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Cover Focus | Jun 2015

A Vacation from Social Media

The author is passing the reins to a partner at FingerTalks—at least for now.

Now who would have thought that a social media fanatic such as myself could desperately yearn for a social media break? Well, some time ago, I began to do so. I felt absorbed and soon to be devoured by the beast that is social media—a beast that is always hungry and never satisfied, a beast that always wants more. Facebook status to be updated, LinkedIn skills to endorse and colleagues to recommend, witty tweets begging for even more witty comments, and a mobile screen pushing notifications day and night. I decided to take a break—to take a holiday in a remote and dreamy place and disconnect entirely. I would venture into no-WiFi heaven for at least 7 days.

The first day, I left my smartphone in my hotel room, ready to experience real life. I strolled along the beach with my beautiful wife, breathing fresh salty air, listening to the crashing of the waves and squealing of the seagulls. We wandered into the forest, with absolutely no purpose at all. I felt on top of the world. I was a genius, a hero, a crusader. I had freed myself from the system. And while I was feeling proud of this achievement, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I could repin a quote on Pinterest: “Not all those who wander are lost.—Tolkien”

When I was back in my hotel room, I repented that I had not taken a picture of the scarlet macaws I discovered, nor of the view from the idyllic lighthouse my wife had spotted on the cliff. Therefore, on day 2, I took my smartphone with me to take some photographs—just some innocent pictures, I told myself, so I could show my friends where I had been when I returned home. The family selfie we took in the hammock was so ridiculously charming that I felt a brief heartache, not being able to share it with my friends.

At a Glance

• It is important to apply common sense in your use of social media.
• One way to ensure social media stay fun and useful is to take a break before you need one.

On day 3, we decided to explore the local village and do some shopping. After buying a hat—the type of hat that seems like a marvelous fashion statement when you are on holiday, but afterward is never to leave your suitcase again—I got a little restive while my wife and daughter were trying on what seemed like a million sunglasses. I decided to venture into a small shop with a sign promising electronics and telephones. The shop offered SIM cards as a great way to avoid gigantic roaming costs, and I yielded. It was a good deal, and I figured I'd better check in with the office to make sure they were doing fine without me. While waiting for our lunch, I called in, and, not completely reassured by my colleagues, I decided afterward to quickly check my emails.

On day 4, I woke to a stream of Facebook and Instagram notifications. Apparently my kids took my picture while I was sleeping and felt the need to share it with our friends. (Yes, the ridiculous hat was involved.) Now that the cat was out of the bag, I figured I might as well chat with some of my friends who were asking how we were.

Four Tips for Social Media

No. 1: Take a break before you need one.
No. 2: Keep your smartphone outside your bedroom and away from the dinner table.
No. 3: No matter where you go, always take a charger.
No. 4: Teach your children (and family and friends) not to post pictures of people without their approval..

On day 5, my battery was down, and we had not brought a charger. The receptionist did not have one either but promised to have one waiting for us at the end of the day. The end of the day? I felt panicked but tried desperately not to show it.

By the sixth day, my family had grown tired of the supposed catch of the day in our hotel restaurant, which seemed to be the same every day, so I found a recommended restaurant through TripAdvisor.com. Google Maps said it was a 20-minute drive, so I tried to catch us a ride with Uber. Unfortunately, there were no Uber drivers in that remote but dreamy place, so we waited for the local bus. To make a long story short, eventually we had a great meal.

On day 7, we flew home. Ah, I thought, home is where the WiFi connects automatically. Thank heaven!

So, my effort to disconnect? It did not go too well. But it made me think, and I came up with five tips to share with you, which can be seen on the previous page of this article.

This is my last contribution to your favorite publication for the time being. My partner at FingerTalks, Geert Nijst, will be taking over this column for a while and will share with you his insights on social media.

In conclusion to all of the above, I would like to say this: Social media are great, but we must apply some common sense in how we use them. The social media are tools. Do not allow them to turn you into their slave. This way, social media stay fun and useful for all of us.

It has been my pleasure writing the iSocialEyes column for you. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, and we will finger talk soon. n

Noel Alpins, FRANZCO, FRCOphth, FACS
• Cofounter and Director of Sales and Marketing, FingerTalks
• Financial disclosure: None