Can you imagine what life would be like without social media? In order to find out, Mashable selected five brave readers to disconnect from all social media for two whole weeks. The goal of the challenge was to discover how social media has impacted our everyday lives today.
Halfway through the challenge we checked in with the participants to see how they were dealing with the disconnect. At the time, most participants reported they were having a hard time disconnecting, but all were eager to continue for the full two weeks.
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Ultimately, all the challenge participants prevailed and completed the two week span without logging on to social media. Most of the participants reacted positively toward their experiences, and one person even admitted that the disconnect helped him realize the silliness of Facebook. Vincent said, “As a result of this experiment, I have no motivation to tweet, post a status, or check-in anywhere. It all feels quite pointless. Maybe I'll warm up to it again further down the road, but right now it's taken a complete backseat in my life and I'm fine with that.”
We contacted each participant via email for a reflection on his or her experience. Here are some of their reactions.
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Why Would You Ever Want to Disconnect?
Every participant said he or she wanted to partake in the challenge because it would be an opportunity to see how social media affects their lives today.
Andrea wondered how she would spend her time, and what she could learn about herself from disconnecting.
Every participant was also an active user of social media in one form or another. Vincent described himself as someone who is more aware of his Klout score than the current date. By the end of the first week of the challenge, though, he realized that his Klout score began to drop -- and he couldn’t care less.
Natalia originally worried that the challenge would feel like dieting. She writes, “I thought that I would try to stay busy so I wouldn’t think about that chocolate bar I was going to crave -- the chocolate bar being a quick look at my news feed.”
Age Matters in Social Media
Each challenge participant had a different experience during the disconnect. Andrea writes, “I think what was the biggest highlight for me - seeing how our age and life experiences will color our thoughts on disconnecting.” She hypothesized that the younger generation of finalists would have a harder time disconnecting because they were accustomed to various social platforms while they grew up.
Javier, who falls into this category, reported a difficult time disconnecting from social media because his job as a community manager revolved around being online. However, he found he was able to perform his job successfully. “I [accomplished] this by resorting to non-social means, such as traditional, online media and other digital spaces where I could share information and receive insight in return through email, in a less constant and immediate manner, but without missing the essentials.”
Realization That the World Is Connected
During the disconnect, each participant was able to experience what life was like without social media. This allowed them to see just how deeply social media is ingrained in our society.
Andrea writes, “Not having my face glued to my phone's screen allowed me to really see how disconnected things can be out here in the real world, face to face.”
Vincent had a different realization. He understood how trivial Facebook was after he reconnected with social media. “For most casual users as myself, looking at Facebook is like looking at an old high school yearbook and reading everything people wrote in it, including those people you weren't really friends with,” he says.
People Missed Me
Jaime reported that her family and friends missed her when she disconnected from social media. Prior to the challenge, she used photos, Facebook messages and video chat to stay in contact with her sister-in-law and their children, who are on the other side of the country. Andrea realized she has two types of friends: friends that missed her personally (the people that text, call, email) and friends that missed her personality (the group of people that only interact with her online).
Activities During the Disconnect
Jaime made a separate challenge for herself each day during the disconnect, for instance, she decorated an area of her house, volunteered at a neighbor’s office, took a small road trip, and visited a new place she had not been before.
Javier told us he was finally able to watch a movie completely through, because he wasn’t engaged in social media during the film. “It was both funny and amazing to go see a movie and not miss several seconds of it because I was sending a reply or simply tweeting about the movie I was supposed to be watching in the first place,” he says.
Many participants reported a better understanding of how to utilize and balance social media in their lives today. "This challenge confirmed for me that social media isn’t at odds with real life; it’s a way of doing real life. Often, it’s the preferable way," says Javier. "Through this experience I learned that you don’t need to be connected every single second of the day in order to stay on top of things.”
How do you think your experience would be different if you disconnected from social media for two weeks? Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comments below.
Javier is a young digital journalist and community manager, among other things. He wants to disconnect for two weeks to discover how he'll share his ideas and opinions with out social media. Javier's Facebook Profile Javier's Twitter Profile
This story originally published on Mashable here.