What I Learned From My Social Sabbatical

Editor’s Note: This is William’s first post on FOT since announcing his social sabbatical this past May. 

Nothing AND everything.

I’ve been away from social media since early June. Not that any of you missed me or anything. Just kidding. And, by away I specifically mean NOT producing content for social outlets. The lessons of my sabbatical are longer (and more significant to me at least) than this post. If you really care to learn more, ask me when we see each other IRL. Preferably over some chilled vodka… let’s face it… that’s when I’m at my best (ahem worst).

A few highlights… (1) strange addictions, (2) on missing out, (3) social is highly personal, (4) we’re all pawns in the content game, and (5) filling the gap.

Strange Addictions

The first thing I noticed is that I was totally addicted to all things social. Really addicted. I deleted all the apps off my Droid and for an entire week I carried it with me thinking it would beep or notify me of something important. I stared at it. It stared back. Neither of us blinked. What I have done? Eff me, I can’t make it 90 days like this. Let’s be clear here… in my lifetime, I’ve been addicted to a ton of things <insert vice here>… child’s play compared to getting off social media. To fill the phone void, I downloaded and played games. Yuup, Candy Crush Saga… currently, I’m on level 134. In hindsight, I traded one addiction for another. Please don’t be like me (on so many levels). When you go on your social sabbatical, don’t make the same mistakes I did.

On Missing Out

The feelings of my out-of-control addiction were persistent all 90 days. That said, the overwhelming feeling of somehow missing out… the Cowboys traded for so and so, Drake just released a new single, my favorite inked model just posted a new Instagram, a new movie was released, one of my fellow bloggers was killed in a car accident, the local Chinese restaurant was closed for whatever reason, Tim Sackett was left off of some new influencer list, etc., etc., etc. Social constituted almost all of my news sources. That in and of itself is a problem but that feeling of being left out and/or missing out on something important never left me. Never. That said, I really didn’t miss much but it was a hellish feeling that left me sleepless many nights this summer.

Social is Highly Personal

I also learned that one’s approach to social media is extremely personal. Meaning, what works for me might not work for you (and vice versa). Seems like common sense but alas nothing is common about common sense anymore. The way we use the social mediums is so personal… your personality, the way you love (or hate) technology, the way you consume content, your approach to liking, friending, following, sharing… all personal… that particular moment – you & whatever social media outlet… totally personal. Yet, we’re really judgmental of others… how they don’t get it and or do it correctly. I’ve been guilty of this. Judging others for not seeing the world as I do. My sabbatical helped me see the error in that behavior. Stuff might not be right for me, but it might be right for that person. It’s not just seeing things through other people’s eyes… it’s coming to grips with the fact that I know no more about social media than any other human being. At the end of the day, social has to work for you. And, you alone. My best advice… find a way to get really comfortable in your own skin.

We’re ALL Pawns In The Content Game

And talk about an uncomfortable moment, the moment I realized that we’re all being played. See social media thrives on our eyeballs & actions. Us, we, create content… in all forms… sharing, over-sharing, linking, liking, following, recent blogpost we’ve created, podcast, videos we like, etc., etc., etc. All this content and the resulting eyeballs & actions are monetized by other people. Facebook – they are getting rich off of your eyeballs & actions. Twitter – they are getting rich off of your eyeballs & actions. LinkedIn – they are getting rich off of your eyeballs & actions. You get the point. In fact, this very blog post is monetized by Fistful of Talent. No judgment here… just the facts. See the sponsored ads on the right. Good people have paid good money for those ads. They want you to click them. Once you’re done reading the article of course. Again, no judgment. The fact is… other people are getting rich off of your eyeballs & actions. That’s okay… that’s the game. Don’t hate the game OR the players that play the game. That said, make the content game work for you. Truly understand why you are doing what. In that understanding, you’ll develop your own monetization strategy and at the very least you’ll change some of your social behaviors.

Filling The Gap

And finally, the biggest learn of my social sabbatical was the fact that social, for many of us, filled a gap during and after the recession of 2008. Turns out, the Internet (thanks Al) in general, and more specifically social media, was a place where we could escape the blandness of the time. People we loved were losing jobs, cars, houses… marriages were in disarray, the economy was crap, our retirement funds were depleting by the second, political hatred was at an epic all-time high, record layoffs by damn near every firm… from small firms to publicly traded, etc. It was a uniquely less than stellar time. And, IMHO, we all used social to escape. In doing so, we created some strange behaviors and/or addictions. One’s that we still adhere to. To understand how social helped us “make it” through the economic catastrophe, one has to step away from social… garner a different vista from which to reflect on the past.

