For the first time since I started using social media almost 10 years ago, I decided to take a break from it. My plan was to disconnect from the virtual world in order to reconnect with the real world. So, for the entire month of November, I parted ways with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I didn't include LinkedIn in the sabbatical because I still had a business to run.
Since several people have asked me about the experience, I'm sharing some of my key takeaways.
1. Mindful mornings: Like most people these days, my smartphone has become my command center for everyday life. My alarm clock, my social media and email accounts, a gazillion handy apps that promise to make life a little easier -- they're all conveniently just a touchscreen away at any given moment. So, I had gotten into the habit of scrolling and trolling before my feet ever hit the ground after waking up each morning. Now, I put the phone back down once I shut off the alarm, and I spend the first 15-20 minutes of my day reflecting, reading or meditating. The benefit: I set the tone for a positive, productive and peaceful day. I can't control what's going on around me, but I can control how it affects me.
2. Connectedness over connectivity: I realized that I had become more involved with sharing my experiences than actually living them. I can't count the number of times I have missed out on the moment because I'm so busy trying to capture it on camera. Don't get me wrong -- I love going back and looking at photos of special memories. But does everybody need or want to see a pic of my latest smoothie creation or the Gucci purse I found at a resale shop for $5? Probably not. The benefit: I'm more tuned in to my surroundings, both people and nature. I have become a better, more patient listener and will work to continue improving.
3. Alignment of priorities, time and tasks: Five minutes on Facebook was hardly ever just five minutes. Sound familiar? It's not like I spent hours checking out what my former neighbor's ex-husband's new girlfriend wore to the office holiday party. Who has time for that? But somehow, though innocently enough, I would often find myself hanging out on the newsfeed a little longer than necessary. It doesn't take that long to get an at-a-glance feel for what my peeps are up to. So, I've resolved to limit my activity to a couple of minutes and then move on to more productive endeavors. The benefit: I've adopted a less-is-more philosophy and approach to time-management. My efforts and energy are now guided by what's truly important to me. If it's not a priority in some area of my life, I shouldn't be spending a lot of time on it.
4. Finely tuned focus: Technology is awesome, but it can become a distraction when it's in your face 24/7. With so many things vying for our attention, it's easy to lose sight of our goals and the action steps needed to accomplish them. For years, I've bought into the myth of multitasking, when the reality is that we can really only do one thing at a time if we want to do it well. I'll choose doing something well over just getting it done any day of the week. The benefit: After 30 days without social media, I have reclaimed my focus. I have greater clarity and direction, and it feels pretty amazing.
5. Social media strategy: Yesterday, I logged back in to my social media accounts with a whole new perspective. As a career marketing professional, I will always recognize the value of social media. Used strategically, It's a powerful tool for networking, fostering business and personal relationships, and -- yes -- even socializing. But when used with reckless abandon, it can become a vice or an addiction that robs us of the face-to-face interaction that defines the human experience and makes it worth living.
Bottom line: My 30-day sabbatical proved to be a worthwhile experience for many reasons. I believe social media should complement a balanced, well-rounded existence that includes as much (or more) time offline as online. Communicating via a handheld device will never take the place of actually holding someone's hand -- at least not for me.
Dana Zambon is the owner and head word wizard of Zambon Creative.