Remember when people use to give up chocolate for Lent? That’s so last century. After class last night, I went on Facebook for a quick look and a couple of friends posted they are giving up the social media site for Lent.
I have noticed the past few years that taking a fast from social media has become a common trend among some of my friends. The period of time can vary. Some people pick Lent, others the first month of the new year and still others choose to take a break during the summer. No matter what time of year, it seems the overall desire is to step away from the computer and use the time to connect with the real world. But eventually, they all come back again.
I recently had my own insight into how much time I spend on social media. Our coursework this week included an assignment to keep a digital diary for a 24 hour period of time. This not only included time spent on social media, but also the overall amount of time we spend on our computers, tablets, smartphones, televisions, radios and any other digital devices that are now part of our daily lives. At the end, we each tallied up the total number of hours we use these devices.
Our class as a whole ranged from about 6 hours to 17 hours. I ended up on the low end at just over 7 hours. I think my number would have been closer to 9 hours if I had picked a day that didn’t start with an early morning meeting outside my office.
I don’t think I felt as surprised about the amount of time I spend using digital devices as many of my classmates did. My job requires me to either be on the computer or using other media related technology throughout the day. I’m okay with the fact that these devices and the internet are a big part of my life. Much of this digital technology either keeps me informed or more easily connects me to colleagues, friends and family. It also helps make my work a lot easier.
My digital diary for that particular day showed I was on Facebook for about a total of 25 minutes. Is that excessive? I don’t think so.
This is not to say I never find myself falling down the rabbit hole of mindless internet surfing or wasting time on social media. But I have become more aware of when I’m doing it and make a point of trying to be more intentional when I am online.
I also don’t feel the need to take my iPhone everywhere I go. Three years ago when I left my television news job I was convinced I would go through withdrawal when I handed back the company Blackberry. That didn’t happen. Instead, I felt a sense of freedom from being tethered to the device and didn’t miss it one bit.
In the end, I found the digital diary exercise interesting. But I don’t see myself taking a fast from my digital life anytime soon. Or giving up chocolate.