A few months ago, I quit social media…kind of. It’s easy to just say ‘quit’ than explain exactly how my usage is currently but some people think I’m still very active. The unfortunate thing is that I am social for work. My job involves monitoring and sometimes using social media. Also, I follow a ton of breweries on Facebook so I’ve had to create custom RSS feeds for every brewery so that I can still see what’s up in my feed reader and then sometimes I click through on a brewery story and make a comment so, in that way, I’m still using social media. I do also use Twitter search which is quite powerful for trends and current events. So I have some readers of this blog who think nothing has changed. A lot has changed. I’m not posting anymore and I’m not mindlessly browsing social networks when I’m bored and I don’t have these apps installed on my phone and I don’t have push notifications going off all day. I accidentally opened Facebook last week to see 100+ birthday postings from August and a ton of FB messages and likes. Ah yes so I’m still getting messages to my IM client because some people insist on messaging me on facebook instead of email. I get far more personal emails and SMS messages since quitting. I imagine a lot of Twitter replies have come in as well? I don’t really know for sure and I don’t care.

The last line is most important here because despite my using social media still for work, I’ve stepped back in a huge way with the most important thing being that I don’t tell the world where I am or what I’m doing. No instagram of my food, check-in at Starbucks on FourSquare or tweets, FB posts that contain bits of my day with a location added because why not.

My fear when quitting social media was two-fold. The first was that I’d lose touch with people who I don’t have 1:1 contact with. The second is that I’d feel some small bit of depression from the lack of replies, likes and kudos that I was receiving daily on social networks. Depression is a serious thing so I don’t mean to undermine the clinical term but what I mean is that if I’m eating at a fine restaurant and I don’t share that food to Twitter / Instagram and I don’t receive any replies or likes, will the meal be less enjoyable? It shouldn’t be but when everything I’ve done since 2005ish was syndicated, it’s a concern that I’d feel empty without those likes. 

Thankfully, no depression kicked in but I did lose touch with a lot of people. 

Social media gives this fake feeling of connection. Experts and rational people understand this but day-to-day, you sort of forget that. when you read tweets or receive a reply, like, comment, kudos, you feel like you’ve connected especially when you’re like me and spend most of your time at home away from civilization. Not being on twitter showed me that my real friends actually talk to me on the phone or we SMS directly. Out of the nearly 7,500 people that follow me on various  networks, 5 people actually talk to me regularly. Quite a disparity and one that I’m surprisingly okay with. 

There’s also the ego aspect that causes someone with that many followers to think that the human race will be beating down their door to find out what you’re doing. Meaning, if I stop tweeting, surely a large number of my 3,000 followers will call, write, text or email to find out what I’m doing in life. A few have but that’s mostly faded. I’m okay with this and am amazed now in retrospect that I assumed people would come to me to find out what I was doing. Again, that’s an issue that comes from sharing your life every hour of the day of almost a decade on various social networks. You think what you say is important and if you stop posting, people will miss you. Remembering that this isn’t a human connection but a text connection puts things in perspective.

Why? The relationship we have with social media isn’t human. Your relationship is with the stream, not the individual. 

I find that a powerful realization more than anything else I’ve written ever about social media. I hope someone can take that realization and make a book out of it because the network is only as powerful as the individual but, without the network, no one will tune in for that one person. Would you use Facebook if one person other than yourself was on it? Would you subscribe to HBO for one TV show that aired 24/7? This is inherently why the personal weblog has failed and why Tumblr (endless scrolling stream that goes on forever) has grown in popularity. 

Aggregating the thoughts, opinions and ideas of thousands of people into a single page with a few scattered ads is the most powerful time killer and engagement feature of social media. If Twitter worked like a HuffPo slideshow where you click forward to reach each individual tweet, no one would use it. What do the most popular social networks have in common? The stream. 

If you think that your 10,000 twitter followers care about you, you’re mistaken. They’re here for the stream and, in the case of Twitter, they’re likely to follow an average of 100+ people and won’t see every one of your tweets and will rarely go to your page to see what you’ve been doing and, if you stop tweeting, it’s likely they’ll never notice. 

How many people have reached out to me asking why I stopped tweeting? Zero. 

This should hurt my feelings but it doesn’t because when you realize you dialed in to the stream and then logged off, the highway keeps rolling along even without you. If half of Twitter’s users left, then yes people would notice but they would notice a quiet in the stream and go to where the people have moved but 1-2 users logging off doesn’t hurt things. 

Finally, I’ve noticed the outside world of people who have a Facebook account to stay in touch with family, that aren’t social media experts or teenage girls or bay area startup people take my statement that I’ve stopped using social media as no big deal. Kind of like telling a friend that you stopped drinking coffee. They acknowledge this, maybe ask you why but they really don’t care or understand why you’d tell them this. So what that you stopped using. 

So I don’t have any plans to return to social and that’s fine by me. Maybe I’ll start if I move back to a city or need to use my network to find a new job? I really don’t know but for now, the experiment has been nice. I’m more productive at work and focusing on real-world relationships. This is an update on things. I’m trying to blog more but work has been keeping me busy. I sometimes am up at 3AM for conferences and then go to sleep around 1AM doing twitter consulting work. So power naps are important. Weekend work days are happening more often and I travel quite a bit for beer events. Blogging has taken a backseat to that but thanks to my readers who continue to check in. 

Also, this is what happens when you leave social media:

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