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?


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.


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.



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.


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.


7. Why Do Business Schools Still Teach Us About Target Audiences?

I have never been hunting. Perhaps it’s because I have frail arms and hand tremors, and it would be a danger to society if I ever held a firearm. Perhaps it’s because hunting automatically reminds me of that traumatizing scene in My Dog Skip when some random hunters kill a deer and Frankie Muniz cries his eyes out (just like I did for the entire duration of that movie).

Whatever the case, the closest I’ve ever gotten to target practice is numerous hours of Duck Hunt from the years of 1995-1997 (my duck hunting career peaked early since my mom sold our Nintendo at a garage sale — something I may never forgive her for).

Now, I have nothing against the sport of hunting. I’m all for deer jerkey, taxidermy, and all that jazz. However, when it comes to marketing, I don’t think you should place a target on your audience.

The advertising game is changing. With the rise in social media, transparency is no longer a buzz word; it’s something that will permanently reside in future marketing books. Students will sit in lectures where they learn about the history of advertising and think “OMGZ what n00bs!” just like I do when I look at old business models. With billions of options, consumers hold the power. Companies that stay in their traditional ways will remain left in the dust.

Recently, Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen asked “why business schools still teach the 4P’s of marketing when three are dead“. According to the authors, “the digital revolution has rewritten the laws of marketing,” and I agree with this point. I want to take this one step further and ask, why do business schools still teach us about target audiences?

I personally believe that you should not  think of your audience as a “target,” and this is something that needs to change in the advertising industry. It’s time to start thinking of your audience as people. Not a demographic; not a generalization.

Don’t get me wrong — I understand the value of research and strategy. Both are key elements to successful advertising. However, I think that sometimes when we get into the realm of target audiences, we miss opportunities to reach out to people.

This isn’t to say that you should market to everyone, or that defining a group of consumers that you want to market to is wrong. In fact, defining your audience is a key aspect of successful advertising. What I mean is that it is crucial to gain insight on an individual level through the research process, instead of making assumptions based on a simple survey.

Good agencies know this. They take the time to truly engage with their consumers, and use feedback. But more marketers must recognize this need to connect with people.

In my opinion, “targeting” can put people into a box, and sometimes treat them as nothing more than a generalization. I consider myself a person with diverse interests and background – why should I be placed into a specific category? I am more than just one word descriptors that may apply to me based on my interest in one particular subject. I think of the people that I will advertise to, and this statement applies. If I don’t like being defined by just one aspect of my identity – why would they? I think the only way to truly define your audience is by taking the time to understand them on a personal level.

I really appreciate this campaign from Merckengage. They recognize that their audience is more than just a statistic. Instead of focusing on a target audience, they focus on individuals.

Fortunately, the University of Oregon advertising program seems to recognize this. My point is that other schools need to jump on the bandwagon. Shoot for a target audience, and you’ll never hit the bullseye.

*Edited November 10th

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?