When Social Media Isn’t Like Breathing

by Emily Jasper on September 14, 2010

In the past few months, life has changed. I moved from Minneapolis to St. Louis, then to Blacksburg. I left my job and started an MBA program. I have a completely new kind of schedule.

All of that brings me to this conclusion: I find that I’m just not online as often anymore.

Contributing to the online world was so easy when I spent all day at a computer. It was part of my job, and so I could monitor, read, comment, and share. Ironically enough, social media is still part of my job, but that’s only 10 hours a week.

What happened to the rest of the time?

Part of it is the physical limitation of no longer being in front of a computer. We don’t use them in most of my classes to minimize distraction. I then have homework, meetings, group work, and lots of walking between ends of campus. I can sometimes reply to something on my phone, but more often than not, I glance at the screen, then put the phone away. There isn’t the opportunity to be as connected anymore.

Did I mention I’m a co-founder of a chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs? That takes up time. Plus the MBA Association, networking, and time spent getting to know students in other departments. Sure, I could get to know them from the comfort of my room, using online communities the same way I’ve gotten to know bloggers all over the world. But they’re here, IRL. I need to get to know them.

Participating in social media stops being like breathing when you need a different air source. It makes me think of when you snorkle: you need oxygen, but you need the mask to help you breathe instead of just inhaling water. I may have been like a fish before, but now I’m a regular human. Being in this situation gives me a new perspective, understanding what it’s like for those who just don’t have the time to be online 24/7. You can be plugged in constantly to your phone or computer, but do you really want to?

I guess my answer is: no.

You may think it’s crazy for me to say it, but there’s more to life than social media. Actually, trying to have a life online is pretty hard if you’re always staring at a screen. I’ll still be blogging, tweeting, commenting, etc. Don’t worry, I’m not going away. But I’m encouraging you to take a moment and think about how much time are you focusing on your online life instead of your real one. I talked about making time for the life events once, and I think it still holds true now that I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be back in the real world.

Have you made time for real life? Instead of the work-life balance, do you find that it’s the online-real life balance? What tips do you have for people who want to unplug?

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