Three Weeks without Social Media: Was I Happier in the End?

To be able to have a completely restful vacation, I took three weeks off social media this summer. What I intended was to not read or post anything on my three favorite social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. As a total social media freak (I am someone who often hails social media as the revolution of our time), I was interested in this hiatus also from an experimental point of view: would it be difficult to keep off? Would I miss my social media timelines? My ubiquitous scrolling? What would be the effects?

The first few days

The first few days I kept a diary, this is what I noted:

Day 1 – I have set up my blog post on my social media break to post automatically in the morning, later in the day I went into Instagram in the evening to post the same info on my break. By mistake, I clicked the Twitter app. Closed it quickly. I have already deleted the Facebook app from my phone, now I put the remaining apps in a “social” folder on my phone and put it on the last screen, not the first.  Regretted when I thought of the art exhibit I’ll attend tomorrow and the conference next week. Else felt happy. Baked, finished a book. Had a glass of wine. Watched a tv-program.

Day 2 –  I have had a packed day and at the art exhibits and food fair I went to I wanted to post, that’s how I usually take in an event. Instead talked to a friend. It was good, but very different from how I usually experience such a happening.

Facebook sent me an email saying I had memories with my family. It felt a little bad to not see the memory, but also what a cheap trick that is to bring you in!

Day 3 – Methodically canceled all remaining social media app notifications. Went to a book club meeting and was present throughout. Watched in amazement when others drift away from the conversation with real people to check their screens all the time. In the evening, I had a question I wanted to post to my social media network. Later googled the question instead and found an answer.

Day 4 – I got messages from Odekro from parliament straight to my locked screen. Scrolled thru. That’s not strictly checking one’s timeline, right? I think this is because I “follow posts” on Twitter and I do not want to turn that off. (But really why not?)

Day 5 –  I am spending more time on WhatsApp actually having conversations with people. At an outing, I took very few pics, because now that I can’t share them…I feel calm and cut off from reality.

Day 6 – I realize I have read no news since I stopped social media. I went to my blog to see if anyone had commented on my blog post about the social media break. But people rarely comment on blogs anymore. I was inspired to read my favorite Instagrammers’ blogs.

 

What I Learned

  1. Notifications are Mean

It is no surprise that notifications of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are engineered to draw us in, have us watch just a few more photos on our timeline and just see one more video, but how difficult it was to get signed off from everywhere surprised me.  If you want to dig deeper, I enjoyed this medium article: This is How or Fear and Outrage is Being Sold for Profit.

  1. I read most my news from links on Social Media

We sometimes talk about echo-chambers; this seems to certainly be true for me. Totally unconsciously, I have read or watched no news at all in the last weeks, but solely relied on my husband to tell me crucial headline stories. For a political scientist, this is major.

  1. I get most event information on Social Media

Few people called, I heard of few events, I saw few people these weeks. I realize I get most of my information about events and parties, art openings, and meetings thru social media. Perhaps not surprising, but also completely excluding, as one then have to be on social media to meet people offline.

  1. I take photos to share them.

When I was doing research on photo storage last year, I came across an article that said storage will be superfluous in the near future as what people want to do with pictures in to share them. This was true for me these weeks. When I saw something nice, I’d remember I would not get to share it for the next weeks, then I thought to myself, what is the point?

  1. I should have considered going off the Internet completely for a fuller rest.

I thought I still need to be on WhatsApp (but really why? I could have set an away message) and have access to the Internet (you know, to…Google stuff). But those opportunities were exploited by my synapses (a.k.a. me) and I read many, many blogs, even had one or two late night surf-binges, and that was not what I had intended for my social media break. I think that is how I filled the “scroll-void” or the habitual social media checks.

 

New Habits

I will now more consciously decide when and how much I will be using social media. To be honest, as I am easing my way back into social media, I am feeling a little bit disgusted by the whole speed of all timelines, beautiful photos, and heated opinions. It seems they all flash by only to be replaced by another. When I started work this week, I have the following habits in mind:

  • I will give myself some time during my commute to specifically follow what news is discussed and what events are on and then again during the evening commute.
  • I will give myself some time during my commute to specifically follow what news is discussed and what events are on and then again during the evening commute.
  • I will turn my phone off in the evening, after 9 pm and turn it on in the morning. I will continue to keep the gadgets outside the bedroom – they should be charged elsewhere! Listen to Arianna Huffington on this!
  • I need to do something about my news intake as well, but do not have a solution yet.
  • I will continue to have all push notifications turned off.
  • I will spend less time on Instagram and more on reading my fav blogs/listening to fav podcasts. This as I feel Instagram particularly makes me feel someway bi, and the blogs have many times the same photos, but with more context.
  • I did miss Twitter and the flashing by of all kinds of information. I will engage less in political debate…hm, no, that is not realistic, but I will compliment major conversation with some further action: petitions, small donations, offline engagement, and so on.
  • I will continuously take a yearly break from social media and the Internet.

