THE BLOG

Breaking the Social Habit

26/11/2015 20:03 GMT | Updated 26/11/2016 10:12 GMT

What happens when a social media junkie goes offline for a month...

Announcing you're taking a break from social media seems to be the latest trend. The Guardian's Zoe Williams took a week off Facebook and Twitter in the aftermath of the Paris attacks and noticed... well nothing much really. Lena Dunham left Twitter completely and there's been many other examples of public condemnation and departure from social media either temporarily or for good.

Increasing numbers of articles and studies suggest time off Facebook might do us good. Can a social media detox really help?

Well apologies in advance, because I've recently joined the social-break bandwagon. This is slightly ironic, as I'm the founder of a digital marketing agency. As a self-confessed social media addict, I took myself off work, email and social media for a month. I really missed it but learnt a lot about how and why I was sharing so much.

When social can be a force for good, it's easy to love. Like many of us, I found out about the attacks in Paris via social media and the posts of support and articles trying to make sense of the madness has been some solace in these dark days. I didn't change my profile pic to the Tricolor but Facebook's check-in feature told me friends were safe. I felt reassured and connected to a wider community.

When I went back on Facebook after my hiatus, it was 1 November and my feed was full of fantastic Halloween pics of kids and grown-ups having fun in fancy dress. And when I left social in September, how nice it was to see my Facebook wall full of kids back in school, proudly photographed by my friends who are now all mums and dads.

However, it was my own behaviour on social media that needed attention. Before I went offline not only was I massively over-sharing but I'd lost sight a little of who I was. Running an agency that delivers much of its offering via social media platforms, made me slightly more active than most. The rest was my doing. Every coffee or craft beer became an unnecessary post on Instagram. Carefully selected filters hid an unhealthy neediness that I've now shaken.

Now I post a lot less. I try to live more in the moment. I'm still taking photos but it's to remember and save not just to share. I'm not just sharing the same meme as everyone else but trying to have a point to my posts. Celebrating life, beauty and connecting on a real level. Not just trawling for likes and followers.

I've taken Facebook off my phone and am now only catching up in evenings or weekends. Instagram stays - as it's such a feel-good network but I'm posting less and I've stopped following a lot of retailers and, ahem, hot models. And as for Twitter, it's gone from my phone but I've barely noticed. How quickly love fades!

At our agency, we say similar things to our clients when we advise them on their social media strategy. 'Post less, think more, be less needy'. I wasn't following my own advice. It took a fairly dramatic move to break the cycle - going completely cold turkey for a month.

Back to The Guardian, I'm more inclined to agree with Suzanne Moore (who should really have a chat with poor Zoe) when she says "Don't think you're superior to me because you're not on Facebook".

The solace I found on social media after Paris reminded me of the positive power of these platforms. But be careful about losing your identity in your posts that may seem trivial but show a deeper loss of real self.

Adele's management team stopped her positing on her own platforms to end her drunken tweeting. We're all not lucky enough to have our own social team and sign off process but we can all share responsibility on how, when and why we post.