72 hours Without Social Media

I work as a digital community manager, which is a fancy title for someone who is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. all day. As much as I love social media, it’s like loving a dragon: majestic and intriguing, but at any moment it can swallow you up in flames. Sometimes it sickens me to think about how much time I waste scrolling through feeds or mindlessly flipping through photos.

There’s the classic debate that the Internet is ruining the way we interact with each other and the world. You’ve heard it before: we’re a society more focused on our screens than each other. We’re too plugged in. Some say social media makes us depressed. It makes us obese. It makes us dumb. The list goes on.

Since my friends and family describe me as a social media addict, I decided to try a little experiment — a 72 hour social media cleanse. I wanted to see if I could handle three days without checking anything, and how it would impact my mood. Does social media really ruin my life? Is it a waste of my time? Can I be more productive without it?

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Just like 127 hours. Except it’s 72 hours, and I don’t have to cut my arm off.

The Rules

Since I work in social media, it’s unavoidable. I can’t unplug my computer and fall off the face of the social media planet because it’s part of my job. The main rule was that I could not check personal social media platforms for 72 hours via any device (notable examples: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). To make sure I didn’t cheat, I stopped all notifications entirely. My phone wouldn’t alert me if someone commented on my accounts. I took off all of the sites from my browser bookmarks, put the mobile apps in a special folder titled “DO NOT USE THESE” and downloaded software to block the sites for 72 hours.

The Night Before the Cleanse

According to my recent browser history, I checked my personal Facebook 28 times over a 10-hour period. This doesn’t even include the times I checked from my phone, which I would guess is relatively similar if not more. The worst part is this is less than average usage. I typically check Facebook 50+ times a day. I estimate around the same for Twitter and Instagram. It’s a habit as engrained in my everyday life as brushing my teeth or biting my nails. I don’t even think about it when I do it. This is going to be rough.

Day One

I crave it.

I’m too much of a wimp to ever try hard drugs (you’re welcome Mom and Dad) but I assume this is what intense withdrawal feels like after a lifetime of heroin addiction. My entire routine felt empty. I usually wake up and check each site before I even get out of bed. I scroll through my newsfeed like it’s the morning paper. The bright light of my screen is a nice transition to the real world.

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The internet is full of weird things…

This morning, I woke up and felt deflated. I literally didn’t know what to do with myself, so I stared at the ceiling. My streetcar commute dragged on with nothing to hold my attention. I became impatient as each stop lingered for what felt like hours. During my work break, I daydreamed of red notifications. I even tried to convince myself I could check LinkedIn because it’s “work-related” but thankfully got a hold of myself. No cheating.

I guess I’ll read a book I thought melodramatically, as if reading is the worst thing in the world. What is wrong with me?

Day Two

I’m annoyed at the fact that I can’t do something I want to do. I’m anxious and bored. It’s like being a child and Mom says you can’t watch TV anymore. I’m starting to feel extremely disconnected and lonely. Most of my friends communicate through Facebook groups because it’s easier than endless group texts flooding your phone. It’s not even that I feel like I’m missing out on things, but more that I don’t have freedom to do what I want to do.

People probably think this is pathetic. “Why don’t you…?

You don’t get it. I need constant entertainment. I’m so used to always doing something, even if it’s as trivial as reading through a newsfeed. I kept myself busy today. I exercised, cleaned, read a book, embraced nature — I was productive. But I can’t keep myself entertained for the in-between-activity time. What do I do while I wait for transportation? What do I do during commercials? With 2 minutes left on the microwave? Wow, I’m impatient.

Not to mention, this was a crucial day for sharing because I had an adorable puppy on my lap all day. A SLEEPING PUPPY NESTLED IN MY ARMS! The world needs to see this precious pup snoring.

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THIS IS WHAT YOU MISSED OUT ON, WORLD. HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

Instead, I bombarded my friends with picture messages. I feel like I’m bothering people. With social media, people can check it at their own leisure and deal with the information however they please. You could even hide me from your newsfeed. I feel like I’m intruding on people’s space when I send them a million text messages. I’m unavoidable. I feel like a burden (I mean, I think adorable puppies are crucial but that’s just me…).

