Am I anti-social or do I just need a break?

11th August 2016

Back in August 2014, I took almost the entire month off for my summer holiday.  At the time I had been blogging and actively using social media for about a year and I really wrestled with how much social media activity I should engage in during my holidays, or if I should do any at all.

I’ve always been concerned about work/life balance and establishing appropriate parameters for myself in relation to my work. Continually checking email while I was meant to be ‘getting away from it all’ never made much sense to me, so I would always leave my Blackberry (remember those?) at home.

We forget how recent a phenomena social media really is. Facebook, shortly followed by Twitter, may have launched a decade ago, but most sources I’ve seen tend to agree that it was only in 2010 that social media began to become mainstream, with broad business adoption coming even later.

For me, 2014 was the year that I began seeing real traction with social media professionally. And there’s no doubt that social media has fundamentally and forever changed how we connect with people across both our business and personal lives.

So it was a really tough decision for me back in 2014 to completely switch off my increasingly ‘always-on’ world. And I’ve continued to ‘turn off’ during my holidays ever since.

One moment please

I’ve found that I really love this feeling of ‘disconnectedness’, this emptying of my mind of all but the experience at hand, this being totally in the moment with people and things that I can actually reach out and physically touch. All those brain cells that get burned out by the constant barrage of conversations and input from so many different channels have the chance to completely recharge, and I inevitably find that I return home and to work with renewed energy and focus.

But, two years on, and social media has become so much more than simply a tool I use to connect and communicate, it’s become an inherent part of my life. And it’s no wonder, really. Ever since we lived in caves, we’ve come together in social groups to live our lives, to collaborate, and to share.

As humans, we are social beings.

Social media is enabling us to find the ‘community’ we’ve largely lost as a result of the increasingly fast-paced and transient nature of where and how most of us live. And there is far more blurring of what used to be very clear boundaries between the personal and professional.

Through social media, friends and colleagues alike now share their holiday experiences with me. An MD I do business with sings in a band on weekends; someone I worked with over a decade ago now has a pottery in Cumbria. And through my wider connections, I now catch glimpses into the lives of many people I’ve never actually met.

So what does this tell us? I suppose that for better or worse, social media has become intrinsically woven into the fabric of our lives, enabling us to connect with people in ways that were simply not possible mere years ago. The optimist in me tells me this is a really good thing, exposing us to ideas and opinions that expand our understanding and our humanity, as well as keeping us connected to the people who matter to us. The pessimist in me wonders if this is too fragile a connection to too many people we never have an opportunity to actually meet and have a ‘real’ conversation or experience with.

So what will I do during my summer holiday 2016? Maybe I’m not as ‘social’ as I think or maybe I just need a break, but I’m turning the switch to ‘off’ during my holiday.

I’ll see you on the other side of summer!

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Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.

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