I spent the weekend of July 8–9 up north at Higgins Lake with lots of family, mainly celebrating my grandma’s 70th birthday but also engaging in a series of other activities that I get to do at most once yearly.
I flew across the lake in my (hilarious) uncle Bob’s speed boat. I put up a good fight against uncle Bob, another uncle and my dad playing HORSE on a barely functional basketball hoop after dark on the beach. I hung on for dear life while tubing with family friends and cousins, repeatedly flying off and enduring a few moments in the freezing water for punishment.
I reached 48 mph on a jet ski in my first time riding one by myself. I even joined those uncles and my dad in attempting to make my water skiing debut (read: failing to stand up a single time out of four or so tries).
When we got back home on Monday, July 10, it was back to real life — but only for two days. On Wednesday, my dad, brother and I headed downtown to enjoy Metallica’s stop in the Motor City on their WorldWired Tour. Volbeat and Avenged Sevenfold, two bands I like a lot, opened for the Mighty Met and it was truly a great night. The first concert I bought my own ticket for, even!
And before the trip up north or the heavy night courtesy of ‘Tallica, I went to two Detroit Tigers games in one week, including a very special one on July 4.
Since the Metallica show, it’s really just been “real life,” with the exception of a visit to the fair with my aunt and grandparents. Regardless, July 2017 has treated me well — and yet all of the above is surely news to you.
That’s because I did all of those things without “sharing” any of it on social media.
That’s right. On the evening of July 3 (that’s before any of this fun stuff occurred, if you’re keeping score), I jumped off the proverbial cliff and deleted all social media apps off all my devices.
Let me explain why I gave up social media, what the impact has been and what my social media use will (or will not) look like moving forward.
Reasoning for Unfriending Social Media
Hahaha, do you get it? Unfriending? Facebook?
Even just days before I made the abrupt decision to delete Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, etc., I was always annoyed when I came across things online that argued that social media is a useless time waster.
Author and computer scientist Cal Newport gave a TEDx talk that makes its argument right in its title: “Quit Social Media.” I’d previously watched this talk a couple times and I came away bothered each time.
“If I got off social media, I’d be completely out of the loop,” my silent argument went.
I’m always the first in the family to know about things like sports news — if the Tigers traded a player, I’d be the one to announce it. Beyond situations like that, I found myself turning on the TV after ESPN tweeted that something interesting was on, for instance. I rarely watch TV, but the point is it was common for my attention to pivot and go elsewhere upon seeing something on social media.
Finding out information as it came to be — that’s why I considered social media to be valuable. I think I still hold this belief and I’ll discuss that in the next section.
That’s all good and well, but there was more to my social media use, and it was really getting on my nerves.
If I didn’t have any text messages to respond to and nothing on my mind to search on Safari or YouTube, I’d resort to aimless scrolling on social media apps. Obviously this was wasting extreme amounts of time.
When I got stuck in this state of scrolling and seeing things that are remarkably insignificant to my life and my goals, I’d lose touch with the world beyond my screen. I’d be so sucked in that I’d become barely cognizant of my surroundings. And even if I did remember where I was sitting and what day of the week it was, I didn’t do so fully; my attention had truly been broken. And it was in need of repair.
So it wasn’t that I was sick of all the “negativity” that’s on social media — that’s an empty, fake narrative. Rather, my time was being wasted and, psychologically, I was only hurting myself.
What Being Off the Grid (Not Really) Is Like
First and foremost, I enjoyed everything more. Everything.
I enjoyed the car ride up north, using my devices for texting and listening to podcasts or music rather than being sucked into the real-time worlds of sports, racing, technology, etc. that fill my Twitter feed or seeing what the MotoGP field has been up to lately on Instagram. I was so into those two Tigers games I went to — even more than normal. I enjoyed the concert wholly. I’ve enjoyed many moments differently.
I’ll elaborate on three findings I’ve finded by being off social media for 24 days now.
1. From Semi-Slave to Master
Especially during our trip up north, I focused on truly enjoying my time with the people around me and I found it gave me a whole new energy.
I used my iPhone and iPad with intention. When I was “bored” (it’s never been a word in my vocabulary), I found something exciting to do with my arms and legs (like taking my young cousins on golf cart rides) or with my mouth (enjoying conversation with family more than ever).
I cut off the option of pulling the slot machine lever by unlocking my phone and opening up Twitter. The impact that’s made on me has been so, so worth it.
I was already very capable of this but now I’m a pro. I’m able to, say, stand in a line and not at all feel the need to unlock my phone. I’m able to wake up at 6 a.m., sneak out of the cabin we stayed in, walk down to the end of the dock and feel extremely happy watching the sun rise and the boats and water light up all around me (true story).
I became perfectly disconnected, just as I’d hoped. I’m my phone’s master; not the other way around.
2. These Adults and Their Doggone Gadgets
As you might guess, we closed out our day up north on that Saturday with s’mores around a fire. I was completely present, enjoying the heat of the fire and watching the flames — but I didn’t realize my calm, centered state until it was broken and I looked up at the scene around me.
At least half a dozen older adults were gathered around the fire too, only every single one of them was looking at a screen. I was, without exaggeration, the only person there not operating an electronic device.
Now, my family doesn’t visit Higgins Lake often, but for everyone else there, it was surely just another weekend up north in a series of several of them during these summer months. Their appreciation for the lake that was roughly 100 yards away and gratefulness for the fire that was inches away justifiably had been lost… but still. Can’t we talk about our day instead of read about John’s on Facebook?
