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This article was published on December 29, 2010

The value in jumping off the “social media train”

The value in jumping off the “social media train”

I’m on holidays and writing this from beside the pool. I’ve effectively been offline for 4 days and it’s given me the chance to think a little about social media and the Internet in general and the pace at which it moves these days. I’m not sure about you but my day goes something like this…Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Apps, Gmail, blogs, Twitter, repeat, repeat repeat. I know I work in social media but from talking to other people who work online their day is pretty much the same. In some ways social media feels like a Japanese bullet train speeding along at the speed of sound. We’ve all become information junkies who need tiny snippets of information to get us through our day but I wonder is it doing us any good in the long run?

I see people on Twitter from the moment they wake up until the last second before they go to bed and I have to wonder how healthy that is. Are our brains programmed to deal with that sort of information? When you add in smartphones, iPads and increased access to WiFi the information overload is only getting worse. Even places like airplanes where we used to be able to switch off are now getting WiFi and phone access. Is all this information useful or are we just processing tons of information for the sake of it without it adding any real value to our lives?

Meanwhile people’s whole way of working is changing. They look at social networks at work. They check their work emails on their phones while “relaxing” in the evening. People send work emails from the pub on smartphones. Because of social media and improved technology the lines between work and time off are becoming blurred. Again this means our brains are having to process even more information. There is less and less down time.

I don’t think there is such a thing as 9 to 5 with social media either for personal or work use. The train is speeding along and you are either on or off. It’s very hard to just jump off the train for a day and then come back. You always feel like you are missing something. I’ve been off the train for 4 days now and I have to say I feel better for it. My brain feels clear. I don’t miss the information and I’ve gone to old school newspapers to get my news, and I don’t feel too much worse off. I’ve seen plenty of people taking social media “holidays” and I think they might be essential. Sometimes out brains just burn out from information overload and we need to get off the train completely. I’ll be jumping back on the train soon and even though I normally fret about missing the tiniest bit of information or getting out of the loop I don’t think I’ll come back any worse off.

What about you? Are you able to jump off the train every once in a while or can you simply not live without that constant stream of information?

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