Establishing a silent summer

Monday, I officially started out on what I plan to be a summer-long journey of sorts.

Inspired by a Facebook post by actor/really smart dude Patton Oswalt, I have decided to go “radio silent” with social media for the entire summer. (Yes, I see the irony in the fact a Facebook post is what made me decide to do this.) Until after Labor Day, I’m taking a break from Twitter and Facebook, which I’ve known for a long time I waste entirely too much of my free time on.

(A quick side note: I’m making an exception for the Daily Globe accounts as I feel social media is an important part of reporting in the information age.)

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Facebook or Twitter. (Although, constant bickering over things like politics and religion — to name a couple — on my “newsfeed” have made me grow less and less enchanted by Facebook lately.) Instead, my decision to do something like this, which I believe is actually a pretty big undertaking, is more of an indictment on myself than anything else.

In Oswalt’s brilliant post, he outlines the reasons he is going “radio silent” for the summer. Needless to say, it really struck a chord with me. I’ll try to just quote him on a couple of the highlights that made me want to follow his lead, though if you really want the full impact, I urge you to visit his Facebook page. If nothing else, it’s a thought-provoking read.

One thing he said that particularly got me was this: “I’ve aggressively re-wired my own brain to live and die in a 140 character jungle.”

As I went through my first day without using social media, this one really sunk in. I felt out of the loop all day. What in the world could all of my friends be doing? What major, breaking news events could I be missing out on? What snarky comments am I denying myself from making?

I suspect many people are like me. Twitter is where I first hear about a lot of major events. Instantly, I have to throw my hat into the ring with a comment and/or opinion about it. It may be kind of sick, but almost any time I watch the news or Sportscenter, one of the first thoughts that comes to mind is, “What can I tweet about this?” When I stepped back and thought about it after reading Oswalt’s post, I thought, “What do my opinions or sarcastic thoughts add to the conversation?” Usually nothing. To think otherwise would be a bit egotistical, not to mention wrong. That’s not to say mine or anyone else’s opinion isn’t valid, but wouldn’t I be better served by waiting and having an actual conversation about it rather than spewing my first thought onto the interwebs?

Once I came to that realization, I couldn’t help but wonder, what’s the point in spending so much time on social media? Am I really gaining anything by it? Again, usually not.

That’s where another part of Oswalt’s post comes into play, the one that really compelled me to take a step back.

He wrote: “I want to de-atrophy the muscles I once had. The ones I used to charge through books, sprint through films, amble pleasantly through a new music album or a human conversation. I’ve lost them — willingly, mind you. My fault. Got addicted to the empty endorphins of being online.
So I need to dry out, and remind myself of the deeper tides I used to be able to swim in — in pages, and celluloid, and sounds, and people.”

I decided that I felt like these things had taken a huge step back in my life as well. It may sound like a waste of time to some, but things like reading a book or even just watching an old movie I’ve always wanted to see comes with a certain amount of gratification. It also can spark some good conversation, much better than that of re-hashing a run-of-the-mill Twitter or Facebook post.

In the end, my goal in this is to stop wasting so much time on social media and fill up those spaces with more fulfilling tasks. To borrow one of Oswalt’s thoughts, I want to see the world in more than just 140 characters again.

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