March 21st, 2016

I recently returned from a vacation – two, actually. One was your typical vacation on a sunny beach, and the other was a vacation from social media. I deleted all the apps from my phone, I didn’t take a computer with me, and I didn’t check in on any social media for (almost) a whole week. Here’s what I learned.

First of all, I know I have several friends who don’t get the need for a social media vacation. These are people who have probably learned from the beginning to use social media in moderation. The difference for me and some of my other friends is that we don’t just use social media, we study it. We watch behaviors on it. We follow trends and engage at a level that is probably a bit higher than your average user – especially your average 30-something or 40-something user (sigh, yes, I have to clarify that because I am almost 40). No, I’m not doing my dissertation on it like some of my awesome friends, but I definitely keep an eye on it because of my job and just my interest in it. This level of use is probably much more likely to require a vacation from time to time – because it’s not just social and fun for us, it’s work.

When I first got into the world of social media, I did it to learn what it was about. It was new, it was a little scary, and I just wanted to find out more about it. And then, I just got it. I understood exactly why people liked it – especially why people like myself liked it. Social media is like an introvert’s wet dream. Seriously – I can be friends with people without having to be around people? And I can take (almost) all the time to process my thoughts before writing a better version than the first one that comes out of my mouth? Sign me up!

In fact, through the use of Twitter, I met a number of people I now consider some of my best friends. I’m traveling across the country later this summer to attend the wedding of a person I got to know almost entirely online (seriously – we’ve seen each other in person only twice). And if I could afford it, I would easily be traveling all over the U.S. (and Canada!) to visit all of these people on a more regular basis. But I can’t – so the interwebs will suffice.

Only when you go on vacation from the interwebs for a week, and some of your best friends are through online connections, it means you also sort-of have to take a vacation from your friends. And hey, I get it – I’m taking a vacation from my local friends for a week, why not also take a vacay from my online friends?

So back to things this vacation from social media taught me (oh, was that the focus of this post?). I learned that a week away is kind-of nice. In fact, I haven’t added Facebook or Twitter back on my phone – even if I’m occasionally found surfing them through the mobile browser on my phone – at least right now. I sort-of enjoyed the fact that, if just for a few hours – I didn’t need my phone with me. I didn’t need to see what that long-lost friend from grade school was doing. I didn’t need to check in and wish every single person a happy birthday – just those people who were important enough to me that I already have their birthdays marked on my calendar. And I definitely enjoyed the fact that I didn’t spend a single moment wishing I was attending that big student affairs conference last week, even though I had several friends there.

But I can also say that I wasn’t missing out on the things people sometimes say they miss out on. My kid? Didn’t hardly notice the difference – although maybe that was because when I didn’t have my head buried in my phone I had it buried in a book. So I guess he got to witness me reading – although frankly, that’s not really much of a novel sight, either. Either way, he seems to be doing just fine.

I missed out on some of the social time I tend to enjoy, but I found that when I craved it most, I was able to get it from texting the exact people I wanted to talk to, so that’s pretty much a wash.

Really, though, I think I learned that the reasons I joined most of the social media sites I joined in the beginning still stand – I like the ability to interact with people without being mobbed by them, the ability to engage without small talk, the ability to take time to process and write out all my witty one-liners that occur to me after the fact.

So I was happy to rejoin the masses this week, but I will also be enjoying the occasional hiatus so I don’t try to analyze all the information that I’m receiving. In the meantime, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Snapchat for now (@Kristen_Abell on most of those). I’m still trying to figure out how I want to use Periscope, so don’t bother looking for me there right now. I’ve also got a Tumblr I never use and a Vine that is in similar shape, so you can ignore those until I figure something out, unless you’re a teenage girl. And good old email ( and text (if you don’t know my number, you’ll have to ask, first) work just fine for me, too. But please, please don’t call me on the phone. I’m still convinced that’s an ancient torture device employed to bring down the introverts of the world.

In any case, I’m happy to be back, but I’m sure I’ll be just as happy to take my next vacation.