Day Three

I think I finally got the hang of it. I kept myself busy all day. I planned every hour so I could feel like my time wasn’t passing slowly. For the seconds I wasn’t occupied with activities, I was lost in thought. I’ve gotten really good at staring out windows or wandering aimlessly.

I also know it is the end. Knowing I only have 24 hours left gives me the last motivation I need to push through. I don’t feel more productive though. Even writing this last entry for day three is painstakingly difficult. I don’t know what to say, and I don’t feel creative. I lost my drive because I’m at a point where I don’t know if people even care about what I have to say.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I am so reliant on validation, even if it’s a dumb Facebook “like” that means nothing in the grand scheme of things. However, since I feel so out of touch with everything, I wonder if people even care. Should you care? What am I proving? Why does what I’m doing matter?

Three days without social media and you can revert to the unplugged life seamlessly. You can go through the motions — wake up, go to work, go to sleep, repeat. But you’ll also feel disconnected and meaningless.

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The Verdict

During my cleanse, a few friends emailed me (old-school!) an article that resonated with me about a guy who quit the Internet for one year. It also makes me laugh because I could barely handle 72 hours. In the article, Paul Miller says he expected to have some sort of grand revelation about life. He imagined himself becoming more productive, more personable, and more of the way he should be before the internet ruined everything. After one year, he realized it’s not the Internet — it’s him.

“I can’t blame the internet, or any circumstance, for my problems. I have many of the same priorities I had before I left the internet.” — Paul Miller

I don’t regret giving it up. It was a good challenge allowing me to reflect on myself, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. More than anything, it was stressful being unable to use it at my leisure. I felt limited because I couldn’t connect to people that matter to me.

Social media does not give my life meaning, but relationships give my life meaning. Without it, I wasn’t able to keep those up easily. Face-to-face interaction is necessary, but depends on other conditions out of my control. Most days, I only see my coworkers and my roommate. A phone call is great, but once the other end clicks, I’m back to nothing. A text is fine, but it’s reliant on the other person responding quickly, and I feel like a burden if I don’t have useful information. People are busy. They can’t text me all day long or spend hours on the phone. I forgot birthdays. I missed events.

Without social media, there’s no way I could stay in touch with everyone. It’s just how we connect these days. I’m sure someday in the future there will be another addition, and we’ll think “how did we do it before this!”. The underlying point is I like staying in touch with people because I care about what’s going on in their life. That’s something I didn’t realize before I did this challenge.

It is exciting to hear from someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, or find a common interest with a new friend you would have otherwise overlooked. It’s encouraging to see people getting jobs, spreading good news, or feeling excited about the future. You never know how someone is going to affect you. Humans are social creatures by nature, but it takes work. Frankly, I’d rather make it easier to connect than harder.

The Curse of the “Forevernet”

Ughh...That horrible awkward stage. Note the Hollister jacket...

The year is 2002, and I am a freshly pimpled preteen whose main concerns in life are popularity and overpriced Abercrombie ripped jeans. Due to my desperation for acceptance, I decided to attend the local high school football game. Like most middle schoolers, I grazed the outside of the track and spent each quarter gossiping, not actually watching the game. It was at this very football game that my crush (who shall remain nameless) asked out one of my best friends.

Pure. Devastation. 

Of course, at this exact moment it started to rain, and I was left alone on the track with tears welling in my eyes. Straight out of a teen movie — How Cliche.

Immediately, I went home, locked myself in my room, and began blasting emo Evanescence songs. Suffering from my recent heartbreak, I decided to write terrible poems about the situation because let’s face it, MY LIFE WAS RUINED!!! This is where the problem arises…

Remember, the year is 2002. The internet was now an increasingly popular resource among my generation. I spent all of my time on AOL Instant Messenger and the act of sharing every last detail of my life developed into an innate evolutionary trait. Unlike my previous years of furious diary writing, my innermost thoughts were now poured into my Livejournal.

This is what I like to call the “Curse of the Forevernet”. Being part of a generation that was old enough to use the internet but young enough to be completely irresponsible with it left me with a curse. Don’t believe me? One word: MYSPACE.

I spent many years carelessly posting and sharing content that reflects my naivety. I’m not the first person who survived puberty, but the problem is that my experience is more public than the generations before me. I’ve tried my best to delete my accounts, but what is posted on the internet is circulating the inter-webs FOR ETERNITY. My immaturity is now forever embedded on some server, somewhere in the world. I didn’t realize that when I was younger.

