Breaking Up With Social Media
I once off-handedly told someone that, for me, writing well is a balance of 80% input and 20% output. That’s why I’ve decided to turn my attention to reading books this summer. It’s good respite from the ongoing churn of Twitter and Facebook, and I’ll be able to fill my mind with ideas worthy of my blog.
I’ve made several attempts to step away from social media in my 15(!) years of engaging with platforms. (It’s 20 years now if we count Blogger. I was an early adopter and have an old sticker somewhere to prove it.) My most successful attempt to avoid Facebook came after I was bored on a conference call and caught myself doodling the word “Facebook” over and over again. My subconscious brain was trying to tell me something.
In January 2018, I logged off “for good.” I knew from reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg that I needed to replace the habit of logging in with another activity. For this experiment, I simply made a little hash mark every time I opened a new tag and started to type the URL. Those little hash marks piled up quick those first few days. But eventually the new habit took hold and I was able to stay off the platform for a solid four or five months.
Granted, I missed a few events and some pertinent news from friends. More importantly, I started to sit with that little panicky feeling that had been coupled with a strong desire to endlessly scroll through my halcyon blue and white newsfeed, whether or not I stopped to read any of the posts.
I logged back in as the summer of 2018 drew near in order to communicate with family members as our big reunion approached.
Even so, since then, Facebook hasn’t had as much of an appeal. I log in nightly at home, but it’s no longer my go-to for soothing whatever anxiety prompted me to go in for a fix during work hours.
Of course, my overall hours spent logged into social media didn’t really drop. Instagram and Twitter took up the mantle of most visited platforms. I’ve since turned my phone to gray scale in order to make Instagram particularly ugly and not at all worth visiting; the platform’s unique brand of instilling FOMO was beginning to feel corrosive. But Twitter… it seems no matter what I do, Twitter has serious staying power in my life.
Lately I’ve been noticing a distinct mental itchiness, a lack of patience for anything requiring sustained attention. This is a problem I’d like to fix. I know from many iterations of failing to quit Twitter that going cold turkey is no solution, so I’m returning to that tried-and-true replacement strategy by reading novels. I’ve finished a few great books since I’ve decided to do this, and guess what? I haven’t missed a thing on Twitter.