To wit, I think everyone should take some form of social sabbatical… like me and/or like this dude… find a way to get away and discover your own addictions, behaviors and/or learns. Last thought… social works for us not the other way around.

PS. I cheated a bunch on my social sabbatical. A bunch, a bunch. At first I was wrought with guilt. How could I do this to myself, my audience, etc. Then, over time (and chilled vodka), I came to understand that that was an important learn during my journey. Addiction is a bitch and relapsing is oftentimes a part of it. Or at least that was my rationalization. Now, hit me up on Twitters.

FOT Background Check

William Tincup
William is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst at KeyInterval Research. William is one of the leading thinkers on the intersection of HR and technology. William has been blogging about HR related issues since 2007. He’s a contributor to Fistful of Talent, HRTechEurope, Human Capital Institute, Human Capitalist, LinkedIn Talent Blog, and HRExaminer and also co-hosts a daily HR podcast called DriveThruHR. Tweet him @williamtincup and check him out on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Not up to speed in the social media game? Reach out via email. William serves on the Board of Advisors for Hyphen, Bevy, Happie, Good.Co, Insynctive, Causecast, Work4Labs, PeopleMatter, SmartRecruiters, Blackbook HR, Talent Tech Labs, The Workforce Institute, and is a 2015 Council Member for The Candidate Experience Awards. He also serves on the Board of Directors for TDn2K. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama of Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


  1. HR Minion says:

    Welcome back! We missed you. 🙂

  2. Tim Sackett says:

    I actually made a list while you were gone – but now I know it was because you probably dropped down, which finally allowed me to move up one spot!

    I don’t think most people missed you for the simple fact that William Tincup robot continued to spew out content on an hourly basis! 😉

  3. @Tim – hourly? Robots don’t need breaks. That dude needs to get back to work. Slackass robot.

    Oh and my Klout score actually went up over the summer. WTF

  4. Ben Martinez says:

    Welcome back to a nasty pack. Robot? I thought William was RTing my stuff all this time. Fooled again.

  5. Laurie Ruettimann
    Laurie Ruettimann says:

    I think there’s something really insightful about your observation about 2008.

    I have often said that social media attracts outcasts and dreamers who cannot (for whatever reason) find connection in their lives, their families, their marriages and their careers.

    In the HR world, we faced a recession and created an ecosystem of outcasts and dreamers who couldn’t keep a job, had great opinions, talked to one another, but never talk to anyone else. And it continues to this day.

    To be honest, I created this dysfunctional world. (Ok, ok. I had help.) I do feel guilty, though. Had I known how the social world would impact lives and careers, I would have done things differently. Way differently. I look back at some of the pro-social/pro-HR things that I have written and I cringe.

    Hindsight. I’d pay big money to go back and change things. Somebody should invent that time machine. Maybe Al Gore can get on it.

  6. Candy Crush Saga is a game that frustrates me, on so many levels.

  7. Great post… I totally agree that social helped us pass the recession, though I hadn’t ever thought about it. Welcome back!

  8. Joel Kimball says:

    Good stuff, as always, William T. My primary takeaway – it’s really true, what I tell everyone else – they’ll just replace us when we’re gone, like we were never here. Let’s get over ourselves.

    Or, as Lt. Spiers says in “Band of Brothers” – “The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead.” As is everyone else, ultimately.

    Once I came to grips with this, life got a lot easier.

    To heavy for a post about Social? Sorry 🙂 My best to all the FoT’ers! Slainte mhath.

  9. Joel Kimball says:

    Oh, and please add an additional “o” to any words as appropriate above…

  10. Cara Carroll says:

    Welcome back! I remember seeing you post on LinkedIn about “leaving” the social media behind. Then one day I went to look at your blog and there was no content, I was shocked. A lot of people say they are going to delete or abandon their accounts, it last for a week then they are back. So props to you for putting your money where your mouth is and doin’ it for realises!

  11. Alex Miklin says:

    What do you think of the tool Hash Tracking?

  12. HR Tech says:

    What’s your thoughts on a good tool similar to Klout? I’m not the biggest Klout fan.

  13. Dr. Vilner says:

    Nice post. I think it’s always good to take a break from social media to get a better idea of what’s going on around you.

Comments are now closed for this article.

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