William Tincup, the celebrated Recruitopian and hyper-connected socialite, has announced that he is taking the summer off from social media, in all it’s forms. That’s like Paula Deen taking butter out her diet. Rad.
In a post worthy of serious comment he explains his rationale for dropping out of the digital ecosystem. You can read My Social Sabbatical on a Fistful of Talent. In short, he says this sabbatical is an exercise in self-discovery.
I commend Padawan Tincup for taking such a bold step. Only returning recently to social participation myself, I hope to share some insights which might be helpful for anyone who—like our existentialist blogger—is about to transcend virtual navel contemplation for the real thing.
The idea of taking a sabbatical is nothing new. Taking a well deserved break dates back to creation itself when even God had to jack it all in for some downtime. So, why not Mr. Tincup? Why not me? Why not you?
Similarly, taking a break from social media is not that unusual, nor is it that difficult once you get started. Like all self-imposed cessation programs, it is the thought of stopping that presents itself as a bigger problem than stopping itself.
Apparently, having gotten beyond this initial hiccup, I fear Mr. Tincup may now be underestimating the challenge ahead of him. He confidently states that he is removing all social media apps from his mobile phone. In my experience, alas, this is not enough to fully benefit from a truly uplifting sabbatical experience. That, my friend, requires that you dump the smartphone too.
There are some wonderful alternatives to iPhones, Androids and Blackberry’s. They come with some basic features, all one needs for ignoring calls and catching up on voice mail, attenuating the noise, if you will. To get by, all you need is a cheap phone and prepaid calling plan. This ensures any attempt to access the Internet will result in a near-immediate depletion of your account. This in turn will result in frequent account top-ups. Based on my experience, twenty or so midnight trips to Wal-Mart, and a monthly expense of $600, gets real old, real quick.
I wouldn’t suggest Mr. Tincup goes to the extremes that some have gone to to disconnect. For example, not paying the electric bill ensures virtually complete excommunication. A blackout is a real test of commitment that demands exceptional creativity if one is to cheat the night sweats. Or, as in my case, spending all the housekeeping money on top-up cards.
Apparently, the idea of taking a sabbatical came to Mr. Tincup while he was musing on his childhood, summer days filled with boyish discovery and adventures. No school. No homework. He says:
I’d usually leave the house in the morning and not return until the streetlights came on… and sometimes later than that. I’d return home dirty, tired and hungry.
Funny. That describes my school day, not the summer hols. This leads me wonder if I am able to comment further. As Mr. Tincup and I may have a laterally inverted view of life, can I make sense of his reflections without appearing to distort his meaning?
For example, I wish there was some elucidation on the “ugly parts of social” that he describes as part of his infatuation with all things “social.” With nothing more than that we are left to guess what’s so “ugly?”
Perhaps he is referring to having to be social online with people he might describe in closeted conversation as “a prick.” Or, maybe he is referring to the dysmorphic disordering of the mother tongue to allow for a compressed narrative in 140 characters of less. Perhaps it’s something between pricks and prose. Who but Mr. Tincup knows?
For me, more interesting than the “ugly parts of social,” are the ugly realities of a social separation. The sense of abandonment and memories of my boyhood summertime, day trips to Coventry and all. Because I can only speak for myself, some context first…
I am, by nature, antisocial. It is not that I don’t like people. I do. At least I try to like them. I make a special effort to love my enemies, being a good Christian, if not during the work week then on Sundays at least. The fact of the matter is, social media and networks at first create a false sense of intimacy. It lulls the otherwise socially awkward into a delusional state where they start to believe they are accepted, cool even. If this online behavior escalates out of control and a “real relationship” ensues, at some point an in-person meeting is inevitable.
Suddenly, the need for approval that was being met by uninterrupted digital interactions is altogether lost in the shock and disappointment that comes meeting your connection for the first time. Rather than validating the “social process” I have found such encounters deeply disturbing.
Invariably, that intimate relationship that was once characterized by public banter, frequent “Liking,” and hash tagged endorsements, cannot withstand reality. I am sure that I am not alone in struggling with the dissonance that comes when my mental holographic bears little or no resemblance to the one-dimensional person standing before me. This is why I avoid industry conferences at all costs.
Of course, it cuts both ways. People who meet me in person are immediately distracted by an uncontrollable eyelid twitch, European-style dental work, and an obvious affliction with more borderline personality disorder sub-types than a Canadian recruiting unconference. This is why I believe the connected well-to-do avoid me at all costs once we have met in person. It just ain’t pretty.
So, avoiding the human consummation of my social connections—which I euphemistically called a “sabbatical”—I have come to find that maintaining a social presence is like jumping up and down on a memory foam mattress. You can make a deep impression in those areas were your posts, comments, curated content, tweets and what-have-you, make a repeated, yet ultimately unsustainable, impression. But the disturbance is localized to the area where you jump and down. The wine glass never tips over. The sleeping spouse never stirs. The reverberations of your influence are fleeting, soon forgotten to a 125×125 banner reminding anyone who comes to your derelict website that your were once, indeed, an A-Lister.
For me then, the ugly side of being social is that when you stop jumping up and down there is no memory of you. All of the signals that drive search engine results eventually fade to the point that even Google forgets you. Clutching at some fleshy part to affirm the reality I am now being forced to accept, the nagging questions persists:
- What the hell was all that time and effort spent for?
- Is my worth to be measured in Klout scores and social validation?
- Without backlinks, Facebook likes and Google 1-ups, do I really exist?
- Why am hearing voices telling me to kill, kill, kill my neighbor’s cat?
And, to the value of being hyper-connected, do you really think your social network’s action threshold is all that? Really?
In closing his post by leaving his phone number and email for those to connect with him while sabbaticalizing in smug suburban self-satisfaction, again I fear Mr. Tincup may have got this “anti-social” connecting thing arsed-backdwards. I know I did. Wilhelm! You need to call me…that’s how this I’m-off-the-grid-in-self-discovery-mode-thing works. It’s like this: You wouldn’t put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your hotel room door hoping room service will drop-in anyway, would you?
Brother Tincup doesn’t know what internet addictions he is suffering from. He says,
Truthfully, I have no idea.
I say, “Truthfully, it’s better that way.” In the absence of any apparent suffering, why would Mr. Tincup care if his behaviors are compulsive, obsessive, or addictive? You have an addiction problem when not having access to your apps and peeps and mayoral badges of honor leads you to go ape-shit with a machete. Hardly the behavior one associates with the kind of internet habituation Mr. Tincup intends to abstain from. But then again, who knows?
In closing, I would like to extend a personal invitation to Mr. Tincup to call or email me if he ever has the urge to fire up an app, post a pic, or tweet a passing thought. Or, for no good reason at all. After all, now you’ll have a “ton of time for chit chatting about useless shit.” Yes, William, I will happily connect with you provided we never have to meet in person. Fair?