I come from a generation before mobile phones and a time when home computers and Windows were readily available including the modem that generated that squeaky, blippy irritating noise as the data transferred and at the same time knowing if the phone rang, you’d lose connection and I’d have to start again!  Things were slower than they are today.

Yes, back in the day of slow internet speed and feeling the anticipation of waiting for my photos to come back from the developers, hoping they didn’t have a quality control sticker on them, life was slower.

But slower wasn’t a bad thing.  On the contrary slower meant we could embrace the moment and really enjoy whatever we were doing without the distractions of today.

Slower meant we were mindful and engaged in playing with out friends, riding our bikes and exploring the nature around us.

Then the mobile phones arrived!

First we could call and text and play snake.

Then we could take pictures, send and receive them.

Then Apple decided to blow all our minds with apps and new games.

Then the world went crazy and these little devices became glued to our hands or at least sat waiting in our pockets, tempting us with a sound or a vibration.

I’d like to think I have the willpower to shut off my social media for at least 24 hours because I remember a time before phones so I have a slight advantage over someone who grew up with social media.

I set myself a challenge of turning it off for 24 hours.

Here’s what I noticed.

Firstly I told my wife I was going ‘dark’ for 24 hours.  She just shrugged!  Nice to know I’ll be missed!

Then I took deliberate action.

I turned off WiFi and data roaming so I could only make calls and receive texts.  It was a Friday night. ( I would only respond to an emergency if necessary)

Then I sat there for a few moments.

Then my mind turned it’s attention to life.  I suddenly felt I had lots of time to use and a sense of freedom fell upon me.

I realised I spent a lot of time aimlessly scrolling through Facebook becoming distracted by the posts, comments and funny remarks.  Would I miss them?

I play basketball and Friday night was training so I popped along and got my basketball fix in.  I realised I was more focused on the court than usual and that focus felt great!

Later that night when I got home I continued to feel free of any obligation to reply to messages, to connect with the world digitally so settled in and watched a film that I realised I enjoyed more and followed more than usual! Hmm.

I have a young son who’s three and like any young boy he is very demanding of my time as a parent.  He wants me to engage with him, to play with him and just be a dad and as I played with him on the Saturday, I realised I was enjoying it much more than I usually would because I didn’t have any distractions.  My mind didn’t wander towards social media or think about what I may be missing.  I enjoyed the moment for what it was.

Did I worry about people sending me messages?

No I didn’t.

Because I’d set myself this challenge, any messages that did question my whereabouts could easily be explained – I was completing a challenge and I would answer upon my return.

As the 24 hours passed, would I find myself eager and desperate to catch up with everything I missed?

Not really.

It’s nice to feel wanted and to be recognised, but as I turned the Wi-Fi on and the notifications began to show, I felt a burden fall upon my shoulders.  Now I was back on social media, I felt an obligation to reply and engage.

So I replied.

So what did I learn from this little challenge?

  • I had more willpower than I thought
  • The world still revolved and people still went about their lives with or without me
  • A real sense of freedom can be achieved, one I like to experience more often these days
  • Life should be embraced in real time with real people as much as possible
  • Social media can be good and bad so use it wisely

i was pleased with myself that I could turn off social media for 24 hours and I really enjoyed the freedom and new found focus I had on tasks and even today I often put my phone on airplane mode so no data can disturb me when I want to focus.

Is the world a better place for social media?  Well that’s a whole new other debate!