When to Take a Social Media Break

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Twitter became my priority. It became my obsession.

I should’ve been shutting down and enjoying a moment in life, a moment I can never get back.

Instead, my mind was focused on how to condense the moment into 140 characters and share it.

Looking back, I lost memories and failed to get the most out of many experiences because I was too busy thinking about how to share. I lost track of the moment.

Around 3 months ago, I decided enough was enough. My life had become a massive extended relationship. I was losing focus on the core people, and priorities, in my life. I was spreading myself too thin for fear of not ‘sharing’, or turning my back on social media.

So, I decided it was time to take a serious break and shut down.

This never meant my online relationships were inconsequential. It meant that I chose spending uninterrupted, focused time with my new fiancée over swapping snippets online. It meant that I’d rather be in the pool throwing my 3 kids than sitting on the sidelines with a Blackberry. It meant that actually talking to my fiancée was a more productive way to spend my time than thinking of things to say online, and hoping they were clever enough to be repeated.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting a complete abandonment of social media. I’m suggesting that, in my case, it was time to walk away and get a better handle on it. It was time for me to devote my life to my immediate network, not just my extended network. It was time for me to justify the time I spent, in all aspects of my personal and professional life, with results.

Here are 10 things I learned during my social media break.

  1. People in my extended network understood my need to focus on my immediate network more than I thought. They didn’t take it personally.
  2. My immediate network noticed I was paying attention to them much more.
  3. I would touch base with my online friends in other ways that were much more personal.
  4. People from my extended network reached out and became what I would consider real life friends.
  5. When I would check back in online, not much changed. Many of the same people were saying the same things.
  6. The extra time I now have improved my quality of life.
  7. Social media was very much an all or none proposition for me. If I wasn’t doing it actively, part-time participation lacked interest (excluding my desire to make sure friends are well).
  8. I came away with a much better concept of how to manage my time, and what it should be devoted to.
  9. My driving improved greatly.
  10. My closest relationships became closer, and new relationships flourished, while my extended relationships remained pretty much the same.

I very much wonder how may other people have felt out of control with their social media usage. Have you ever wanted to just walk away from it and take a break? Do you feel I was incorrect in handling it the way I did? Is there anything you’d like to know about how it has changed my outlook? Please feel free to share your story, or ask questions, in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Matt Leonard
Matt Leonard currently directs SEO, SEM and Revenue Management for Cruise Critic, the world’s largest cruise site and part of the Trip Advisor Media Group.... Read Full Bio
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  • Daniel Dessinger

    I've done the same. I wish there was a site that charted the number of tweets per day / week historically to show trending. If one did, it would show that I went from somewhere in the ballpark of 50 tweets per day to somewhere between 5-15 on most days.

    Like most things, it just takes some time for the newness to wear off and to then find a balance and a way to incorporate the new into the old routine.

    Ultimately, I found that sharing every little thing actually hurt my ability to reflect and see things. I have a whole philosophy on sharing that's still percolating and being refined on the inside.

    Journals are still key, though. I love journaling.

  • Justin Freid

    First off, welcome back Matt. At times I to have found myself a little to concerned with my online network. During the current basketball tourny I find myself watching my twitter feed just as much as the games.

    I attempt to stay away from Twitter, blogs and other outlets on the weekends. While I may check in every once in awhile it does provide me the separation needed.

  • gotbob

    I can totally relate. Twitter became a time suck for me. I was on twitter before twitter became cool. It was mostly useless nonsense and like you said, you go back and nothing has changed with your extended network. Social media needs a purpose, if you are not using it with purpose, it is just going to consume you.

  • DanaLookadoo

    Matt! I totally relate as well!! I feel like you stepped inside my brain and heart as you wrote this. WOW! I was thrilled when I saw you on Twitter Sunday after not seeing you for a while. You are a cherished friend and were missed. It's times like that in which I'm glad I'm on Twitter, to connect.

    Coincidentally, when you told me of the post you had written, I had just finished a post, about my experiment for Lent to shut down distractions for 40 days. I don't want to drop a link and turn this into “me, too” but…
    Me, too!

    That post has a screenshot that @daver tweeted about Twitter:
    “Melting your brain in 140 characters or less every day”

    I, too, started thinking “cleverly” in 140 characters instead of being in the moment and enjoying memories with the people I was with when experiencing an event. The result of blocking time away from social media, for me, has resulted in a commitment to write more blog posts, content longer than 140!

  • DanaLookadoo

    Matt, I was remiss in congratulating you on your engagement!

    AND… “Will you marry me?” is less than 140!

  • alanbleiweiss


    I'm so glad to hear you recognized the need to take that break, and am not surprised at all of the outcome. Very happy for your experiences in the process – because you're just a totally upstanding guy. Regardless of whether you get more time in on Twitter, I do sincerely hope you continue to keep your primary focus on your personal life, because you deserve all the happiness that doing so will inevitably bring!

  • Sharma Infoway

    As a “social media expert,” all someone has to know is how to use one or more tools to help a business, themself or someone else. It’s not very hard to do this because the tools, if used even half-correctly, can benefit anyone.

  • MarieMattingly

    Okay… I'm one of those people who signed up on Twitter a year ago…and haven't gone back. I'm thankful I came across your article, Matt! I was thinking about re-establishing my Twitter account and I need some help in the “do's and don't's of Twittering”. I think I've learned from this article to maintain a balance in my life, which these days is hard to do if one owns a phone or computer!

    You also got my attention when I noticed your short bio. I guess the words “cruise” and “trip” mean you are in the travel industry?

    To make a long story short… I'm a Missouri Licensed Realtor and Insurance Agent and have recently gotten certified as a VBS (Vacation Benefits Specialist). With my previous 20+ years in Human Resource Administration, I've now come full circle! When I go into businesses to present insurance products, I also get to present a program, which reduces employer/employee health care costs, reduces stress, absentism, while increasing employee productivity, retention and loyalty. At a time when employers are reducing employee benefits and insurance coverages, this “high end” product is being offered to full AND part-time employees across the country at very inexpensively! Matt…we're in similar industries! I don't know a whole lot about Twitter, but I am going to enjoy being one of your followers! I'll find you shortly…LOL

  • SocialNetworkingCompany

    When your job is being a social media marketer, in order to stay on top you cannot have a break…you lose touch with the news even in a few hours. But I do admit you are right, sometimes we are missing moments that should be treasured

  • website design

    As they say, everything in moderation. Last year I took a week off and spent it without my cell or computer, because I felt they were becoming too important. Now I feel more balanced, and I have time for real-life friends, and not only those on line.

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