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Wednesday October 1st 2014

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Name Your Vice…

Then Give It Up For 30 Days

From June 3-July 3 some members of the IN Staff took on the challenge of disconnecting. We didn’t completely unplug. We figured that was pretty unrealistic given that we have to use computers to make this paper. We also knew we’d all quit by lunch on day one anyway. We like being connected and informed way too much to ever go dark.

So instead, we all searched deep within our tech-addicted psyches and admitted to one technology/social media related vice we struggle with and agreed to give that up. For some of us it was really hard to admit we had a problem—which probably means those people have the biggest issues to deal with. For others it was hard to narrow it down to just one platform or app. Each of us was forced to answer the question of “why” before we could begin the assignment. We just wanted to make sure everybody had a chance to really learn something here. We didn’t want to be giving up Tweets in vain.

Some us failed miserably and cheated on the first day. Some of us stuck it out just to prove we could and went back to our over-connected ways at 12:01 July 4. Some of us had life altering epiphany moments where we saw the error of our ways and vowed to never repeat them. Well, maybe nothing that dramatic happened. But some of us did learn things and developed new habits that we hope stick with us long after this week’s issue is recycled and our time unplugged forgotten.

It’s All About Me, Right?
By Edwin Banacia

My vice is myself. Anxiety, inbox guilt and disengagement were good enough reasons to unplug. So when asked if I would be game to participate in this social experiment of anti-modernism, I said, “Sure.” After all, how bad could it get?
Pretty bad.

As it turned out, my measly sacrifice of withdrawing from Instagram and Vine wasn’t easy at all. I’m completely addicted to myself. In the grand scheme of this fully connected world, we’ve adapted to complete integration rather quickly. In the last five years, I’ve managed to find myself in a place where I am routinely evaluating my life in relevance to its performance indicators on social media. In this age of social connectivity we are literally analyzing ourselves and our rhetorical value to the world in which we exist. In particular, “How many likes did my picture get?” The result of my self-imposed exodus from Instagram and Vine was terrifying.

But I don’t fully accept the blame. As Americans, we almost view it as a responsibility to be informed citizens. So yes, I naturally felt it was important to know what you had for dinner or which exercises you completed at the gym. The first few days of my disconnected life, I felt an overwhelming sense of ignorance and guilt. What in the hell was everyone doing? I’d find myself sitting in a restaurant and not knowing what to do while waiting on my dinner. So I cheated.
A post here or there wouldn’t end the world would it? And within a few days, I was back to posting pictures and videos. I was back to removing the guilt of missed notifications. I was back to over-sharing uninhibited non-important moments of my life with whoever would pay attention. I was back to full immersion. Then it happened.

I just decided that I wouldn’t completely disappear. This was obviously harder than I anticipated. I would wake up some days and sincerely decide to not post on that day. So I wouldn’t. Turns out, giving up Instagram and Vine in small spurts was much more realistic for me.

On those days, I learned a few things. When I’m completely involved with sharing my experiences, I’m decidedly less involved in the now. I was sharing experiences that I deemed relevant before those experiences were even fully experienced. The process of sharing, documenting and commenting on experiences in real-time caused me to live through moments passively. My decisions were influenced mostly by a group-think attitude.

Being disconnected, even if just from Instagram and Vine, gave me time to reflect about how much energy I was putting into content management. I discovered that most times I was waiting for good content to present itself so I could receive the recognition and approval of not just my peers, but frighteningly, complete strangers as well. I could tell myself that my need to post is just a guilty pleasure to pass the time, but I’d be lying. I’m pretentious. I’m self-absorbed. Superman couldn’t lift my ego. I think I’m funny. I’m not a chef, but who cares? People will want to see what I cooked for dinner. I’m relevant and my opinion on Miguel’s leg drop on a fan during the Billboard Awards must be heard! And I think you care.

You don’t care. In fact, no one does. We all care about ourselves. We’ve trained ourselves to be self-important. We self-publish our own tabloid every single day. And we’re concerned about our circulation. It must grow. It mustn’t be regional or national. It must be global!

You can’t spell Millennial without the M and the E – Me!

