I remember my first social media experience.
It was August 1999 and I was a freshman at North Carolina State University. I had a pretty, white desktop computer that was hooked up to the fastest ethernet the largest public university in the state could provide. The screen was wide, the fonts were big and I was thrilled to now be connected to the internet full-time. Well, while I was in my dorm room.
When I finally received the notification my connection was active, my first order of business was not to check my schedule, locate some building on campus or see what was being served for lunch at the dining hall. Before I could do any of that I had to get the most important tool set up that I would need for the next four years: AOL Instant Messenger.
Ha! I see you over there reminiscing though because you, too, remember how important AIM was to you at that time.
I can vividly remember the pressure I felt when trying to think of a catchy name. Something that was unique and embodied my personality. I hemmed and hawed until I it hit me: Kaybeedall. How creative! My first name starts with a K. And I thought the words play on babydoll was cute. I switched up the letters a little bit and voila Kaybeedall was born.
Afterwards came the added pressure of leaving some dope away message while you were not at your computer, hopefully doing something productive. And how can I forget the pressure of sitting down at my computer to write a paper or do some research only to end up chatting on AIM with a friend who was right down the hall from me.
And that good people is still what is happening today. That pressure. That urge. That prompting to log in to see what is happening.
As AIM soared, from the grounds arose Black Planet, MySpace and the earliest version of Facebook, where you had to have a college email address to join. Over the years, sites have evolved to create nearly unlimited “access” to the people you are connected to. From “live” to stories to messengers to chats to direct messages to statuses to notifications, if you are on social media its nearly impossible to hide out. Even if you don’t engage frequently, you are on there for a reason. My answer is you are lurking.
Ha! True story though.
With all this instant access to family, friends, strangers and enemies, it never baffles me as to why people spend so much time on social media. Humans have a need to be connected. Whether it’s a relationship, friendship, family tie, etc., we need the vibes we seek from others.
However, with all this connection I find we are often very disconnected. The irony. Our communication is us sending direct messages. We assume we know what’s going on with our friends because of what they share online. Invitations to events we want our loved ones to attend are sent out over the social media airwaves with no personal touch.
In addition to all this access comes the task of not allowing it to consume a large chunk of your time. In my many observations, I have found this to be a very difficult task for many. I see it all the time – at the nail shop, in restaurants, at concerts, in church, in the car, at sporting events, etc. – people on their phones scrolling through the feed on the particular social media channel of their choice, in the moment, while missing out on the moment in which they are present.
I recognize it because I used to be one of those people – constantly checking what was happening online, constantly checking to see what comments and how many likes I’ve gotten on my statuses and pictures, constantly shuffling through my ginourmous “friends” list to see what I’ve missed. Until one day, I had a reality check.
As I struggled with my time management, I found myself frustrated by the amount of adequate time I never seemed to have. I’m a night owl. I complete some of my best work in the evening but I had started training myself to get up earlier. I was creating daily check lists and I was seizing some opportunities that had been presented. But it still wasn’t enough. And then the ah-ha moment happened. One day I was scrolling through my news feed when I looked up and an hour had passed by. I had a meeting to attend later and that distraction left me with little time to perform the tasks I needed to before I left the house.
That’s it. I was “too” connected. I was “too” accessible. And honestly, I was “too” distracted. So, I took a break for a few days and what I accomplished in those few days amounted to more than I had been able to in the previous week.
Those few days made me realize how much I need to unplug from social media on the regular. I needed days where I didn’t log in. Days where my time could be well spent building, networking and growing without the nudge to log in. After that first break, I realized the benefits of taking it were too great to ignore.
Now I take social media breaks often – as often as I can. Sometimes it’s only a day or two and sometimes its two months. At this point in my life, its a necessity.
I take breaks to keep myself healthy, mentally. I take breaks to remove myself from everything everybody else has going on. I take breaks to focus on areas that need my undivided attention. I take breaks because I pour out a lot and I need time for my cup to be refilled. I take breaks because I do not want to read a play by play of your day, all day. I take breaks because I remember how simple life was when we were not all “connected.”
Social media has changed the way we communicate, do business and live life. I’ve heard the saying if it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen. That makes me chuckle because while I am out here living, I refuse to prove to you have a life. Umkay? As much as I do not like how social media has changed our landscape, I accept it but that does not mean I have to conform to it. And neither do you.
Take your break(s).
Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart is a freelance writer.
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