Do You Need a Social Media Time-Out?


Many of the teams playing in the World Cup this year are being banned from using social media. Their internet usage is also being limited.

This got me to thinking. (Yes, I do that sometimes). Could we all benefit from a social media/Internet timeout?

When I was a kid my mom limited my TV watching time. I don’t remember exactly how much time I was allowed a week, maybe 5 hours. My mom put a bowl near the TV with little slips of paper listing 15 minute time increments. I could watch TV for as much time as was listed on those papers. When the paper ran out no more TV watching for me until the next week. This made me be a conscious TV watcher (this was before TiVo, VCRs or any kind or recording devices). It was the time of watch it now or NEVER. I studied my TV Guide and planned out which shows to watch. I really enjoyed Saturday morning cartoons so I’d try to save up as much time as I could for Saturday morning. I especially liked the School House Rock cartoons!

At the time I thought this was a drag but looking back I see value in what my mom did. I learned to not just sit in front of the TV mindlessly. I learned to plan what I wanted to watch and for how long I would watch.

Fast forward to today… we have the Internet 24/7. It’s practically attached to the palm of our hands. In fact I think my teenage daughter’s iPhone actually is attached to the palm of her hand.

We have no breaks!

In May 2009 a survey found 42% of people admitted to taking their mobile phones with them to the bathroom. Key word here – admitted. (Come on… you know you’ve done it).

A friend who visited Bali told me the community she was staying in had a day where they gave their machines a break, to thank them. They turned off all machines: computers, fax, washing machines, etc and some people even put flowers on the machines to bless and thank them for all they do. My friend was there working and at first this caused her a lot of stress but then she said it turned out to be very peaceful to not hear all the background electrical noise and to have all the people be present and not distracted by the machines.

Can you imagine North America ever giving their machines a day of rest? We go berserk when we get the Twitter fail whale or if our internet goes down for 5 minutes. Considering my livelihood comes from social media and the internet the thought of taking a planned time-out gives me some anxiety but I’m seriously considering committing to some no screens retreat days this summer. That means no screens (cell phones, TV, computer, etc).

What do you think? How long could you last with no screens?

4 thoughts on “Do You Need a Social Media Time-Out?

  1. Candy

    I am looking at 3 screens right now. Sigh. I am sitting here watching a movie, putting my Kindle books into collections on my Kindle. And using the internet to look up what type of book it is on Amazon so I know where to put it.

    You caught me 😉

    Having said that, my kids and all of us don’t watch much TV. I’ll watch something from my TiVo on my desktop while I’m working, but yeah… I am addicted to my Palm Pre.

    I’ve gone a day or two here and there with “no screens” and I can do it, but coming back to all that email makes me cranky. Tom would much rather I take my laptop, spend 20 minutes at night deleting and organizing and not be completely insane when I come back from a vacation or break or whatever.

  2. Sally Post author

    Candy I’m honored you are reading my blog and amazed at your level of multitasking.

    I’m just glad you’re not on the toilet while doing all that. 😉

  3. Justin

    Since Candy chimed in, I will too.

    I’m also sitting here looking at three screens (attached to the same computer). I’m Twittering/IRC-ing in one, writing an article and occasionally checking email in the second, and doing article research – and, well, this – in the third. There’s a laptop sitting next to my bed, though it doesn’t get used that much, and there is a netbook in the trunk of my car all the time. I don’t have a fancy-schmancy phone like Candy, but I can do the basic text/IM/email/web deal from it, albeit slowly.

    I don’t watch a lot of TV either – in fact, unless I happen to sit down in the family room while waiting for something to finish cooking in the kitchen, I only watch TV right before bed, and then it’s something on DVD. Going TV-free probably wouldn’t bother me.

    I don’t know that I could manage a screen-free day, though. If I did, it certainly wouldn’t be enjoyable, because I would worry constantly that someone needed me and I wasn’t available. The entire day would be a struggle to avoid checking in – definitely not relaxing.

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