications.
About the same time, I realized I’d been slowly increasing how many times per day I looked at and updated Facebook and Twitter compared to three months ago. When I was in a car, a taxi, the subway, waiting for a meeting, riding the bus, or just sitting around, I was checking Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes I found myself looking at my phone at meals or with friends, something I HATED when others did to me. I was taking more pictures and sharing the daily minutiae of my life. I found myself going through the day hoping to find interesting things not just because they are interesting, but because I wanted to share them. As a reluctant convert to smartphones, I feared something like this would happen at some point.
On the plus side, I found out about important news really quickly. I kept closer track of what my friends were up to. I found funny stories and was up to date on sports, memes, technology and politics. But, I spent way too much time with my head down, looking at my iPhone and getting carried away in the minutiae that is social media, seeing what people ate for breakfast, what celeb was in rehab and what random thought crossed their minds. And some of my friends felt slighted when I didn’t like their status, retweet their tweets or tweet at them.
Facebook and Twitter have a value, but I didn’t like that I was almost obsesively checking Twitter and Facebook whenever I had downtime. I was consuming unimportant content and over sharing meaningless parts of my life. I realized something had to change. Social media wasn’t adding to my enjoyment of life, it was taking away from it. So about three weeks ago I decided to experiment. I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my iPhone and replaced them with the Kindle app.
I replaced my iPhone Twittering/Facebooking with reading books or keeping my phone in my pocket. In the last three weeks, I’ve read two books and stopped checking social media as much and my life is so much happier. I still get emails when people interact with me on Twitter and Facebook, but it’s much more passive. And if I really NEED to use Facebook or Twitter, I can use the browser to get what I need done, but its slow and cumbersome so I don’t check as much.
Since I’ve deleted the apps, I can count the number of times I’ve been to the mobile sites on one hand. It’s been a big change. Freeing me up from oversharing and overconsuming has pushed me to read interesting books during my downtime. Or just observe the world and interact with everyone around me. And now that I’m mostly off Twitter and Facebook during most of the day, my friends can’t complain I’m not paying attention to their updates. Because I’m not paying attention to anyone’s. For me, life is so much better without the constant pull of social media!
Yes, I’ll miss out on knowing things really quickly, but a quick perusal of Twitter and Facebook after work so far has done the trick. For example, I found out Prince Fielder signed for a $200m contract 10 hours after it happened. But so what? I’m only sharing the most important things and cutting out the rest. My Klout score is going down and I’m adding followers at a slower rate, but my life is more calm, free and easy. I’ve been living more in the real world instead of living through a little 4.5 x 2.25 inch screen.
So think about it. Are you walking through life with your head down, getting validation from social media instead of whats happening in front of you? Are you tweeting and facebooking to show off and make your friends think “wow, what a cool life?” Are you oversharing? Are you missing the killer whales live, so you can show your friends a picture of them later? If you are, and I think lots of people are, think about taking a step back, deleting Facebook and Twitter and see if your life improves. I know mine did.
In reality, nobody cares about the minutiae, its all about your impact on the world. So stop oversharing, overconsuming and go out and live life!