13 Days Without Social Media Observations
+++ title = “03” date = 2019 +++
When I woke up on March 1st, I rolled over in my bed and grabbed my phone off of my bedside table and immediately opened Facebook. After 15 minutes of browsing, my screen time reminder kicked in and told me that I was done for the day and that it was about to block the app… but that I had the option of keeping the app open if I wanted to, and ignoring the reminder.
I thought about asking my wife to set a screen time passcode that only she knew, so I wouldn’t be able to access the app as easily. Then I realized that even having a thought like that meant my addiction had run a little too deep and it was time to take a break.
So, in the spirit of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, I decided to go on a 30 day break from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram… the three apps that take up most of my browsing and phone time. This is Day 13. Here are my observations.
First, giving up social media made the choices I make in my day much more intentional. Opening up any of the aforementioned apps is kind of like gambling, or spinning the wheel… you don’t know what you’re going to get, and sometimes what you get has value, but most of the time it does not. The schedule I make for myself for the day is much more certain; I know what I will accomplish by the end of the day, and every choice I make is rooted in what is important to me. Maybe I schedule time to be with my family, or maybe I spend time writing my book, or reading one… no matter what, I generally know what type of value I’ll get from the activity.
High Quality Content
It’s also important to note that most of the “literature” on these sites are extremely low quality, both as news sources and as pieces of text to be read. It’s the same with a lot of videos, the type that suck you down a rabbit hole. Most are low quality – they might make you laugh or maybe share with a friend, but they don’t provide any real value to your life. I went to the library a week ago for the first time in forever, and found an incredible book called Here that no algorithm would have ever served me.
Speaking of which, while I still have many algorithms in my online life (Amazon, YouTube), getting rid of the Facebook algorithm from messing with my brain has reduced anxiety quite a bit.
The Day Feels Complete
At first, I described this feeling differently, in a slightly less specific way. I told people that the flavor of life feels a little bit like life before I had social media. When I am in a waiting room for instance, the only thing I can do is sit and think and observe. It helps with creative flow. Otherwise, I’m just spinning the wheel on a social media algorithm.
But now I can more specific. Last night, someone was complaining to me that it felt like there was never an end to their work. There was always something nagging them. Their to-do list, while finite, felt infinite. Like an endless feed of social media updates. Weird.
For me, in the last couple weeks, my days have felt complete. When I check the last thing off my list for the day, I either go to bed or I watch a movie or tv show that I keep on a Leisure activity list (yes, I keep a leisure activity list, and if you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it… even if you think the idea is comical initially).
Social Media Has Trained Us To Expect Infinite Updates
Maybe we’ve been trained by social media to expect never ending updates. Maybe those emails we get from our colleagues at 11pm at night are a result of social media training us to believe that there’s never an official close of business. Maybe the constant overwhelm we feel is due to the infinite nature of what we read and share online.
And maybe we can start thinking of ways to cull a finite list of resources and, as Cal Newport puts it, happily miss out on everything else.