Blogger Detox
By Stephanie Sharp

My vice is the micro-blogging platform Tumblr. I’ve had a blog on the site for over three years now and the number of posts is staggering—embarrassing, really. As I write this sentence, the total is just shy of 25 thousand posts. So I average about 23 posts a day.

I think this is one of those situations where you can toss that “Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery” cliché at me. Right into my sad, Internet-addicted, iPhone-illuminated face. I deserve it.

When this connectedness challenge was originally presented to me, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to work on my Tumblr-dependence. This won’t be so hard, I told myself. It’s summer; I’ll barely ever be on my laptop so the temptation will be minimal.

Then I realized that my problem really lies in my excessive usage of the Tumblr app. Really, it’s a great app. The kind of well-designed, immersive app that you find yourself staring at until the wee hours of the morning and just scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.

So, admitting I have a Tumblr problem, I moved onto the next step in recovery: deleting the app.

I distinctly remember being unnecessarily peeved by the little empty spot on the home screen of my iPhone. My Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr apps were all lined up in a neat little row, but now I felt I needed to fill the void. So I just scooted my Pinterest app into Tumblr’s old spot. There, that’s better. Right?

Wrong. Instead of really disconnecting and redirecting my energies elsewhere—the goal of the exercise that I figured out a couple of weeks into it, I just filled the time I spent on Tumblr with other Internet distractions. When I found myself sighing dramatically and throwing around phrases like “But it’s just not the same!” I realized I should probably reevaluate why Tumblr is so important to me in the first place.

What makes Tumblr so addictive to me, the reason I have devoted so much time to it and get so easily lost in it, is that I can just submerge myself in a wonderful Internet-bubble of people and media that I enjoy. Unlike Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even Pinterest, it has nothing to with my “real life.” I never have to censor myself and I can be as self-indulgent as I please. I’ve been able to find amazing artists, writers, musicians and friends through common interests in a veritable safe haven. There really is nothing wrong with that. Tumblr, within itself, is not a bad thing. The same can be said of Facebook, Instagram, etc.

The opportunity for growth in all of this was being pushed out of a passive place and making myself accountable for doing these things I always talk, think and blog about doing. It took a lot of self-discipline, but once I really disconnected from my online-habits, I was able to produce. I made some flower crowns, outlined the novel I’ve always wanted to start and read some actual books. I dug my teeth back into good journalism and started listening to NPR again. My time-out from Tumblr was definitely successful.

The pearl of wisdom I walked away with was this: Passive Internet pursuits will lull you into complacency, but you can shake off the dust. In fact, you can even go back to your cyber-haunts and wallow in your chosen poison, all the while being a productive person. All it takes is a bit of self-awareness and discipline.

Recapturing the Moment
By Sarah McCartan

My vice is my iPhone camera. I must confess that I am someone who has spent excess energy documenting things, be it food, friends, me, a place, or a space, merely for show at times, to the point that I’ve been guilty of devaluing the experience. And so I challenged myself to say enough is enough. I challenged myself to stop. I challenged myself to get back to the heart of the experience, rather than allowing the moment to be robbed by instant documentation, or by sharing for the intent of gratification or artificial affirmation.

It was a challenge not just of disconnecting but also of reengaging, and in turn, recapturing. Recapturing what is real—disbanding what is not. And, once again, being able to recognize and draw a distinct line between these ideas. My hope was that this would allow me to more fully exist in the moments I’m given with people I care about.

The tangible piece of my challenge specifically meant not snapping any photographs with my iPhone. This is an act that had become as habitual as snacking. Anyone who has maxed out their entire iPhone memory surely has grown obsessive, right? To break it down further, this meant no photos taken to immediately post to Instagram #rightnow, and none to simply let lay dormant and save for a #latergram either.

Midway through my challenge was Father’s Day. To celebrate, my dad and I ventured out to Fort Pickens together to enjoy the beauty of our natural surroundings. Realizing there was aged film in my fish eye camera that had been tucked away on my shelf, I threw it in my bag and brought it along for the journey. (This was another bit of the challenge—if I was to take any photos, I must do so on the film cameras I have grossly forsaken.) When we arrived at Fort Pickens, I did something that I rarely do. I left my phone in the car, for hours upon hours.

