Once upon I time, maybe a month ago or so, I listened to a radio program. It was a segment on NPR that profiled a study on the subtle, but pervasive effects of Social Media. Thanks to that piece that aired while we were driving to a free dinner at our co-op’s annual family picnic, I deleted Twitter from my iPhone. Bam! Twitter, get behind me.
In addition to Twitter getting trashed, I ditched ten other apps from my phone. Some social media related, but mostly just crap I didn’t use much. See, when the iPhone first came out, it was premised as a phone / iPod / camera multi-tool. Yeah, there was mention of it being a “Breakthrough Internet Communications Device”, but I don’t think Steve Jobs had Tinder in mind.
And so, my phone has re-emerged as it was intended: a true electronic multi-tool. One that I can bring with me everywhere for producing, rather than for flicking-away reality every five minutes by checking in on a Twitter Feed, Internet Forum, or WordPress.
Since ditching those dozen apps, I’ve been able to concentrate better at work, and at home. Before this long overdue fix, I’d get halfway through a work email only to pick up my phone to check Twitter or my personal email. In the evening, I’d find myself distracted by the same devil, instead of paying attention to my family.
Facebook, stay behind me
Some people are learning hard lessons about the big-daddy devil, Facebook: Mainly that it’s much too easy to fall into the trap of lifestyle comparison. This goes beyond the other annoying facet of Facebook we know as “humble-bragging”, where, for instance, you post about stubbing your toe while relaxing on the fine sandy beaches of Bali.
There’s the phenomenon of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that’s causing social anxiety among many Facebook addicts. If you find yourself plotting your next excursion to outdo your friends on the beach in Bali, then you’ve got a FOMO problem. At some point, you just have to say enough is enough, and shut that shit down.
I’d given up Facebook well over a year ago. I made the mistake of hopping back in just after the election to vent my frustrations. This only served to create deeper divides with my extended family. After a week of that nonsense, I gave up FB and haven’t looked back since.
Recently, a friend of ours surprised us when she declared she’d completely shut down her Facebook account. She was an avid user for many years. With lots of family and friends overseas, I can imagine how difficult her decision was to pull that plug. But she’s since happily recaptured a long-lost reading habit, made possible by putting Facebook behind her.
The Amazing No Regrets Home Test!
Think of this like a pregnancy test of sorts, to find out right away if Social Media addiction is helping or hurting you. This is a wonderful way to avoid waiting until much later in life to find out. Who knows, things might’ve gone so far south that you didn’t realize it while it was happening. Like a frog in a pot of slowly warming water. You read about this madness all the time (ironically from your smart phone); e.g., the babysitter losing track of the kids because her head was stuck so far up the Facebook Hole of Vapidity.
Annnnnnyhow….. The Amazing No Regrets Home Test is simple to execute. All you have to do is imagine asking your future self, when you’re lying on your deathbed, whether you would regret not having spent more time on Facebook, Twitter, or Snap-chat throughout your life. Odds are, if you’re like me, you’ll come to a realization that you’d rather be spending your present-time interacting with family and friends. Pick up the phone and talk? Face-time? How about engaging more with your spouse and kids???
The test is free and there are no affiliate links here to warn you about. Give it a shot and let me know in the comments how it works for you. If the results are strong, I might just get a patent.
The new me
Since I no longer have Facebook, Twitter, or much anything else on my cell phone that’s “social”, it’ll be an interesting challenge to keep up with my friends in the blogging community. My plan is to check in on Twitter for all of 5 minutes via my desktop each morning, during my writing window of 5AM to 6:30AM.
My personal Facebook account is getting ready for Halloween, all covered in cobwebs by now; eerily abandoned, like one’s future cubicle. The blog’s Facebook account is simply on auto-pilot. For all the hoopla about Facebook’s success, I’m still amazed at how clunky and non-intuitive that mess is. Won’t miss ya!
Take it from Aziz
Aziz Ansari has given up a lot more than I have apparently: No browser or email on his phone. Man. There’s always another, better monk out there. For a Hollywood actor with a seemingly huge ego to feed (not of his own making – it’s just how Hollywood works), giving up social media has to be like going cold turkey for a drug addict.
Here’s a potent excerpt courtesy of a recent interview by GQ Magazine (Bold emphasis from your’s truly):
I heard you deleted the Internet from your phone. And that you deleted Twitter and Instagram and e-mail. No way that’s true, right?
It is! Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You’re not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things.
What happens is, eventually you forget about it. You don’t care anymore. When I first took the browser off my phone, I’m like, [gasp] How am I gonna look stuff up? But most of the shit you look up, it’s not stuff you need to know. All those websites you read while you’re in a cab, you don’t need to look at any of that stuff. It’s better to just sit and be in your own head for a minute. I wanted to stop that thing where I get home and look at websites for an hour and a half, checking to see if there’s a new thing. And read a book instead. I’ve been doing it for a couple months, and it’s worked. I’m reading, like, three books right now. I’m putting something in my mind. It feels so much better than just reading the Internet and not remembering anything.
Let’s just see how long I can go before I just can’t take it anymore, and I reinstall those apps in a flurry of indulgence. Hmmm… Nah, that won’t happen. I hope not anyway. I can’t fathom spending more than two minutes scrolling through other people’s random thoughts and amateur entree photos before realizing I could be creating, learning, or engaging with REAL PEOPLE.
Yes, it’ll be challenging with the blogger side of the equation, but I’m not about to sacrifice the here and now and the precious gift of “present time” to socially cajole greater readership for abandonedcubicle.com. We’ll rely on Feedly and leave it at that.
Next stop: Smart Phone, get behind me?
Epilogue: As if struck by a curse for writing this piece, I awoke to our CenturyLink Internet service being hard down. A little slap in the face by the social media gods?