I don’t want to write a book here, but I do want to do a truncated timeline. My recent step back from social media and screen time has cause a lot of reflection, and I have been trying to pinpoint when things changed for me, with a shift toward public online expression.
late 1990’s – first email account during my high school years, no internet at home though. Had to use my mom’s computer at work.
Fall 1999 – started college – had a Yahoo email account for personal stuff, but all university email was still housed on floppy disks. As in, I had to insert a disk and then log into my email. I still don’t really understand how or why but it’s the way it was. No computer in my dorm room, had to use university computer labs for all computer work.
2000 – my roommate had a computer, so I could use that at times. Still mostly using the university labs. We did discover something online regarding music, but I’m still nervous about talking about that, so mum’s the word. I remember distinctly writing a paper about online vs. brick and mortar commerce taxation (I was an accounting major) that year. Somewhere in here is when I got my first Gmail account.
2001 – 2002 – lived off campus and still didn’t have a computer of my own until I bought a Dell laptop in the summer of 2002. Got my first cell phone in the winter of 2001/2002 (I just remember it was AFTER 9/11 because on 9/11 I remember vividly rushing around the city trying to find a working payphone to call my mom) as a gift from a boyfriend’s parents – it was HUGE and was a pay-per-minute phone.
2002 – 2004 – worked as an accountant. Had my own laptop. Had a cell phone that could fit in my pocket. No texting. Internet was mostly for email and shopping for me. In 2004 I went back to school for a business education license and subsequently quit being an accountant and started substitute teaching. Dial-up internet.
2005 – This was a BIG year. Still dial-up internet, still my Dell laptop, still no texting. BUT, I got married and got pregnant and had a baby AND I discovered the iVillage pregnancy message boards. This is the first time I can remember corresponding in this way online. It was all-consuming.
2006 – summer 2007 – still using iVillage pregnancy message boards since I got pregnant again in 2006 and had a new baby in 2007. With my second baby, though, I realized that the message boards probably did more harm than good and definitely majorly increased my anxiety about pregnancy because I was all of a sudden exposed to so many stories of miscarriage and childbirth trauma. I didn’t join the birth month babies group for my 2nd child as I did for my first, and stopped using the boards. I got my first teaching job in the fall of 2007 and went back to work as a half-time business ed teacher. A BIG shift occurred here.
Fall 2007 – Fall 2008 – I discovered Twitter, wikis, and blogs. I started 2 different blogs, 1 focusing on tech in education and one a parenting blog. I presented at conferences about using wikis and blogs in education. I used them with my students. I became obsessed with Twitter and the edtech world. Also, my best friend convinced me to try MySpace. I did, but never really used it or understood it. I met a woman online who ended up hiring me to work for her online ed for teachers company. I joined Facebook in early 2008 and distinctly remember writing a blog post titled “Finally Facebook” – no one I knew except my best friend was on it, but I connected there with a lot of edtech people. I tried working from home and doing freelance writing. It was NOT for me. All of this was on my laptop, at home, but using satellite internet – no more dial-up! (we still don’t have broadband at my house due to its location). Still a cell phone with no texting for me.
Fall 2008 – Summer 2009 – I quit my blogs and quit Twitter. I realized they weren’t good for me and I was spending way too much time on them. I quit working from home and started substitute teaching again, eventually going back to school for my special education license. I got a job at a school for students with autism. Started texting since I finally had a plan that didn’t charge per text.
Summer 2009 – Fall 2012 – I worked as a special ed teacher full-time. I had an awesome Blackberry Curve and used BBM with my best friend. I used Facebook on my Blackberry. More and more people I knew IRL used Facebook. I used it mostly for posting pictures of my kiddos.
Fall 2012 – Fall 2013 – My best friend (yup, the same one who got me started on MySpace and Facebook) convinced me to join Instagram. I was now working as a Title I reading teacher. I had my first iPad. Still using Facebook, mostly to connect with family and friends from high school and college. I mostly used Instagram (private account) to connect with my best friend and her other friends leading up to her wedding, slowly other people I knew started using it.
Fall 2013 – Spring 2015 – due to a private family situation, I quit Facebook and only used Instagram with a very small group of people. Got my first Android smartphone sometime in this period.
Spring 2015 – SAME friend started a fitness Instagram account and I decided to join in. I created my first public Instagram account that ultimately led to incredibly unhealthy eating and exercising behaviors, mostly due to the #toneitup community. Not blaming them, but the audience was there and exponentially influenced my unhealthy behaviors.
Summer 2016 – I started weaning myself off the fitness account on IG after working with a counselor/nutritionist, and replaced it with a #bookstagram account there. I was now a school librarian. However, I was also going through an incredibly busy time at work while also taking classes, so I barely posted there. Still had my personal account. Started posting kid pics on Facebook again, but only to a tiny group of family members.
Early 2017 – Summer 2018 – joined the bookstagram community in full force. Joined Edelweiss and NetGalley as a book reviewer, started this blog, created a Twitter account to share book reviews. Basically went crazy.
Fall 2018 – backed way off from the book reviewing for publishers, started reflecting on a lot of things regarding screen time.
January 2019 – said I wanted to work on my screen time. But I spent even MORE time on my phone.
February 2019 – Read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Decided to make massive life changes. Stopped posting on my personal IG account as well. Screen time decreased by a large degree.
March 2019 – Read How to Break Up With Your Phone. Made even more life changes. NO social media apps on my phone.
March 29, 2019 – decided to take the final step and stop posting to Instagram altogether except for the occasional planned post for Nonfiction Women. No posting to any social media accounts. I am not deleting my Twitter account at this time since I don’t want anyone else taking the account name and I am not deleting my Facebook account because occasionally I use it to look at events in my area, or for my school.
Will this be a final and forever cessation of social media posting? I don’t know. I just know that now that I’ve reflected long and hard and saw that I’m in my 3rd cycle of too much online participation, the pattern is clear. Lesson learned, I hope. I’m still on Goodreads though because that is a force for good, not evil.
There’s so much more to all of this that I haven’t shared here, but maybe another time. Like, the negative impacts of all of this and the WHY I made the choice to quit each and every time. How I’m sharing these messages with the older students I work with. How I’m parenting my kids in this world.
Maybe that will come another day. Maybe not. Maybe in a lot of ways I desperately wish it were still 2004.