After squeaking our feet across undisturbed sand dunes, we jumped in the gulf and we swam, swam and swam some more. We swam with what felt like semi-reckless abandon. Then we spotted a youngster sea turtle, and swam alongside her (or him). My dad told me that he had not seen my face light up with sheer joy like I did in that moment, in quite a while. Truthfully, I hadn’t either. Rather than rushing to try and capture it, any of it, I let it go. And I simply lived it.

As a human, I find myself getting rather caught up in trying to hold on too tightly to moments. Moments that are fleeting whether or not I document them. Moments that are meant to be lived and shared with those around me, not taken for granted. This entire process was bringing this internal struggle and constant battle to the surface.

As the challenge continued on, it was clear that it was becoming something far greater than simply breaking a habit. It was becoming a matter of greater mindfulness. I began actively acknowledging the amount of time I spent connected to my phone for any and all purposes, and began enjoying the fact that my phone was spending an increased amount of time tucked away from the scene, deep in my purse. I once again found myself appreciating moments as I was experiencing them, rather than after the fact, in regard to how they were documented.

This challenge has turned into so many things that it is difficult to pinpoint where it started, what it’s become, or where it’s ending. My hope is that it doesn’t end. Although I have returned to taking photos via my iPhone in moderation, I have made a commitment to actively thinking about each instance and why I feel the need or desire to document it, before doing so.

Ultimately, if there’s anything this challenge has assisted me with recapturing, along with the moment, it’s myself—my true self—the one that spans far deeper than any glamorized photo plastered on social media. In my humble opinion, this is what matters the most, at least to me.

Checking it at the Door
By Lilia Del Bosque Oakey Whitehouse

My vice is my smartphone. I’ve only had it for four months, so I thought unplugging myself would be simple. It wasn’t. I failed miserably.

The boundaries I set for myself were simple: No texts, games, or browsing on my phone when I am home. When I walked in the door from work, I would put my phone on the table, upside down, and silence it. Staring at my phone had become such a time waster and I noticed that it was taking away those blank moments in my days—moments where I would just stare at my husband and strike up random conversation, moments of silence, moments when friends and I would argue who sang a song, not just pull out our phones.

I started out strong. I kept a notebook in hand to jot down tweets or photos I wanted to take. When friends texted me, I would call them back (calls were allowed) or I would just ignore it until right before bed when I allowed myself to go on my phone, return texts, and browse briefly on my phone.

What started a string of bad habits was a family party. Most of my family lives in the Midwest and there was a party to celebrate my cousin’s graduation. I hadn’t seen my extended family in a year and my sister and mother texted me to see if I was free to video chat with my grandparents and godson. I didn’t see the texts until the next morning. I was so beaten down by missing the texts that I took my anger out on my self-imposed blackout. I figured that I would have chatted with them for about 30 minutes so I told myself I could tackle 30 minutes worth of SongPop requests to make it up to myself. Two hours later my phone died and I realized sustaining this for a whole month would be difficult.

Then I started to make deals with myself. I told myself that I could check Instagram and Facebook in the mornings if I didn’t browse my phone so long at night. Then I decided that Instagram and photos were fine because they were capturing memories—even if those memories were blurry photos of my cat in bad lighting. Then texts to Mom where allowed. One Saturday, I stayed in bed until 2 p.m. because I told myself the phone was allowed only when I was in bed. That’s about the moment I realized that I have very little self-restraint.
Maybe I failed because there wasn’t any type of reinforcement. Maybe every time I peeked at a text, I should have made myself run a mile or denied myself chocolate.

There was one time before that I allowed myself to unplug for a month. I was in Oregon for a class and cell phones weren’t allowed. I wrote letters daily to my parents and weekly to my friends. I fished and read books and went on hikes and learned two songs in Spanish. I expected this month to be a similar. To be filled with new hobbies and books and long walks. Instead I just sat on the couch, staring at my phone, making deals with myself for just one more peek.

