On Tuesday, 21st December – perhaps by no coincidence the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere – I put a festive message on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and said I was coming off them for a while.
Yesterday, 2nd January, was the first time – apart from a brief non-interactive stint on my FB because my brother-in-law in NZ wanted to use Messenger for our Christmas video call – that I have gone back on.
So what difference did it make? Did I suffer from Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)? Why today to go back on? Did anyone notice?
Well. Like many people, I have a somewhat conflicted relationship with Facebook, in particular. I like that it keeps me in touch with a lot of people very easily, and given that I don’t go on it to start wars with anyone, my interactions are generally very pleasant. There’s quite a lot of people who I have no other way of contacting than one or other of these social media behemoths.
Twitter I’m not so into, but there’s always the cat videos.
Moreover, the musician and writer part of me finds both of them pretty useful for letting a lot of people know very quickly what I’m doing, and how they can buy into it, literally or metaphorically.
Like most things in life, however, there is a down side, and the main one for me is time. It’s all too easy to slip onto one or the other to see who’s liked what you said or tweeted, or catch up on the latest in a friend’s quotidian musings. I’ve never had either of them on my phone – waay too distracting – but still, I found myself checking in far too many times a day, and sometimes even when I was meant to be working.
To be clear, I didn’t come off all forms of online interaction. I still accessed my emails, and other accounts like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, not to mention this blog. The online food shop is still done online.
So what difference did it make?
On one analysis, not much. It’s not like I started treating the laptop as some sort of mysterious device that could only be switched on by mumbling a magic mantra. I almost definitely spent less time on it overall though, and probably woke it up less times during the day to just ‘check in’ on these more slow moving forms of communication (in the case of my Soundcloud and Bandcamp plays, slow moving to the point of glaciation at times).
However, I did spend more time creating original content on this blog, as the number of posts released in fairly regular succession will show. I’d like to think that’s more productive use of screen time as a writer, but I suppose it depends whether you think the content is any good or not.
Did I have FOMO? Not really. I was pretty sure I’d be able to catch up on anything really significant.
Why yesterday to go back on? Well, I decided it was long enough to be a decent experiment. The results are in – and they’re, generally, this:
Even accounting for this being a slow time of year when there’s a bit of time off and everything’s shut for the holidays or Omicron or both, I’ve had more time on my hands. That’s got to be a good thing, right?
I didn’t for one second miss checking in. Long term, though, that social interaction element would be missing. Facebook and Twitter are very good for sending a message of whatever kind to more than one person at once. With pictures. And video, for that matter. And, of course, for receiving messages back.
Did anyone notice? No idea. There were a couple of unreturned DMs on FB. Nothing life-threatening.
So here’s what I’m going to try next. I’m going to check in on Facebook and Twitter, once a day. No more than half an hour combined, unless there’s some special reason for going on twice in a day (which will not include checking how many likes some shit I’ve said has got).
I’ll keep you posted.