I’m now at the end of a four-week social media fast. I was specifically avoiding Facebook but staying away from Twitter and LinkedIn as well.
Why? Influenced by the book Deep Work (http://calnewport.com/books/deep-work/), I was aware of three things
- how much of my time just got ‘lost’ in browsing and interacting in these spaces, and the feeling at the end of the day that I hadn’t done the things I’d really wanted to do, the things that gave me deeper satisfaction, like making music, writing and reading books
- how I felt compelled to pull out my phone in every idle moment, a kind of irresistible impulse to fill up empty time, along with a mild anxiety that I might be missing something important; at the end of a meditation session I can happily just sit and enjoy being there, but on a train or bus, or even just in the home, I found it much harder. I was robbing myself of the benefits of idleness and daydreaming by looking for constant input
- how unsatisfying my use of SoMe actually was most of the time. Like a chicken, I’d be constantly pecking at these nuggets of ‘interesting’ ‘funny’ ‘shocking’ ‘unjust’ and ‘indignant’ but most of it made no lasting impression, it wasn’t nourishing to my mind or heart in any way. It reminded me of a Mars bar – big and tempting and the first bite is great, but after that …
So I found the challenge in Deep Work to just quit, without making any announcement or other arrangements, without drawing attention to myself, and decided to do it.
My only exceptions were to respond to Messenger posts about gigs, to setup email notifications for any LinkedIn personal messages, to promote a survey on one of my sites, and on holiday in Dublin to see Springsteen I indulged in the Twitter feed about the event just for the sense of occasion.
How did it go? I wrote about the first two weeks here. http://www.lighttouchlearning.com/4314/two-weeks-fast/
After two more weeks, the twitchiness to dip into FB and catch up reduced. Even travelling last week I didn’t get it that much. I didn’t always just sit there, I read more books and for the first time started listening to podcasts. But both of those were a more sustained and carefully chosen input, not the kind of random hunting and pecking I would do in FB or Twitter. The urge is still there sometimes but not so strong.
Do I miss anything? Not much at all, I have to say. Not even updates from my friends; I knew I’d catch up after four weeks anyway and if something was important they would find another way to contact me. After the third week, I’d also lost the urge to share stuff except in very specific cases where I thought some site would be of use to a particular person.
This morning I went back to Facebook. I just looked through today’s feed, no desire to go back at all. Quite a lot of ‘nice to see’, but nothing that seemed important. Lots of referendum stuff, much of it the usual FB level of ‘the other side are bastards’, some of it more thoughtful. I also went into Twitter. Pretty much the same. In neither case did I feel inclined to binge-catch-up. It was a bit like when you go abroad for an extended time and think it’ll be an Occasion when you get back, but you just find people are quietly getting on with their lives and nobody’s really missed you. I’m not going to piously disconnect from FB or Twitter, they can be enjoyable and useful. I’m going to ease back into the stream with a slightly different relationship to them, one that feels less under its control and more under mine. Less input, more reflection, more output.
Would I recommend it? If you ever feel your attention is hijacked, yes. If you feel you’re not getting things done, yes. If you’re afraid of quietness, boredom, silence, yes.