I Used To Read
By Joani Delezen

My vice is Pinterest. And Instagram. And Twitter. And Etsy. And sometimes even Craigslist and eBay—seriously, you have no idea how long I can virtually shop for mid-century furniture and vintage scarves… You see, my real vice is killing time on my iPhone.

I used to be a productive person. I used to read books every night until I fell asleep. I used to devour the Sunday New York Times before noon. I used to try—and almost always fail—DIY projects and crafts. I used to watch documentaries and listen to NPR. I used to care enough to seek out things to fill my time. Then I got an iPhone and slowly, but surely, things began to change. I became a passive consumer—taking in whatever was in my newsfeed and at my fingertips.

Looking back on the past few years, it honestly it amazes me how quickly I became lazy.

My goal for this challenge was pretty vague—quit wasting time on my phone. But I knew if I could figure out exactly what that meant for me, set some self-imposed rules and actually make it happen, it would be worthwhile. I just knew if I could go back to how I used to be pre-smartphone, I would be happier. I know it’s sad that I needed a work assignment to make me actually do that—but reality is sad sometimes.

At first it was difficult. Embarrassingly difficult, really. I had to practically hide my phone from myself while at home to avoid mindlessly looking at it. Same thing with the car. (Before you get mad at me, just know that I don’t mean while driving. I’m talking about sitting at stoplights and in traffic, OK? I know it’s still bad, but I wanted to clarify so you all judge me a little less harshly.) I had to turn off all social media notifications too. I didn’t delete the apps entirely, but I had to diminish their presence. While trying to spend less time caring that someone commented on my profile photo, I had to not know it was happening. Then I just set back and let the boredom creep in.

I’m from the camp that believes one of the main problems with having the world in our hands is that we’re never bored anymore. Thanks to technology we can always find something to occupy our time and our minds. There are always status updates to read and cute cat videos to watch. Most of us don’t even have time to be bored. But being bored isn’t a negative thing. Boredom is where creativity sparks and where big ideas get their roots. Being bored of being bored is what makes you actually get up and do something—at least that’s always been the case with me.

So what I really wanted out of this month was to be bored. I wanted to be bored enough to organize my closet, to try container gardening on my porch, to finally finish that book I started around Christmas… and I was. I was so gloriously bored that I did things I’d forgotten how to do—like cook stir-fry from scratch, not a bag. I was keeping a productivity log, but around week two I stopped. I was just too busy doing stuff and catching up on things I missed.

Sure, I slipped up and cheated a few times. Like when I took an extra cute picture of my dog and just had to Instagram it right away and then waste half an hour comparing his cuteness to all the other pups with the same hashtag. Or when I found myself in the waiting room at the doctor’s office without a book or current magazine. Facebook was my only real option to pass the time, wasn’t it? But overall, I kept up my end of the bargain that I’d made with myself. I allowed my mind to wander instead of keeping it constantly moving by scrolling through photos and Tweets. I remembered how good it feels get stuff done—stuff that I want to do, not just stuff I have to do. I remembered that I used to be a somewhat interesting person until I got so interested in what other people were doing all the time. I really liked myself a lot more during June. So did my boyfriend I’m sure. I just hope I keep it going and don’t let my smartphone dumb me down again.

For the Love of Selfies
By Jason Leger

My vice is Instagram. And I’m just going to go ahead and warn you that by reading this, you are about to learn some sad facts about me.

I joined Instagram in the spring of 2012, and at first, didn’t use it all that much because I didn’t really understand the premise. Once I did, however, the pictures started flowing from me, arguably to a fault. Memes, pictures of my dog, pictures from my childhood, screen shots of what I was listening to at the moment, and, probably most problematic, pictures of my face all would fill up a normal day. The attention was making me a narcissist, something I never had any desire to be.

Coincidentally, my first year on Instagram was also the year I dropped 100 lbs. I could capture my progress and document it for the world to see. As I began shrinking, more and more women, who paid little attention to me previously, began liking and commenting on my pictures. Consequently, my ego began to grow, and the desire to post more pictures of myself bloomed. People began to point out that it was too much, but I laughed it off, calling them “jealous” or “jerks.” In reality though, they saw what was happening and were trying to help me rein it in. Over time, I began to realize that I didn’t like who I was becoming. When the opportunity to constructively take a break from the technology arose, I leapt at it.

