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Tune in or drop out for Memorial Day?
As we head into Memorial Day, the first big outdoor holiday of the hear and the unofficial kickoff to summer, here's a question: How much of your holiday weekend will be spent talking about the holiday weekend on Facebook, Twitter or the social network of your choice?
For many of us, the answer will be a lot, whether it's because we finally have some time outside the office to play with our techie toys or because we're part of that camp that just likes to obsessively document everything (I'm raising my hand on that one). Of course, photos, stories and tweets from a family holiday can be a fantastic chance to bring loved ones closer; I've got a friend, for example, whose fanatically detailed Facebook albums of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the like aren't for herself, but for her husband, stationed overseas with the military.
The argument goes the other way too, though. Last year on my own annual Memorial Day road trip - a trip to Denver for a dance festival - I remember a really distinctly creepy moment during a particularly beautiful performance when everyone around me was too busy recording the show on their fancy phones to, as it seemed, actually enjoy what was going on a few feet in front of them. By the time I got to my hotel room a few hours later and cracked open Facebook, there were already videos and photos up from the night.
While that sort of real-time citizen reporting is one of biggest areas of potential for social media, as well as an amazing tool for networking - based on tags on that night's photos, I probably added half a dozen Facebook friends before I even saw them again at the festival the next morning - it does provide an equally dazzling capacity for burnout. While the concept of a "social media sabbatical" isn't a new one, it probably won't be going away any time soon, either. Sites like Sabbath Manifesto urge people to take part in a "weekly timeout" - in the case of Sabbath Manifesto, even providing an iPhone app that'll "check out" of your social networks for you so you're not distracted by some cute cat video when you log onto Twitter to tell your friends you'll BRB. (Who could blame you, after all? It's even been proven that using social media boosts production of oxytocin, the same "cuddle chemical" that activates when we're in love.)
Last Memorial Day, executive creative director Steve McCallion from big creative firm Ziba wrote a pretty poignant column for Fast Company suggesting that, in light of our collective burnout and the reason Memorial Day exists in the first place, we may all just want to take a break from our phones, laptops, Facebook profiles and Twitter streams for a while and use the occasion to make the holiday more meaningful:
"Web traffic monitoring sites could follow up with a graph visually depicting the drop in traffic to document the power of this collective action. Maybe we could start small, asking for a mere 10 seconds of silence. Each year we could add 10 seconds. Gradually increasing the time each year brings us to a full minute in 2015: a shared national journey toward relearning the concept of sacrifice."
If social media is a big part of your life, personally or professionally, that's a pretty tall order; if you or your brand "live" online, it might not even be possible. So what do you think - would signing off social for a brief sabbatical, whether for Memorial Day or just because, improve your quality of life or keep you from connecting to people important to you?
And with that, I'll give it a try and log off for the long weekend. Maybe.