See? Why did I ever think this was okay? It's embarrassing.

Now that I’m “older and wiser” (that’s in quotes because I’m still young and stupid) I wish that I could delete all history of 6th-9th grade. I was always told to be careful what you post, but as a typical preteen lacking frontal lobes, when did I ever think about my actions before I did anything?

Luckily, I was a very well-behaved young cherub who never broke rules, so nothing I posted was too outrageous. Yet, I would be absolutely mortified if anyone ever found a shred of my emotional turmoils of middle school yesteryear. Now I can laugh at my embarrassing past, but there’s still a darker side that reminds me it’s all still out there, somewhere.

To this day, I’m still surprised with some of my friends that unmindfully post things that probably shouldn’t be publicly shared. This isn’t to say I’m not guilty; we’re not all perfect. I’m sure I’ve shared some things recently that may not provide any meaningful value towards my future.

However, my point is that my generation has a cross to bear. We grew up using the internet without questioning it, and as a result we need to be more careful about the way we represent ourselves. It’s okay to be yourself and let your personality shine through — just make sure it’s the personality that you want the world to see for many, many years to come.

A Day Without Internet

January 18th — the day that modern field hockey became a sport. Rapper DJ Quik was born. Seven-year-old Leo II succeeds his maternal grandfather Leo I as the Byzantine emperor.

And now, it is the day that will forever live in the hearts of many millennials and tech-savvy crowds everywhere.

For those of you living under a rock (sorry, Geico Caveman), January 18, 2012 was the largest online protest in history. In other words, Internet users banded together against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). The goal was to show the world the potential consequences that would result if the bills passed. Below is a comprehensive video that explains why users were against SOPA and PIPA:

“In short, Protect IP won’t stop online piracy, but it will introduce vast potential for censorship and abuse while making the web less safe and less reliable”

And then, something incredible happened.

It started with the whiny complaints that fogged up my newsfeed with “Why is the Google logo all black? How am I supposed to write my research paper without Wikipedia?” and it evolved into knowledge.

The most-used sites on the Internet like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and even WordPress (which I use to write my own blog posts) “blacked-out” their websites, and encouraged visitors to educate themselves on the issue. Almost 1,000,000,000 people were blocked from websites. Before the West Coast work day ended, over 2,200,000 people had tweeted about #SOPA, and over 10,000,000 signatures filled a petition to against the bills. Those are some incredible numbers.

From my own observations, I saw first-hand that those who were initially confused about the issues surrounding SOPA and PIPA shifted from complaining to action. Profile pictures were changed to say “STOP SOPA”, and people tweeted their own form of “black-out” messages, or encouraged others to become involved.

On January 20th, two days after the Internet blackout, Congressed shelved the bills indefinitely.

Recently in my Digital Social Branding class, my professor Dave Allen made a point that the web is people powered. SOPA and PIPA are a perfect example of this. As a result of feeling what life was like without the Internet we know and love, people took action – and it worked.

The Internet is constructed around the idea that it connects people. You can’t win a fight against the owner of the gun factory with butter knives. Similarly, you can’t win a fight against the Internet when you’re trying to control the very thing that it was created for.

You can take our money…You can take our electrical outlets…BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY OUR INTERNET! The nerds WILL fight for their revenge (and we’ll win)!

Why will we prevail? Because the Internet is a beast that cannot be tamed. I like to think of it as the “Wild West” for my generation. No matter how hard you try to control it, people will always find a way around the regulations.

Instead of trying to fight and censor the people, why not work with them? Use the power of people to your own benefit.

What do you think about the SOPA and PIPA situation? Can the Internet be tamed? Is working with Internet users too optimistic? Please comment with your thoughts and opinions.

How Social Media Landed Me A Job (and How it Can Help You Too)

These days, most students are familiar with that depressing, heavy, sting-of-defeat feeling when you see those terrible five words – “We’ll get back to you“.