So I deleted the Instagram app from my phone. Initially, I was on the high of accomplishing something and progressing who I am, but after a couple of days, I started to notice my mindset changing little by little. My dog would do something funny or a song would pop up on my radio and a desire to share the moment welled up inside of me, leaving me to choke it back down. This desire led me to think quite a bit on why this was happening.

Social media is such a huge juggernaut in our culture. A person can post as much as they want, at no cost. I had to ask myself why the urge to tell people about what’s going on with me is so important? The conclusion I came to seems simple, at least for me. I’m lonely. Not in the “I’m depressed, I need someone to love, woe is me, high school” sense of the word, but the “I need other people to affirm that I matter, because I’m not meant to live this life alone” sense. Everything that I post on social media is a moment of my life that feels incomplete without others enjoying it with me. When I post the song that I’m listening to at the moment, I want others to enjoy it with me. When I post pictures of my dog, I want others to see how beautiful she is. When I tweet a joke, I want people to laugh. When I take a picture of myself, I’m basically saying, “Here it is, take it or leave it, but I desperately want you to take it.” Life is not complete without others. We are afraid of being alone, irrelevant, misunderstood, not heard, and, possibly worst of all, unseen, so we put ourselves out there and, whether we admit it or not, cross our fingers for attention.

Because of my 30 days without Instagram, I think I see a way forward. I won’t be putting down social media all together, but there are small steps I’m going to try to take to keep my feet firmly planted in reality. I haven’t downloaded the app again, and I really don’t have much desire to. As long as I feel this way, I’ll let it rest. I was in over my head for sure.

The Blue Menace
By Jessica Forbes

My vice is Facebook. Even before this assignment, I had toyed with the idea of taking a break from the site. Like a bad relationship that had gone on too long, Facebook had become a stressor in my life. I’d felt that way for a while, but hadn’t made a change.

Despite feeling annoyed and anxious at the sight of that certain shade of blue, I checked Facebook every day, multiple times per day. Feeling overwhelmed, I’d taken the app off of my iPhone only to use Safari to log on. Sad? Yes. Plus, I’m not on Instagram or Twitter, so I’m almost a Luddite, anyway, at least in the opinion of some of my iPhone-addicted friends (love you, guys!).

On day one of my short-lived “Facebook Blackout Diaries,” I wrote that I felt “near overwhelming joy” after suspending my account on what I then called “The Blue Menace.” I was only compelled to journal about Facebook for two of the 30 days, however. On the second night of the challenge, I had a dream that I accidentally logged in. And that was pretty much the extent of my Facebook separation anxiety.

In 2005, the year I joined Facebook, only college students were allowed on the site. It was a simpler, more innocent social media experience, a brave new frontier for publicly embarrassing yourself and others from the comfort of your dingy dorm room or shared apartment. Fast forward some years later, and the site became a constant stream of information, gaming requests, and complete train wrecks—grammatically, visually, and spiritually. Normally nice people seemed angry, depressed, self-absorbed and/or snarky via their posts, while others seemed ridiculously, disingenuously exuberant about everything. And on some levels, at some times, I was one of “those” people.

On Day One I also wrote—and this sums up my Facebook-less experience—“I’m still feeling relieved today about severing ties with Facebook. While I’ve thought about checking it, it seems like the impulse is more out of habit than actual desire. I haven’t felt anxiety about the fact that I can’t log in and in fact, I think I feel less stress not checking it.”

Our love affair with social media is almost alarmingly pervasive, as I quickly saw when I got out of the game. Not being on Facebook myself, I realized how much people reference it in conversation. While not being able to affirmatively answer, “Did you see my post?” sort of made me feel out of the loop, it ultimately didn’t, since the human I was interacting with in real life would then explain whatever they were referencing to me, and we’d find ourselves having a discussion, face to face.

