Hi my name is Megan, and I’m a media addict.
My problem began in high school when MySpace first appeared on the social radar. Initially I wasn’t interested, but as more and more of my friends signed up, and as it became quite clear that the crux of our social lives was somehow in a way shifting to the world-wide-web, I couldn’t bear to be the only one not with an account, so in fear of missing out (aka ‘FOMO’) I decided it was time to get my own MySpace account.
I instantly became addicted to this new online craze, obsessively changing the layout of my profile – a new background; a new bio; a new display picture; a new song; a new ‘top ten friends.’ I was hooked. Sometime during this MySpace mania stage I stumbled upon Facebook and once again I quickly became obsessed – Uploading photos; making quirky status updates; and counting how many friends and likes I had accumulated. Shortly after that, I was introduced to Twitter and I’ve never looked back.
Now for me in 2013 an average day sees me tweeting, retweeting, posting, updating, messaging, following, friending, defriending, liking, unliking, watching, linking, emailing, blocking, blogging, hastagging, trending, crowdsourcing, checking in, pinning, uploading, tagging, googling, flicking, podcasting, bookmarking, chatting, commenting and if I can find the time I might also be connecting face to face on Skype.
At least eight hours of my day are typically spent engaging with social media in some form; with at least two hours of my day spent solely using. That works out to be well over seven hundred hours a year, or if you like thirty days or more of being exclusively engrossed by social media.
I tell myself that staying connected is essential for my career as a journalist, as it is imperative to be informed and social media is great for breaking news stories. However I am progressively spending more and more time immersed in my online world. I know social media is meant to be all about ‘me,’ however lately I’ve noticed that my life is now all about social media.
I know this for a number of reasons. Firstly, the only times I don’t engage with social media is when I am sleeping and showering. A majority of the time I now talk with my hands, rather than my mouth, case in point, having a hilarious conversation with my sister on Facebook who is sitting less than two metres away from me, when I haven’t uttered a single word to her since the last ad break. My body now attends to the familiar ‘chime’ that alerts me to updates as immediately as it would for any other involuntary reflex action. And finally, I have noted that the last thing I do before I go to sleep is check my iPhone for social media updates and the first thing I do when I wake up is check my iPhone to see what new and exciting things have happened in the online world overnight. A serious case of loneliness, or social media dependency?
Its come to the point now where I am now starting to get defensive about my online activities, because my friends are beginning to point out the amount of time I am spending online. So like what any other ashamed ‘user’ would do, I now attempt to hide my online endeavours from those prying and judgemental eyes around me.
So I got to thinking about social media and the effect it was having on me and wondered what would happen if all the media platforms we have discovered, designed, developed and distributed, suddenly stopped working. Would there be mass hysteria, panic and confusion? Would we cry? Would we love it or hate it? Would the world come grinding to a dramatic halt? Would life as we know it cease to exist?
I decided it was time to take back control over my life. I would face my addiction head on by switching off from social media for one day. Yes you heard me correctly. I will disconnect myself from the world of social media for a complete twenty-four hours.
I begin my digital detox firstly by switching off my iPhone, which I do with a sense of caution. My biggest temptation and most convenient connection to my beloved online world and therefore it will have to go altogether. I would not be at all surprised if my friends send out a search party when they find out the phone they are calling ‘is currently switched off.’
I follow suit and begin turning off my other lifelines one by one. Goodbye Macbook. See you on the other side iPad. Painful, but necessary.
I expect some sort of electric shock, rapid heart palpitations or a big bang, kind of like the one anticipated for the Y2K bug.
As I cautiously enter the aftermath, I realise I am officially disconnected from social media. A break? A break-up? A separation? A divorce? A severing of ties? The beginning of The End? The end of an era? Call it what you want, I’m calling it ‘Facebook official.’
Now what? I flick through a few old magazines, ponder around my living room, tidy up, attempt to bake a cake, light some candles and then eat, not because I’m hungry, but because I simply don’t know what else to do.
Not only have I disconnected myself from social media technology, I have disconnected myself from my world. This world that consumes me day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, tweet after tweet… I know this because right now I am wondering what my 1,916 friends on Facebook are doing as I get a familiar twitching urge in my fingertips to reach for my iPhone.
Utterly bored and only in the first few minutes of my experiment, I start reflecting on my digital media addiction. Was it really necessary for my iPhone to be sewn to the palm of my left hand as if an extension of my fourth limb, constantly tapping and clicking away checking for updates so regularly it would be hard not to develop a serious case of RSI?
Is it necessary to watch disturbing YouTube clips, whilst listening to a recently downloaded playlist on Spotify, as I upload and tag photos from the weekend and stalk ‘that girl’ on Facebook, simultaneously instantly messaging my boyfriend, as I speak to my best friend in Europe on Skype, whilst scanning through my favourite beauty blog pinning things I like on Pinterest, as I browse through various virtual online stores adding things to my virtual online shopping cart, all the same time engaging in a serious debate with some rude twit on Twitter, as I take screen shots of delicious food on Instagram, write on friends walls and comment on their online activity, and check my Hotmail every five seconds for anything I might have missed?
I had been so consumed with social media that it had virtually consumed me. I couldn’t tell you how my boyfriend’s day at work had been, but I could confidently tell you what Kim Kardashian ate for lunch. I tell myself I don’t have time to go out and catch up with friends, but then I find I have wasted endless hours flitting aimlessly between newsfeeds like moths to a light bulb. My productivity levels have dwindled and my insecurities have risen from overanalysing every tweet and comment to counting how long I’ve been waiting for a reply. Apart from today, I couldn’t tell you the last time I had gone longer than a few minutes without engaging with or being engaged by social media. Sad? Scary? Yes. Unusual? Highly unlikely.
According to Cara Pring from the Social Skinny blog, the average US Internet user spends thirty two hours online every month, the average global Internet user spends sixteen hours online and every month the online population spends equivalent to four million years online. Meanwhile Twitter has almost reached five hundred million users whilst Facebook already has one billion users worldwide. What is even scarier is that these figures are growing so rapidly they will already become obsolete by the time you read this sentence.
In today’s faced paced, technology driven world we are all guilty of immersing ourselves with social media, so much so that we are at times beyond the point of drowning. We rely on the gravity of social media to hold us where we are. We accept our attachment. But to really appreciate the effects of social media – both its virtues and costs – we need to remove ourselves from it. Maybe we should all follow in my daring footsteps and take time out from our socially enhanced world every now and again, so we can actually experience the reality of our lives. I think we should all try, even if for a few minutes, being a fish out of water.
Go on, disconnect that computer cord, I dare you.