There I was, lying face down in my bed, being overly dramatic as I sulked over the fact that I didn’t have a summer internship yet (i.e., my entire life was crashing down before my eyes because my college career was a complete waste of time since no employer would EVER hire me with no experience on my resume, and I would probably spend the rest of my miserable days living in a cardboard box…). I thrust open my computer screen and logged onto Twitter, desperately searching for SOMETHING to take my mind off of my imminent lack-luster future of unemployment and Ramen noodles. (Like I said, overly dramatic).

When there it was…shining like a beam of light from the heavens (or, more realistically, a 17-inch computer monitor) the answer to my prayers! One of the industry professionals that I follow had retweeted 140 characters that reminded me there is still hope in the world:

HAAALLELUJAH….HAAALLELUJAH!

Immediately, I jumped on the opportunity. Within seconds, I replied to her on Twitter, we exchanged emails, set up a phone interview, and the rest is history. Now, I happily work for Intel Corporation, and I even extended my internship because I was so pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed my position as a social media marketing intern. Intel is a fantastic company to work for, and I am so thankful for all of the wonderful people that I met throughout my internship experience

Bear with me, I know my story sounds like a cinematic, hollywood “perfect world” ending – but I’m serious, THIS COULD BE YOU!

Over the course of my time at Intel, I learned so many valuable lessons, and I would like to share some of them with you.

Here are some of my tips on how social media can get you a job:

1. GET AN ACCOUNT

If you’re not on social media platforms, you severely decrease your chances of getting a job. How many times have you heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? For me, this was always disheartening because my mom is a homemaker and my dad is a small business owner. How would I get a fancy-schmancy marketing job as a small town girl with no connections? This is where the wonders of the internet come in.

There are SO MANY outlets for you to get your name out there. These days, almost all jobs are not advertised; they get employees by word of mouth. This is why it is crucial that you get an account on social media platforms so you can gain access to these opportunities.

Start with creating an account on Twitter and LinkedIn. and then…

2. GROW YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY

As a college student, I am fairly embarrassed by the way my peers tend to use their social media. I’ll admit, occasionally I do it too. It’s hard to remember that once you post something, it is on the web FOREVER (ever…ever…ever…..That was supposed to sound like a scary echo).

However, you must be aware that since it is out there for everyone to see, this is an easy way for employers to decide if you are suitable for the position. In fact, one in five employers uses social media in the hiring process. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your social media clean.

This isn’t to say that you cannot be yourself. But keep in mind that if you feel the need to post a picture of you wearing an “I LOVE COLLEGE” shirt while you guzzle down two 20-foot beer bongs, you better not go to that interview with your freshly pressed khakis and button down shirt as you explain that you never partied because you were too busy studying in the library. Your social media should reflect a good representation of who you are and how you want to be seen.

Don't let this be you!

Make sure that you could pass a social media background test.

3. MAKE CONNECTIONS

  • Make your profile public on Twitter! I know that it is a little scary to open yourself up entirely to the world, but it is much easier to make connections with people if you are transparent. It makes it easier for conversations to happen.
  • Follow companies that interest you What is your dream job? Even if it doesn’t seem attainable right now, you can get a great sense of company culture and see what kind of work they produce.
  • Follow people in the industry that you want to work in. For example, I followed PR and Advertising professionals, and they constantly tweet about job openings.
  • Make connections with these professionals – Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. Surprisingly, it’s not creepy when it’s for professional reasons! It is as simple as asking a question like “what is it like to work at _____” or “what can I do to get your job?”. Most professionals enjoy helping young people and giving advice. If anything, the knowledge that you will gain after conversing with people in your industry is incomparable, and your connections may even lead you to a job in the future.
  • What about LinkedIn? If you’re not on it, get on it. Linkedin is a social networking community dedicated to professional connections. In essence, it’s almost like you’re throwing your resume to employers who want to see it.
  • Join groups on LinkedIn Groups are the perfect way to meet industry professionals and discuss relevant topics to your industry. With groups, you can easily engage with people who you will want to have in your network of connections.
Social media does take some luck, but if you work hard enough you will find that there are plenty of opportunities out there. Remember, it’s called social networking for a reason! In the professional sense, social media can be your next ticket to employment. Good luck!
If you have any questions or some tips of your own, please feel free to share them with me! You can also connect with me on twitter @Kelsey_Wilkins
*Disclaimer: The opinions stated above are my own, and do not reflect the thoughts of Intel Corporation. Intel had no involvement in the writing of this post. If  a job at Intel interests you, please check out http://www.intel.com/jobs/ or follow @jobsatintel . For a more in-depth look at what working for Intel is like, be sure to follow @lifeatintel on Twitter! Again, I’ve got to give the proper thanks to Intel Corporation for providing me with so many learning opportunities and advice!