Occasionally throughout the month, I’d wonder what a few people—“Facebook friends”—were doing. In a few of those instances I actually picked up the phone and had conversations with them, the way we used to in the ‘90s. I quickly learned that liking my friend’s photos of his son is great, but it’s not the same as calling them and hearing the baby laugh in the background. States away, I feel like I know a lot more about their lives from that phone call than I do from months’ worth of posts. To be as connected as we allegedly are these days, we’re lacking a lot of substance if clicking “Like” is the bulk of our friendship action.

Now at the end of the experiment I see that the problems I experienced with Facebook were with how much time I gave the site and how I utilized it, not the concept of social media itself. I’d allowed looking at my friends’ profiles to substitute for connecting with them, learning how they were really doing and vice versa. That said, I’m going to give Facebook another try. Now I know that social media only gets as annoying and time consuming as I let it. As long as it’s a supplement to real life and not a substitution for it, I think it’s possible to not let social media become The Destroyer of All That’s Meaningful. Zuckerberg and Co. may have broken us in, but we’re free to break out anytime we choose.

Screen Free Saturdays
By Samantha Rich Crooke

My vice is pretty much anything with a screen. Really it’s a family problem. So my husband Ken and I decided to take on this challenge as a family. Our objective was simple—to spend more time together as a family, we pledged to abstain from using any screens (social media, texting, TV watching, etc.) during our one day a week we have time together.

Just one day a week for a month? I didn’t think it would be too hard at all. Sure, I compulsively check my phone for Facebook updates, and find myself on Pinterest far too often than is healthy, but only four days? I’ve got this. I made sure Ken was up for doing this with me. He was open to the idea, but not aware that on day one of our challenge, I was going to leave him home alone with the kids while I went birthday shopping with my mom. He cracked right away, playing “The Fish Movie” (“Finding Nemo,” for you non-parents) for our wild toddler who was refusing a nap. I fared better, but was acutely aware of its absence and the fact that I couldn’t use my phone became pretty maddening. At 12:01 I checked my Facebook, did some online birthday shopping, and googled (finally!) what glitter was made of.

The next few Saturdays were better, as we spent the days together. We did fairly well, with small slip-ups now and then. It became sort of a game to catch each other cheating. I decided it was ridiculous to be so extremist not to use the phone at all, and used it for looking up directions, recipes to cook that day—aka things that were actually useful and didn’t distract from family time. You can decide whether or not that is a sign of weakness or just me being awesomely realistic. Having information readily available constantly is pretty incredible after all. Also, as a photographer and mom, I’ve got to admit while of lesser quality, the accessibility of a camera phone is pretty great, allowing us to capture pics of our kids when our SLRs aren’t readily available. My mom actually was inadvertently the source of our first technology transgression, because when she wanted to take a video and photos of our son during swim class at the YMCA, Ken insisted he use his iPhone 5 instead because the camera was better than the one of her phone. I was in the water, totally helpless to stop it, so…”Not It!”

I did come away with some surprising takeaways from this. One thing that struck me was how odd complete silence is to me now, in a way that I don’t remember it being before the ability to become addicted to social media and smart phones existed. I definitely use screens as a filler in my daily life. If Ken is watching a boring TV show, instead of doing something else productive or suggesting that he turns it off, I’ll just sit on the couch and spend time with Pinterest.

The first Saturday after our kids were both asleep was the most difficult time for me because it was so quiet. There was less “busy” filling the time. We don’t often just sit there in silence. I felt a weird compulsion to do something. I cleaned a lot—this is shocking if you know me personally. After my manic productivity spurt, we actually had good conversations together that were not just about our kids, and during the course of the month, not just on Saturdays, I felt less of a need to grab my phone in the quiet moments.

All in all, the experience was positive. We played pretend with our son more—our hallway is now a train station and car racing center. I gazed at my baby doing baby things a lot more. I took more actual photos of my kids. I brought my camera to swim class and got some really great photos, not ones that will just go to the land of wherever mediocre iPhone photos go. We didn’t miss a single swim class this month, I started getting CSA boxes from the Palafox Market afterwards and actually spending the time to cook food and try new recipes for our dinners instead of doing the frozen pizzas routine.

