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Opinion: Could you quit ALL social media for a month?

If excessive phone or social media usage is something you’re aware of, take back your power with Facebook Free February.

Diarmuid Lyng

I’M SITTING IN a cafe. Enjoying a sandwich and a good chat. A few laughs, even. I’m comfortable.

Then my mate goes to the toilet and, all of a sudden, I’m alone. I’m sitting at my chair. Looking around. The feeling grows. I’m uncomfortable now. How am I supposed to be? I feel isolated. Exposed. Vulnerable.

So, I do what a lot of us are doing. What we’re judging each other for doing. I take a scroll. A nice, relaxing, comfortable scroll. I’m no longer lonely. I’m distracted.

There’s a little red notification button speaking to a part of my brain I seem to have no control over. The interaction releases a nice warm hit of dopamine. I’m happy again. We’re all happy. My brain. My mind. Mark Zuckerburg. And all of the ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ I have, each playing their own version of the same game.

In a recent study by Tecmark in Britain, it was found that a group of 18 to 30 year olds were carrying out 221 tasks a day on their phones. I downloaded Checky to see how I was doing: 84 so far today. It’s 9 pm.

Making connections

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are fantastic. They connect people from every corner of the planet. They disseminate important social and political information. They’re a vehicle for business. For dreamers and doers. For musicians and artists, athletes and foodies. Those on the fringes and those that keep them there. For men like Aaron Swartz. To say Facebook is the problem is overly simplistic; but assuming we are is too.

Which brings us to Nir Eyal. Nir wrote a book called Hooked. It teaches people how to create content that ‘forms habits’, or in simpler terms, he creates content that alters your behavioural patterns in a way that makes you dependent on that content. One of Nir’s most recent blog posts has more than a hint of irony about it.

‘I am the author of a book titled Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. It is a guidebook for designing technology people can’t put down. There’s just one problem–I can’t put my technology down’.

Sometimes it seems as though we’re being taken for a psychological ride. I can’t invest the resources needed to fully understand how my brain works the way marketers can. And so I’m roped in. I’m not denying my responsibility, but these guys are skilled manipulators.

Social media wizards

To make matters worse, others around me are wizards on social media. They manage their time well. Facebook and Twitter ninjas. They hit the right tone. Engage their followers. Create debate. Source articles. Make people laugh. Make money.

It’s easy to be envious. I had to travel around the world and around Ireland working with some of our top athletes to come up with content that even mildly engaged the social media sphere. Hurling Around the World was something I sat on for a while, safe in the knowledge that it was currency for tomorrow. All of my tweeting transgressions and ridiculous Facebook comments of the past would be spared at the feet of such a project.

It was released in November and I prepared for the dopamine hits. I was plugged in. Hooked up. First thing in the morning. Last thing at night. Facebook. Twitter. The Indo. The Guardian. Balls.ie. TheScore.ie (now The42.ie). They all ran it and it lived out its virtual life cycle over the following few days.

It was a fantastic experience in many ways but my soul felt buried beneath the neon carnival of shares and retweets.

So what to do?

Dip my head in the sea. Get lost in the woods. Have a conversation with someone of a different mindset. Leave the phone down. Sit into the feeling of discomfort of being left, for the briefest of periods, exposed in a public place. Allow it to crawl on my skin. Listen to it taunting me to take a scroll. And maybe do. Judgement free. But allow that feeling from deep within some space to breathe.

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What is Facebook Free February?

FacebookFreeFebruary.com is a community of people looking to do exactly that. To take on how they interact with social media. We will disconnect from Facebook (or Twitter,Instagram, even Bebo!) for an agreed period of time in February, or all of February, in order to reimagine our relationship with our phones and with social media. It’s proactive, it’s non judgemental and it’s growing.

If excessive phone or social media usage is something you’re aware of, take back your power. Nail your colours to the mast. Carry the FFF logo as your profiler and log off. Encourage others who may benefit to do the same.

This is a simple invitation to press pause. I find myself regularly saying I must take a break in order to look at how dependant I’ve become. To take a step back. And I hear a lot of people around me saying it too. Here’s a chance, regardless of how arbitrary February may be. It’s about getting up and getting out if you feel that maybe wasting a little too much time plugged in. Encourage someone else to do it with you. Challenge a niece or a nephew to run a competition in school. Set down a wager with a mate or a group of mates – €20 to see who can last the longest in February without logging on. Do a week. Or three days. Whatever suits your usage levels. If you fall off, get up and go again. There’s no catch. No fee. No data for sale.

Just disconnect and log back in to you.

All funds raised will go directly to The Soar Foundation, an organisation committed to providing our young people with the space for real and authentic interactions, to building resilience in teenagers that empowers them to live the lives they’ve imagine for themselves.

Diarmuid Lyng is the Facilitator at Soar. Visit his website: diarmuidlyng.com

The Soar Foundation is our charity of choice, and, because we have no costs, every single penny raised goes straight to the running of workshops for teenagers around the country that build resilience and encourage authenticity.

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About the author:

Diarmuid Lyng

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