Friday, July 28, 2017

Why I’m Taking A Social Media Sabbatical

A few months ago, when my partner Norbert and I were talking about our upcoming move to Colombia, I came up with the “brilliant” idea to go off of social media for the year that we’re living abroad. I thought it would be a great way to truly engage with the culture around us rather than falling back into the comfort zone that our social media platforms provide. With the world at your fingertips, you can never truly be far away anymore. Even though my (digital) life is often punctuated by mundane updates from people I might not even know, their presence in my life (however small and insignificant) makes it possible for me to feel less alone, less uncomfortable, more at home, etc.

Of course, now that it’s time to actually go thru with our plan, I don’t think it’s so brilliant anymore. But here we are, four days away from D-day.

I realize that the decision to go off of social media in this day and age might sound a bit drastic, so let me explain. First off, after the intensity of the election that turned my distracted social media habit into an outright addiction, I wouldn’t mind a break from the barrage of information and online screaming matches. Being on social media has made me feel like I’m staying up to date on the news and being productive in my democracy, but I’m not convinced that either of these is actually true.

Secondly, I’m interested in pursuing this as an experiment to explore just how addicted I actually am to social media. I’ve been living my life in some kind of public online platform since I was in high school. That’s over fifteen years of blurring the line between real life and digital life! Myspace, Livejournal, Facebook (in its earliest baby stages), Instagram, Twitter – I’ve interacted with them all, some of them more than others. Will I go through withdrawal symptoms, like any other drug addict would when weaning off of their drug of choice? As someone who actively participates in and enjoys social media, I can already tell that this won’t be an easy separation for me—and it hasn’t even started yet!

Also, the more I learn about social media, the more I wonder—can we actually survive in today’s world without it? And what will we miss out on in the process? On the flip side, what can be gained from opting out of this supposed “necessity”?  Will I even want to reactivate my social media accounts once this is year-long sabbatical is over?

I’m interested in seeing how the absence of social media will change my relationships and other aspects of my life. Without the convenience of finding out about others’ life by scrolling through my news feed, will I be more inclined to give someone a call? And without the ability to fill my spare time with never-ending scrolling, what will fill these moments instead? Will I become more creative, more extraverted, more introverted, quieter, more talkative? Will I be depressed and bored? Or will I finally learn a new instrument or read all the books that have been on my reading list forever?

That being said, Norbert and I still want to keep in touch with our friends and family. One reason why I love social media so much is because I love sharing my life and connecting with others, and this blog is going to give me the outlet to continue doing so. We’ll post updates and photos as often as we can, so don’t forget to sign up for email updates! And I hope that you will still reach out to me by email at Carmella.guiol@gmail.com.

I’m also extremely interested to hear about your own relationship to social media. Do you love it? Hate it? Make money off it? Can’t live without it but wish you could? Please share your opinions on social media with me—I’d love to hear them all! And if you know someone else with an interesting social media story, please send them my way!


All the best from Colombia!