Apologies/My Social Media Holiday


If you’ve been hoping for posts and/or podcasts, the last couple of weeks must have been deeply devastating for you.

I missed doing a podcast last week and I’m not going to do one this week. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I’ve left Media Arts Lab. This meant that I had to get my Macbook wiped for security reasons. As a consequence (I now warn you, this is about to get quite dull) I had to reload Audacity, the programme I use to do the recordings. That was easy enough, but then it requires a second programme, appropriately entitled ‘LAME’, to export to MP3, the format I need to upload the file as a podcast. Uploading LAME is a massive arse. On the previous occasions where I’ve added LAME I’ve required the assistance of MAL’s IT dept. I didn’t fancy popping back just for that, or calling in the Geek Squad, so instead I’ve been familiarising myself with Garageband (If it’s good enough for Marc Maron…). I’m now ready for two recordings next week, so hang on till next weekend.
  2. I’ve been inept at scheduling. I could have recorded Caroline Pay last week but I got the time difference wrong and it all went tits up. We’ll chat soon.

Sorry about that.

But here’s a post about the month during which I decided to take a break from social media.

A little context:

  1. I’m only really on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I could count Linkedin, but it’s not much of a distraction, so bollocks to it.
  2. I intended not to visit any of the sites for the entire month. For reasons I detail below, this didn’t quite happen.

Let’s go through them, site by site:

Facebook: This is normally the biggest distraction for me, but I finally worked out why – If I commented on something I got myself in deeper because I wanted to track further comments and get into the conversation, possibly requiring more comments, leading to a never-ending cycle of comments and replies. Once I decided not to comment the lure to return became very weak indeed. There were a few times that I logged on, but this was because of messages people sent me on Messenger. For some reason my iPhone Messenger doesn’t work properly, so I had to go back into the proper site, which meant I saw my feed and scrolled down it a little. But without the comments (and likes) it had very little hold on me. So lurking instead of engaging worked well to stay up-to-date without dragging me in. Now that I’m ‘allowed’ back I just pop in once or twice a day for no more than a few minutes. It’s also worth saying that I used to feel a bit guilty about liking some things but not others, so I’d like most things just so I didn’t seem mean to people who liked stuff I posted. Where do you draw the line? I drew it quite a long way away. Now I’m not bothered.

Twitter: This is the one I tend to spend most time on. Not because I tweet a lot, but because it’s become a sort of quasi newspaper for me. I’ve curated a ‘list’ down to the kind of things I’m interested in (news, Arsenal, movies, advertising, humour, music etc.), and the links they provide often take quite a chunk out of the day. But that’s just like continually reading a newspaper that’s updated all day, so it’s really just a portal to other interesting things rather than something that’s interesting in itself. But I stayed off it for most of the month, returning only for regular information (a Tim Stillman Arsenal column on Thursdays; a weekend preview from Box Office Mojo on the same day), which didn’t keep me on the site very long. Now that I’m back my use has returned to the same level as before.

Instagram: This was the last social medium I joined, Before my ‘holiday’ I was posting maybe five pictures a week. Then I stopped and I didn’t miss it all and haven’t returned, even for a second.

Facebook and Instagram send you emails if you haven’t been back for a while, trying to tempt you to return. They didn’t really work on me, other than to remind me of their existence. The success of my holiday feels like a V-sign to all that.

Did it give me lots more free time? Not really. I learned that procrastination is procrastination, and that without social media I can still find many ways of not doing the constructive things I’m supposed to be doing (i found the questions and answers on Quora to be particularly distracting, although not so much now that I have Twitter back). But I do feel freer without them.

Overall, I think the pros might just have outweighed the cons, but it wasn’t as transformative as I was expecting. If you’re interested, give it a go. There were no withdrawal symptoms and the consequences were interesting enough to make the experience worth going through.