 

Did Being Off Social Media Make Me Happier?

I did spend more time reading, sleeping, playing with my children, talking to my husband, but being off Social Media did maybe make me relax more, but not make me feel happier. I would have to say no, I actually felt sad!

Sad as I “couldn’t” share interesting things I experienced with the world, but at the same time the time off gave me some perspective on the way social media builds on human psychology and how, once the notifications come off, we can start using it for what we want again.

Have you ever taken a social media break? Do you limit your social media intake in some way? Let’s learn from each-other!

Meeting Anna Koblanck

Photo: Fiona Leonard

Yesterday, I had the privilege to  meet with acclaimed Swedish journalist Anna Koblanck.

For an “Africa-nerd” like myself, she is a household name as a writer for Swedish newspapers DN and HD as well as an Africa commentator on Swedish radio.

For instance, she wrote this newspaper article on before the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and I blogged about it.

This time, Koblanck is traveling Africa for a non-journalistic project which I am guessing is not official just yet.

Thanks to our mutual friend Fiona we were introduced and met up for a few hours over coffee (what else?) for a talk about writing, South Africa, Ghana and Sweden, migration, what kind of meat goes into a Ghanaian soup (Answer: all), not identifying as an expat, travels home and elsewhere.

My  daughter was also gracing the occasion and I think all four of us had a good time!

 

>Ex-President Rawlings’ House on Fire: Was It Electrical?

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The shocking news reached us yesterday morning, the former president J.J. Rawlings’ residence in Ridge was on fire.

Today, facts are a bit more clear:

– Nobody was hurt
– Only Mrs. Konadu Rawlings and one of their daughters were at home
– The ex-president was not at home, but came to the sight early in the morning
– The fire started at 4 am
– By 9.30 am the house was completely burned down
– Three months ago, an electrical fire almost broke out in the residence
– The house was a colonial style bungalow, in much constructed in wood

(Sources: GNA here and Joy FM here and here).

Immediately a debate broke out on electrical fires caused by the common fluctuations of power in Ghana. The night before the fire, it was raining heavily and a substation broke down in Tema. However, GRIDCO, the distribution company found that such a discussion was premature before a proper investigation had been carried out, see here.

However, even if it was an electrical fire, what will we take from it? Has anything changed at all since Ghana’s Foreign Ministry burned down in October caused by an electrical fault?

As I heard the rain coming down heavily that night, I woke up and as I anticipated power to fluctuate I anxiously went to pull the plug on all computer equipment (beacuse yes, I am a computer nerd). Then I went back to sleep.

Next time, I’m not so sure I’ll be able to go back to sleep.

Pictures borrowed from myjoyonline.com

>Dramatic Week: Nigerian Terrorist, Togolese Team Attacked and Oil Curse

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This week passed really quickly.

I went back to work, now preparing for the spring semester. I had one friend leaving town (bye Uli!) and one coming back (Hi Tuuli!). It is somehow a big relief that the holidays are over and regular life and routines are back.

But as my personal life settled down, there were some shocking news this week that I’d like to comment on.

The Nigerian Terrorist
As I am sure you heard, a man was caught on board a plane from Amsterdam to Detroit, US with explosives. Some curious facts about this incident was that he was on the list of terrorists, the 550,000 names long list. I guess that list was too long, but that wasn’t my point. He hid the explosives in his underpants and is therefore now called the “underpants bomber”, but that wasn’t my point. He was from Nigeria and started his journey in Ghana, but that wasn’t my point either. Yesterday, in a discussion someone said American medias found it suspicious the terrorist bought his ticket in cash. Ha! Last time I bought a plane ticket in Ghana I t-r-i-e-d to pay with a credit card, but was refused. It seems like it is a forgotten fact that many parts of the world runs stricktly on cash. There are many other things to say about this thing, but I’ll leave that to my fellow bloggers Oluniyi and Obed.

The Attack on the Togolese Soccer Team
The African Cup of Nations that is supposed to take off tomorrow, Sunday, got to a horrible start when the Togo national team was attacked in DRC Congo on their way to Angola. The bus driver was killed and at least two players plus two other people were injured, according to the BBC. They were supposed to play Ghana for their first match, but the team do not know yet if they can play the tournament at all. This was the main discussion yesterday night and our sympathies go out to our neighbors in Togo!

Investigations into the Ghanaian Oil Sector
The first investigations (?) into Ghana’s new oil sector might lead to prosecution according to the Attorney General, Betty Mould Iddrisu. Fear has been raised many times that the financial blessings that come with a big oil find, might be a curse leading to the rich getting richer…Let’s see, this investigation might be good news?

Hoping for less drama next week.

Pic: Closing the door to this week and stepping out into the next.