Curbing your social media habits once a week
Colleen Burns 120000C4RP firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  keith_brooks social_media ibm_champion device_free vacation sabbath ibm_redbooks shabbat unplugging
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Imagine you are on an island in the Caribbean, cold drink in hand, sun shining down on you, and your family and friends are with you just hanging out or walking around the island. Sounds nice, doesn't it? No phones in sight, no TV, no car—just you, sand and the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach.
How long could you go before you had to whip out your phone or laptop to get a picture, post to Facebook or answer some office emails? These days, not very long it seems. Based on this article and infographic, 74 percent of vacationers use social media while on vacation, and many are logging more and more work hours too.
What if I told you that every week, for an entire day, I go cold turkey on all electrical items? In fact, sometimes, it can be two to three days like this. Am I not being social? Am I not getting work done? Will the world end if I do not tweet? So far it has worked for me, but is it hurting my job prospects or my status in the social business world or other aspects of my career?
Why do I choose to abstain from using my devices sometimes? And why write about it on this blog? Let me answer the second question first. As a Redbooks Thought Leader, I can easily spout ideas or experiences that I live day to day. However, what if, as in this case, my experience is quite unlike most others’? In order to fully grok different aspects of social business, sometimes it helps to remember that the people behind the avatars and tweets are more colorful than they appear.
To answer the first question, over the last few years I’ve made a more open effort to include parts of my family life in my social media usage, even at work. You see I was struggling with issues some of you may experience now as you get into more social media. For instance, how do these bloggers find time to write so many posts? When do they have time to write these white papers or tinker around with new products or social applications? And they get their work done as well! I hate overachievers.
I realized that what was "holding me back" was something about myself that might not be known to the general public, so I thought that maybe by being more inclusive of my private life, some of these worries would go away. So about two years ago I started checking in on FourSquare on Friday afternoons at a place called Shabbat. You can think of the term as it is translated: the Sabbath—a subtle way to let clients and the world know that I was not only Jewish but also taking a religious stand. Since I usually checked in just before the time of Shabbat I did not know what to expect the first week. To my surprise I received numerous replies, likes and comments all wishing me a good Shabbos, which is the usual refrain for those who practice this rest day.
This response was amazing. Think about it, a few thousand of my connections took notice, and then for me all was good and sane. Ah, but what most of them did not understand was that I really was off—offline, off the grid, no network, no electric toys, no posts or tweets. A spiritual respite for 25 hours can be done, and rarely has it been a problem for my clients or coworkers. Admittedly I may work or cover certain holiday periods in exchange for the Saturdays or other holidays I take off, but that is a small price to pay.
I continued this practice and along the way became an IBM Champion for IBM Collaborative Solutions and WebSphere as well as a Redbooks Thought Leader. Even with less time available I was able to persevere and achieve these accolades. So can you.
While skipping a day of social media may make you feel like you’re missing out, at the same time you will feel totally free. I may have lost a few job interviews because I could not agree to a 24x7 world, but I never lost a client. Turning off your device for a day or two may stress you out the first time, but if you can repeat the exercise you will eventually feel less stressed. Who knows, you may find yourself being social with the people you love or those you meet on the street. You missed the National Day of Unplugging for 2013, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying it out this weekend.
Do you ever take a break from your gadgets? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments or connect with me on Twitter.
Keith Books is the Social and Collaboration Practice Leader for Voicerite, an IBM Premier Business Partner. Keith has spoken at SugarCon, Lotusphere, the View Admin conferences and other industry events on subjects around messaging and social leadership. Keith has written articles, books and blogs around IBM products and solutions for over 20 years.
Keith is an IBM Redbooks thought leader.