On the evening of December 21st, I was re-reading Cal Newport’s book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, which is an interesting book that is all about working on cognitively demanding tasks in a focused way. One of the things he talks about is dramatically cutting down on social media, and to be able to estimate which social media sites you actually want to keep, take off social media altogether for 30 days. So I removed all the apps from my phone and blocked access to the sites on my computer, certain that was all I was going to need.
On the first day, within the first hour of waking up, I broke the ban not once but twice! A friend tagged me on Facebook and I clicked the link out of habit on my work computer which didn’t yet have a blocker set up. And then my phone popped up a notice from Instagram which I had failed to delete. Then when I went to fill up my water bottle, and my phone came out of its pocket virtually on its own, I realized just how habitual social media had become for me. Then I spent the rest of the day noticing things that I really wanted to Instagram and share with the world! There was a random office chair on my commute home. Right there in the middle of the street! Taunting me with its existence! And then come the Twitter jokes about those feelings when…
By day three, Facebook started sending me my notifications by email. Every day. Thankfully, most of the end of the year went by in a haze of trying to get all the things done and most of January has gone by with me being sick and spending that time chilling with John Oliver and Knitting. It was great. I didn’t get a lot of stuff done during this time, but it’s been wonderful detaching myself from all the things I thought I needed.
The most interesting thing is, I thought I would miss Facebook the most and that’s the one I’m actually considering giving up altogether. I’d been having issues with my browser crashing which all just basically went away during my hiatus. I didn’t notice this until I came back and within five minutes of opening Facebook, I got my first crash in weeks. I think Facebook might be reacting badly to my adblocker or something because I don’t see many other people having this problem. Facebook is the place where I keep up with a lot of friends but, honestly, I’m not loving what they’re doing with the timeline and the notifications. I’m also not wild about the fact that they’ve started to put up notifications about my friend’s Instagram activity. Facebook, for me, has gotten to the point where I’m getting way too many pointless notifications and I can’t seem to control which of them I actually want to receive without hours on end of configuration. And who the fuck has time for that? So I’m going to be paring down my activity on Facebook a lot, leaving groups and all that jazz. It’s still the only place I find many of my friends, so I’m not going to cut the cord completely. But it’s become more about cat vacuuming than actual engagement.
Instagram was about what I’d expected. I’ve gotten into the habit of sharing knitting and lovely things I see every day on Instagram and that turned out to be a lot more addicting than I thought. But the real surprise was Twitter. I haven’t been using Twitter all that much lately, but that’s the one that I missed most. Whenever I came across an interesting article, I thought about sharing it. I thought about sharing short snippets of my days. And then were the links that people on slack sent around. The puppies mobbing a cameraman, the octopuses, oh the octopuses. Twitter is going to stick around for at least a while longer.
In the end, I cannot recommend this experiment highly enough for anyone who is able to do it, meaning anyone whose income isn’t directly related to their presence on any particular social media. It’s really helped me be more deliberate about how I spend my time and that’s always a good thing, given just how limited my time is, and how much I want to get done during the hours that I have left. And very little of it involves endlessly scrolling through Facebook.
So, dear reader, which social media do you think you’d miss most?