SOCIAL UN-NETWORKING: 10 PEOPLE, 1 DAY NO SOCIAL MEDIA

I could begin to feel the circuits overheating. 
I had been very active with several different chat groups, creating a new one, researching Social Media related issues for work as well as running and responding to all the Social Media there and making new followers and friends at a rate that would have The Flash look like he was moving at the speed of a Presidential campaign push for Dan Quail.
It needed to slow down or stop for a few hours. I thought, “oh what a lovely little article this would make with me taking the day off from all Social Media”. But, what I thought would be even more effective and challenging would be to take others that I knew who were also Social Media Junkies on the journey with me. So I went into two of the Twitter chat forums I live in, #CustServ and #UsGuys and put forth my quest: I NEED SEVERAL VOLUNTEERS TO GO A WHOLE DAY WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA. WHO’S WITH ME!?
The response was overwhelmingly silent and the roar of the crickets and tumbleweeds was deafening. So I asked several more times and got a small trickle of responses and enlistees. Funny part was, they were all female! Not one guy! Where were my dudes in Twitterville? Where was my Band of Brothers? It was an experiment with all females and only me as the solo male.
The experiment hadn’t even begun and I already had my most interesting statistic so far. Only females volunteered and when I asked 10 different males why they would not join this merry little band, they all had the same answer. “I can’t go a day without it.” Period. Only 2 said it would compromise their work.
Here’s what the rules were: NO Twitter, Facebook,  Four Square, MySpace (as if anyone under the age of 12 has a page there anymore) LinkedIn, Skype, Google Chat, IM’s, Blogging or even texting.
Yes, that’s right texting. I researched other experiments of this nature and 3 out of the 5 I reviewed all categorized ‘texting’ as a Social Media outlet.  According to a Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report in April of 2010, text messaging has become the primary way that people reach their friends, besting face-to-face contact, email, instant messaging and voice calling as the go-to daily communication tool.
They were allowed to email as is it’s not considered ‘social media’ but rather a regular at work and at home source of communication.
With all my lab rats (and myself) set to run through the maze for a full day I reached out to them via email with their mission and the following 4 questions for them to answer upon the completion of  the day;
 1. Did you snap like a twig, collapse and start using Social Media before the day ended? If so, why?
2. What did you find the biggest challenge or hurdle in this experiment?
3. Do you feel there are TOO MANY SM sites and it causes you distractions throughout the day?
4. Of all the SM sites you are on, which one did you miss the least and feel you could do without?
The votes have been counted. The results…After this commercial break. OK, couldn’t resist the dig at Ryan Seacrest…OK, here we go:
Snap, Twitch and Drool:
Zero out of the 10 people had a Lindsey Lohan style relapse. Everyone stayed the course.  Ellie, a Twitter fanatic reported “a terrible longing for my iphone and kept looking at it and caressing it as if it were a chocolate bar”, while @CaiPalmiter from Twitter said she suffered from paranoia and dreamt of Skyping. Only one person slipped slightly, Sherree (@starry_girl on Twitter), with a texting volley with her husband regarding their dog. You’re off the hook Sherree, I’m a sucker for dogs!
Oh the pain, the pain…
As far as challenges and hurdles an overwhelming 80% said the voyeuristic urge to “peek” and see what others were conversing about in their absence was unbearable. Sherree, stated “It was hard first thing in the morning and when I got home in the evening. Thankfully, my day was full of meetings and deadlines; I didn’t have time to want to check things. “I suffered the same day as our friend Sherree as is I actually worked that faithful day.
This One Goes to 11
Are there too many Social Media sites out there creating too much noise and distractions? YES! It seems every time a newer and shinier one comes along we all herald it as the “second coming”. But do we need anymore? According to 90% of the test subjects, no, we don’t.  Ellie informed me “I was definitely less distracted, more focused at work.” Dina, said “it made me realize, I don’t really need half of these sites.”
Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
When it came time to say “good morning” to the Social Media sights again the #1 site that was not missed at all by 80% was Four Square! It seemed people just don’t care about being the Mayor of anything or wanting to know where @droolmarks is eating at that very moment.  Very interesting statistic was the #2 least missed site: Facebook! This one floored me. Don’t people check their Facebook more times a day than the time? The one that was missed the most by a staggering 100% was Twitter. As L.J so eloquently phrased it; “I couldn’t live without Twitter. I would die not knowing what to do under my desk all day.” ‘Nuff said.
Feelings, Nothing more than Feelings…
Some key words to note here as well that got tossed around by the majority; “isolated” “lost” “habitual” “slacking” “weird” and the number one word used, “addicted”.
A Jerry Springer Style Final Thought
Social Media is an extraordinary option to commune with our world, learn new things and expand our horizons and meet those we may not be afforded the luxury of doing so in the real world!  But isn’t Social Media now an element of The Real World?
During this little experiment, I learned that I can participate in my social media “neighborhood” without living in it. I can’t imagine life without my social media community of friends, followers, business acquaintances and clients. I have a friend or “family” to chat with anytime I want! But I have another life beyond social media.  I have a wife and daughter that don’t chat, IM, Tweet, RT, follow or Skype. At the end of the day, it’s just the three of us in our own world.
I like it there. Think I’ll stay awhile.

2 Comments

  1. YEAH, I get to be first (it's an Aries thing).

    Are you nuts! Great experiment, what do you think you learned from it for your clients is what I am asking?

    I love that Facebook was not missed, been saying that one for over a year and folks look at me like I am crazy.

    Always said you need to be a good time manager or you will sink like the Titanic (glug, glug, glug, glug-you sunk your battle ship hee hee).

    I write out my day, then created a schedule, having some form in a formless world is critical. Always get my must do's done and use SM time when waiting for videos to upload or between calls or when I need a mental break from all this darn creative thinking!

    When you dial it back and do not live on social media you can filter noise just fine. ;))

    There is a lot of opportunity with four square when used properly. I do not want to be competing with employees of company for Mayor that's just wrong.

    You get an apple for stepping out and giving it a go, heck Tom Sawyer you got them to buy into you little experiment, here's a carameled apple.

  2. Ty,

    I enjoyed your experiment. It actually surprised me that only one day off social media had an impact. I expected to read you found little effect as people filled the void with IRL socializing. It made me wonder, since you mentioned your subjects worked the day selected for "no social media", what type of work environment they have.

    I read a summary of a Pew research study today (http://ow.ly/3GKTa) which might provide some insight on your findings. The study found people who used social media had a stronger affinity to social groups IRL than those who do not. So perhaps social media attracts more extroverted people who thrive / recharge off of social interactions and therefore do best with the energy and diversity they achieve from their social media "fix". If the alternative you provided – no social media for the day – left them with work interactions only, depending on what those interactions provided, they might be more likely to feel the loss because they are not getting their extrovert "recharge".

    I would love to see a study where participants selected were all extroverts (aka Myers Briggs) and work productivity was measured with and without time allowed in the schedule for social media. Does social media provide the energizing charge needed by extroverts who work in less social environments? Can social media interactions on the job actually improve productivity for some? Just a thought…

    Continue your clever thinking. And glad the self-awareness created by this experiment has increased your appreciation for the value of family connections. But you always knew how important that was!

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Who Is Ty Sullivan?

Ty Sullivan is the Director of Marketing and Social Media for one of New York City's top restaurant management groups. He also speaks, teaches and designs Customer Service seminars as well as blogs on the subject.

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