It’s funny how often I thought I was killing perceived boredom by effectively doing “nothing”—wasting time on things that aren’t truly productive or truly relaxing. While I doubt we will ever live a totally screen free life, we will definitely continue with the spirit of the challenge, and limit it, especially when it is distracting us from each other.

#TwitterFasting
By Whitney Vaughan Fike

My vice is Twitter. As a marketing and communications professional, I’m always connected… to everything. Especially my Twitter feed.

Proof that I’m a Twitter addict: In the 2012 Independent News Best of the Coast issue, I received the honor of being named the Best Person/Business to Follow on Twitter. At first I baulked at the idea of giving it up for a month, but quickly gave in. I had to announce my hiatus or people would think I am ignoring them, right? Then I turned off all my notifications so that I would not get any updates that would tempt me.

The first couple of weeks were the hardest. I opened up a digital notepad on my phone and saved tweets I thought of instead of posting them on Twitter. I caught myself spending more time on other social media platforms. My go-to was Instagram because I could share photos and still use hashtags. I was, however, faithful to my #TwitterFasting. I posted on Instagram, Facebook and Foursquare but never connected them to my Twitter feed. I was committed.

One of my favorite things to do is live tweet during concerts, award shows, hot topic news and TV shows. I am a country music fan and the CMT awards were held on June 5. I knew that I would want to tweet, so I purposely made other plans out of the house for the #CMTawards show. It was only a couple days into the challenge.

The day I missed being on Twitter the most was when my friend Jeff ran up to me at Evenings in Olde Seville Square and asked if I had fun at bar bingo that week. He said “I tweeted you” and he pulled up his Twitter feed to show me that he even had a photo attached to it. I missed it.

Recently I read that it takes 21 days to break a habit. As I went through this challenge, I realized the amount of time I do spend on my phone or tweet-thinking of “how can I squeeze this thought or conversation into 140 characters without giving up proper grammar?” Toward the end of this challenge, my notes of tweets began to dwindle and I noticeably have not reached for my phone when something comes to mind or happens.

My friends and I have started putting our phones in the middle of the table during dinner so we are actually able to enjoy each other’s company. My husband was on his phone the other day while we were out at dinner and I asked him about it. He said that he was so used to me being on my phone all the time that he picked up the habit. We have committed to try to be technology free while we spend time together.

My #TwitterFasting has been a great experience and while I may never be able to give up Twitter all together, it has made me realize how much time I actually devoted to it. Am I over connected? Yes. I’m just going to be smarter about how I connect going forward, but I’ll never disconnect. I’m just not wired for that.

You’ve Got (Too Much) Mail
By Rick Outzen

My vice is email. My rules for this challenge were simple—no emails from 5 p.m. on Fridays until 6 a.m. on Mondays. Most people can do that without a second thought, right?

I don’t use social media much personally. But email is a different story. Emails are my lifeline, my connection to the world. I check them constantly, even when I can’t—or shouldn’t—answer them.

The first weekend was great. I read more magazines, newspapers and even a book. I just watched the mail app on my iPad and iPhone count the unopened emails. By Monday morning, the count was 316.

Most I just deleted. Few had any real significance. No one died. Of course, I cheated and told my staff and friends to text me instead of using email, which they did. However, I never swore off text message so it wasn’t technically cheating.

The second weekend, I forgot about the challenge until 8 p.m. Friday night. When I checked my emails again on Monday, the count was 361. I used the “delete all” command to get rid of most of them.

If I had stopped the challenge on June 17, I could have declared it a success. I read more, relaxed more and nothing fell apart. But I had two more weeks to go.

Since February, I had been investigating the mayor’s office, The Zimmerman Agency, and the release of what appeared to be confidential personnel documents while other records, such as the new city logo, were not given to citizens. Many of the documents were in email form.

The only time I could really do the necessary research was on the weekend. We expected the State Attorney’s Office to issue its findings any day between June 24 and July 4, and we needed to have the story ready to publish on a short notice. I could argue that reading old emails didn’t really break the challenge, but I also found myself reading new emails while I was doing the research.

The struggle of being the publisher of a small newspaper is finding balance. For two weeks, I did. Maybe I can build off it… in August.