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Social Media Unplugged

Can you unplug from social media?  Take the challenge, here’s what I found out.

Many people tell me that they don’t want to plug in to social media.  Some feel it’s a waste of time, not important, information overload, etc.  So I decided to unplug, for a month and see what I would find missing in my life.   I checked out of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter for several weeks, and then left all e-communication behind for a week in the wilderness.
hiking ansel adams2
I figured that the things that I missed would help me understand the benefits of the various technologies I had been using.  It also happened that the last week of my experiment, I was in the Ansel Adams Wilderness in the Eastern Sierra.   Mono and Inyo Counties seriously lack broadband, similar to the Central Sierra counties I work with to help adopt high speed internet and associated technologies.  Many of the residents in the area couldn’t have acceptable access to social networking, even if they did understand its benefits.  So my experiment would help understand what many of these residents are missing, and advocate on their behalf.

Here are my top observations:
Access to critical information – We heard from a passing hiker that a bear had recently attacked a tent (while people were sleeping in it) at Thousand Island Lakes.  Given that we were planning to camp there the next day or so, I kinda wanted more information on this subject.  In the connected world, I could have typed in a few search keywords, downloaded conditions from various websites, emailed a friend to find out more, etc.  But I was limited to just asking hikers that happened to pass us if they knew more.  Most didn’t.
There was also wildfire activity in the area.  I knew this because a passing hiker happened to have been evacuated from the fire area.  The forest service was posting information about this online, but I had no access to it in my unconnected state.
My conclusion is that the traditional face to face information channel works, especially since most hikers were willing to stop for a while and exchange information.  But the online channels would be much faster and more reliable sources of critical information.

General knowledge of what’s going on in the world.  I missed news highlights.  But I didn’t miss the latest in the Michael Jackson autopsy, or Sarah Palin’s retirement.
At one point, my watch broke and I wanted to know the time.  I figured that I could use the sun as an approximation so of course I wanted to search various sites and forums on telling time using the sun.  I also was curious about the names of some of the wildflowers and some of the star constellations.  All of this information would have been readily available online for me.  Sure, I may be able to get by without a lot of the general knowledge, but I sorely missed the immediate quench of my curiosity.

Updates from my friends and colleagues. Except for those who I was hiking with, I had no news.  OK, I certainly didn’t miss knowing every event my friends attended or who was dating or breaking up.  I was curious about a friend who had applied for a new dream job and  another who had a big decision to take.  But most of the update information I peruse in social networks is nice to have, not critical.

Professional opportunities. My social networks are a huge source of professional information and opportunity.   Yeah, those of you that are reading this know who you are and you rock!!  I missed knowing that a colleague won a big grant (information that was posted online with reader comments).   I didn’t have access to shared documents on a group share account, I couldn’t download instructions for completing an upcoming project.  Clearly for me, access to these connected technologies is essential for my professional success, no way around it.

So there you have it.  I survived bears and fires, but literally lost track of time and probably fell behind professionally.   So how about you?  What would you lose if you unplugged for a while, and would you miss it?  Take the unplugged challenge and let me know!

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Categories: Online Marketing
  1. February 27, 2010 at 22:11

    Geeeezzzz, here I go, I’m back again…….just like a bad penny, I just keep turning up! But, this ‘social media’ stuff, why can’t a person find a class or place to learn about it? I mean, why would someone want to subscribe to such an activity with out knowing what it is all about? AND, I keep reading all sorts of not so good things about how these types of media systems can be manipulated and/or misused. How does one separate fact from fiction…..errrr, disaster? Ron

  2. August 10, 2009 at 17:39

    Great story and interesting observations. But, they are from a person that obviously is very involved in the ‘social media’ medium/business. How about a response from the view point of a dinosaur. I’ve never “twittered”, “FaceBooked”, or any other damn thing. It’s all I can do to keep up with my email and business web site! So, here goes: Hey, what’s wrong with ‘chuck’in’ all of the electronic crap into a corner and taking a week off with out all of that ‘static’ and just enjoying one of the most beautiful areas in the world with out distraction? I’m envious you were able to find the time and afford to take the time to enjoy a whole week off. Hey, it was time to blow the ‘cob webbs’ out of your mind. How cool! But, if bears are your concern, stay home. It’s part of the ‘deal’ when you hike into their territory. No amount of connectivity is going to save you from a bear encounter other than good common sense placement (hung high in the air off an inaccessible tree branch away from your sleeping area)of your food goods. Bears are always hungry and are lazy in that they take advantage of the ‘low hanging fruit’, which nomally is a campers high energy, good tasting food, which is usually easy to access, and definitely easy to obtain as the camper is usually in no position to turn the bear away.
    Second, why would you want to go on a ‘decompression’ vacation to rejuvenate your being only to get ‘amped-up’ and mentally ‘arcing and burning’ over current events that you should be leaving behind??!! Hey, there is nothing that can’t wait until you get home. If you feel there is, you never should have said you were going on the vacation to begin with!! And, how about your partner that you are with, do you think they will like being relegated to the side lines while you conduct business on a get away vacation? It spoils the whole atmosphere! Can you remember a time when we used to stop at a pay phone if we had to call in to the office? Do you think all of this instantaneous conectivity is really necessary and all that good? Really? Do people take the time to think rationaly before responding, or just ‘pop off’ and regret it later?
    I think I need to be seriously convinced that all of this instant media stuff is all that every one tries to make of it. Why should I have to learn a new ‘code’ to communicate on twitter or other mediums? Why couldn’t one just take a picture of the unknown flower seen on the trip and find out what it is when one returns home? What makes the immediacy of the situation? This ‘Ol dinosaur thinks we need to slow down and ‘smell the roses’. Ron

    • Sharon
      August 10, 2009 at 20:36

      Thanks Ron, I always love your commentary, keep it coming! You are definitely not alone — I feel that your views represent a lot of other similar sentiments out there and similar folks who need to be seriously convinced of this fast media stuff.

      By the way, we did have just enough battery to get shots of the wildflowers. We are still hoping to use the social networks to learn a few more names of those flowers on the second page of this site.

      Lake Ediza

      But you won’t see a pic of the bears, fear appropriately overtook that interest. Sure, we did have all our stuff stashed correctly and attentively away from the camp in the bear canisters, but it didn’t stop them from sniffing around the camp – as you mentioned, part of the deal of sharing the territory.. and those guys do just fine without any new technology!

  1. August 14, 2009 at 08:15

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