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Dispatches from Lake Winnipesaukee: Exploring the need to take a break from social media

I spent Memorial Day as I do most of my vacations, lounging by Lake Winnipesaukee in the woods of New Hampshire. The picture to the left is an example of a particularly strenuous day.

This digital picture aside (I had to have some proof of my relaxation to gloat about with others, right?), I made it a point to disconnect over the long weekend: no computer, no mobile phone, no Facebook checking, no Twitter following, no blogs, nothing. And it was glorious. Even in the span of just a few days I felt my mind able to think of the bigger picture and think about future plans, or resuming certain hobbies I’ve missed, or longer-term career goals. When I returned home, it took me a while to remember how to use a computer.

Turns out this phenomenon of unplugging from time to time is a burgeoning theme in social media these days. A former client of mine shared a post entitled “What Will You Do About The Age Of Anti-Social Media?” that notes that even big names in social media—including Twitter, Facebook, and Google—are encouraging occasional breaks from constantly emailing, browsing our social networks, skimming blogs and the like. These breaks allow you to stretch your mind and think of deeper, more creative work—or, as the case may be, more creative life choices.

This has implications for those of us who actually work in social media, trying to come up with content that is consistently engaging for people to consume and create positive associations with brands. Should we resist this drive to turn away from the constant influx of online distractions? The answer, according to that blog post on Social Media Explorer, is no: it means we should focus less on constantly putting out new content, and more on the quality of what you put out there. If people are going to be choosier about what they consume online, they’ll gravitate to the good stuff. Sure feels like a contradiction: our consumers will relate to us more if we encourage them to pay attention to us less?

What’s great about the communities we run at Communispace is that we can explore not only how much the idea of “taking a break from online content” resonates with our clients’ demographics, but we go deeper to learn: what kinds of things would they do if they took a break? What is the harder work they wish they could focus on? If you were to limit your online consumption to a select few sources, what would make the cut and why? Fleshing this out for clients helps them provide the highest quality content so that their consumers, even as they start to disengage from the online world in general, will continue to make a point of consuming.

Maybe even when they’re at the lake.

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