I’m known in my family as the tech geek nerd kid, but, that weekend, I was among the most present and satisfied of the family that was gathered. And this realization of mine is in play everywhere.
At the concert, I took videos of some of my favorite parts of certain songs, but I didn’t watch the bands through my phone screen; I made it a point to be present, centered and so happy to be there. But most everyone around me, just like at grocery stores and clothing stores and in restaurants and everywhere else, used their phone a lot.
I can’t help but be bothered when I see people sitting with bad posture, completely disconnected from the world around them, scrolling aimlessly on Facebook or Twitter or anything like it. And people taking selfies look dumber than ever, especially because I know:
- They’re “sharing” it to people with whom they have extremely shallow relationships and who don’t truly care about them.
- They’re “sharing” it solely to make their unexciting, unimpactful lives seem filled to the brim with fun.
It’s pretty dumb.
3. I’ve Missed Out on FOMO
As I stated above, I’ve always been certain not being on social media would result in a bout of what’s been coined “FOMO”: Fear of Missing Out.
And yet, being off social media has not caused me to feel a lack of information intake. I’ve done a great deal of relaxing during the last few weeks, so, truth be told, I haven’t really cared to be informed.
I’m sure I’ve missed out on things. Heck, I forgot the All-Star Game was a thing until I went downstairs and my family was watching the ninth inning. And just yesterday, the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series aero kit, the car that will race for the next three years, turned its first ever laps — at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway no less — and as an aspiring racing journalist, I almost entirely forgot it was happening.
I will note that my absence from social media and my lengthy periods of not writing at The Apex are not at all connected. Yes, being off social media resulted in a very historic day for IndyCar to slip my mind, but I still could’ve written about the launch of the car and the test day without the aid of social media.
You’ll also notice that this is my first post on my personal website since January. I haven’t been very good about writing anywhere and I’m aware it’s only hurting me. But that’s an unrelated problem.
My brothers and family and girlfriend have asked me a few times if I had seen something funny on social media. Nope, I had not.
But beyond that, I’ve missed nothing and I’ve gained a lot. Notably, having removed a ton of what I’m calling microinformation from my day, I’ve had some macro ideas strike me. For example, it’s hit me that I really like writing and I probably should do it more, rather than focus on any other media form, like video. I’ve never thought about it this way or been confident in it.
I’ve erased useless memes and other microinformation that clogs my brain and traded it for big, bold ideas to be found in books and elsewhere.
I don’t miss social media.
My Social Media/Internet Plan From Here
I formed the idea of returning to social media when August arrives. But I don’t think I’m going to do that.
I’ve realized that I like the idea of having my family and friends reading this personal website of mine better than following me from afar on social media. I’d prefer that people who truly care about me stay tuned in to my frequent writing here — perhaps even daily. They wouldn’t DM me on Instagram or Twitter and they wouldn’t watch my Snapchat stories yet go years without bothering to have a meaningful interaction with me.
I’m so, so tired of the shallow communication between humans that’s become the norm. You type five words in three seconds and hit send, not even bothering to use punctuation. As a result, a much-too-large portion of earth is inhabited by a bunch of young fools who couldn’t craft a well-written email, even if their lives truly depended on it.
The countless times people trade dumb declarations they never fulfill (“Yes, we’ll get together later this year!”) has really, really gotten old to me. This bothered me about adults when I was a kid and it’s only getting worse.
I don’t feel that even 1 percent of the 744 people that currently follow my (inactive) Twitter account truly would go out of their way for me and wish for a deep, meaningful relationship with me. Not even 7.44 people.
So what’s the POINT?
That goes for Facebook too, despite it being much more family oriented (in my use anyway). I don’t doubt that my family wants the best for me and maybe they wouldn’t mind keeping tabs on me more, but it hasn’t really been the case.
Do I sound like an ungrateful brat yet? I get it, I lack enough years to know that everyone’s lives are way too “busy” to actually have meaningful relationships with your own family — maybe it’s you who’s reading this and wishing I would just get real.
So, sure. Let’s get real.
I was extremely thankful for everyone who attended my graduation party last month and I couldn’t believe the financial support I was gifted from so many people. But, as I opened those cards, I felt a longing for experiences with those people. If some of them had taken me out to dinner or to walk around the mall or go-karting or to a sporting event or sat down for a conversation or anything at any point during the last 18 years then said, “alright punk, that was your graduation gift, now go get a job,” then maybe even stayed in touch thereafter? I would’ve been so cool with that.
I find it so sad that we think we’re all so ultra-connected when we’ve actually shifted so far from what matters. I’d argue that social media is at the root of this mistake on the part of humankind.
Tangent concluded. Back to the topic of this section.
I think I’m going to keep staying away from social media. But I’m quite conflicted about this. Even though I know I’d use it more intentionally if I were to re-download Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., I simply don’t want it.
Thanks to The Apex’s partnership with Verizon, I recently received a Samsung Galaxy S8+ that’s mine to use until September, but I hardly know what to do with the thing. Without social media and without the hotspot feature that Verizon is notorious for (really not sure why this isn’t enabled), the phone is no use for a person who is at odds with the value and usefulness of mobile technology.
It didn’t help that while setting up the phone, I was sucked into that sickening screen mode, letting hours pass by with my eyes locked on the display and my anxiety building over something so trivial as a phone that’s overmarketed but underdelivers.
That’s right. The kid you knew as a tech whiz who thought his grandpa was unwise to not have a Facebook account and begged his aunt to make an Instagram wants nothing to do with it anymore.