The Future of Technology

A random fact about myself is that I love facts. Love may even be an understatement.

Each day I receive a daily fact sent to my phone (side note: today’s fact was the United States has over 12,000 banks). I also keep a bookmark on omg-facts.com. Naturally, my obsession with facts caused me to stumble upon the following videos:

After viewing these videos, it made me question the future of my generation, and our use of technology.

For me, technology almost seems like second nature. I was about 5 years old when my dad asked me what I wanted my America Online Screenname to be while we were dining at Speedy Linguine. Now the thought of my life without technology seems almost impossible.

My parents (bless their souls) are almost completely unable to use technology. To their credit, they are getting better. However this improvement is only a result of numerous tutorials where I was forced to answer tedious question after question. My grandma does not even own a computer, and she is one of the only people I know who still uses the 1990’s style phone that looks like a cement brick with numbers.

This makes me wonder what technology will be available in the future. Will I struggle with staying up to date and understanding new technology?
I had this discussion with my dad, and he believes that I will fall behind the curve because the technology in the future will be too overwhelming. I think that since my generation basically came out of the womb with a laptop in hand, I will not struggle with innovations in technology. Since I already know the basics, I will not have to start from scratch like the baby-boomer generation. What do you think?

Facebook Birthdays

The month of April means one thing to me: birthday month. Since I tend to be a closet narcissist, I was thinking a lot about my birthday. Not because I would be another year older, but because I was thinking about who would be writing on my Facebook wall. How many notifications would I be bombarded with (maybe I am a not-so-closet narcissist…), and what skeletons from my closet would emerge with a “happy birthday” post on my wall after years of not speaking?

This got me thinking…How has the idea of a birthday evolved with the advancement in social media?

Back in the day, I was a master at birthday perfection. I was known for always picking out the PERFECT present and I would never forget the special day of a close friend. I should have gotten trophies for the amount of times I dominated in Pin the Tail on the Donkey. I had all of my friend’s birthdays memorized and I never forgot one. I may be a closet narcissist, but I ultimately care most about my friends, and ensuring that they have the best day ever. Gift-giving is one of my favorite past times. The feeling that I get when I see a friend’s eyes light up with each tear of glittery paper is one the best feelings in the world.

Flash forward. These days I am horrible at birthdays. I can not even remember the last time I put on a party hat. Perhaps it is the fact that I am busier than I was in my younger years, but lately I have been blaming this bad habit on Facebook Birthday notifications.

Since the invention of Facebook Birthday notifications, I dismissed the fact that I need to remember the birthdays of my friends because Facebook always reminds me. I log in, look to the sidebar, see that 3 people have a birthday today, and send them the proper “Happy birthday _____ have a GREAT day!” etc, etc. Then I forget about it.

Facebook takes away the awkwardness out of forgetting someone’s birthday. But in my opinion, it also takes away the specialization and personal touch of birthday yesteryear. Due to Facebook birthday notifications, I noticed that I commonly forget to give the perfect gift (one of my BEST qualities) as a result of becoming too reliant on reminders. Out of nowhere, the birthday of a best friend pops up.  Since I am so accustomed to wishing happy birthday to mere Facebook acquaintances, I forget the more important birthdays of closer companions. The special feeling is lost.

Not everything about Facebook birthday notifications is bad. Lets be honest, the most important aspect about birthdays is recognizing that you are loved and remembering that others care about you. Getting a post from a person who I have not talked to recently and knowing they still care is heart-warming. It is great to reconnect with old friends. For me, it is so easy to forget about people who I do not see on a daily basis. One of the best parts about Facebook is catching up with them.

Yet overall, I noticed a change in the way that I treat birthdays as a result of dependence on social media. Maybe I am becoming more forgetful! I did find a gray hair…As for now, I will blame my reliance on birthday reminders.

What do you think?