Yes, fellow internet surfers, you read that right. I am on a social media fast for an entire week.
Actually, for accuracy’s sake, it is actually a 10 day period that I will be in disconnect.
So a week and a half.
Miserable, right? This 10 day torture is not self-inflicted. It is a mandate, handed down from the all-mighty Panhellenic council at my university.
A quick side-step for those of you who are not in a Greek-lettered organization: Panhellenic is the governing body of all sororities that are a part of the National Panhellenic Conference. We are comprised of 26 traditional sororities, five of which are present at UNF. Nationally, Panhellenic encourages inter-fraternal cooperation and fairness. Kind of like the UN for sorority women. Individually, Panhellenic at each university is in charge of the NPC chapters on their respective campuses. They hand down rules (both from the national Panhellenic, and bylaws that are unique to our campus), and ensure that everyone is playing by those rules.
In my opinion, sororities are bogged down too much with minute details and rules, most set up for appearances’ sake. Most of these rules also end up setting off more cattiness and competition than prevent them. But for all intents and purposes, Panhellenic is a fantastically-run organization on UNF’s campus, and you can’t exactly play the game without following the rules. So we abide.
And unfortunately, part of Panhellenic’s job is to oversee sorority recruitment each fall. Part of this long and complicated process is preventing “dirty rushing,” which is, in layman’s terms, breaking the rules and giving your organization an advantage in securing the best and most sought-after girls. Think of this in terms of the national political process; bribery and dirty politics is frowned upon and illegal. Think of the most slimy, two-timing politician you can imagine. You would be surprised how many bow-wearing, fake-tanning, Louis-toting sorority girls actually have a great future in this arena.
We cannot buy freshman girls things (bribery). We cannot swarm a single freshman girl and intimidate her (“hotboxing”). And we cannot add freshman girls on Facebook.
Which leads me to my 10 miserable days in the social media dark. We must deactivate ALL forms of social media a week before the formal recruitment process begins, to ensure that we really do play by the rules. (Disclaimer: I’m not 100% sure that this blog is even allowed. So, stay tuned to see if I get in trouble or not…)
My observations so far, on my fourth-day of the disconnect:
1. I am in my own head a lot more than I thought. As a natural-born writer, I tend to self-document my life with an internal narrative. I like to think in analogies and anecdotes. But without an instant outlet like Twitter, I can’t seem to quiet my own thoughts as easily. You would think that a week and a half without social media would allow me to be more focused. In some ways, this rings true. I have written this entire bl0g post straight through, without stopping to check notifications, or refresh my Twitter feed. I sat in the library yesterday and competed work for my online class for an entire 90 minutes without distraction. However, in other instances, I find myself hopelessly consumed with the need for an outlet. I am a member of Generation Z, the Internet Generation. I was raised on instant access to one of the most precious resources: information. I cannot remember a time without Google. I remember sitting at my family’s behemoth PC in the early 1990’s, waiting for the AOL to dial-up and connect. I am accustomed to being connected. Sharing my thoughts, feelings and location has become second nature for me and my fellow Z-ers. Without my social media, it has been difficult for me to rid myself of my internal narrative (think Carrie Bradshaw…okay for a 60 minute SATC episode, annoying for an entire day of observations).
2. I am dependent on other people’s feedback. How do I discover which shampoo to buy, or which brand of jeans won’t shrink desperately in the wash? Of course, I could do a simple Internet search on these things, but the fact-of-the-matter is, we have been conditioned to be social consumers. It is why social media is so important in public relations, especially for a corporate chain. We want to know what our friends think! The woman in Kentucky who swears by Pantene Pro-V will not convince me to buy that product, but my best friend who promises that the same product resulted in her hair being greasy and frizzy will convince me to not buy the product. It is why sites such as Facebook and Foursquare have revolutionized the face of consumerism. We need second opinions, and we need second opinions we can trust.
3. These social sites have a farther reach than I originally expected. If Facebook has taught us anything (besides the fact that Ashley’s baby is “the cutest baby of all time”), it’s that popularity is contagious. I cannot listen to music on my Spotify account without connecting to Facebook. I cannot pin anything on Pinterest without connecting to Facebook. I cannot post pictures to Instagram without, you guessed it, connecting to Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg has taken his social media site and given life to others. This profile that I manage and update regularly, allows me to fall even farther down the rabbit-hole of social media. I can read an article on CNN and Tweet about it, or post it to my Facebook timeline. I can watch a video on YouTube and create a pin for it on Pinterest (which can then be shared to Twitter or Facebook as well). It’s a labyrinth of connectivity that most of us have gotten lost within.
Stay tuned for more updates on my 10 days in the dark. In other news, I honestly have no idea what brand shampoo to buy….