Why would someone stop using social media? What would cause them to walk away from 7,000 plus followers on Twitter, 1,000 plus followers on Instagram, 2,000 plus followers on Facebook, and over 700 “friends”?
I would like to claim it was common sense that made me leave social media. But it was actually the realization that social media wasn’t doing that much for me. I liked less and less of what those apps presented for me to see. Then I read Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport. This book finally convinced me that leaving social media was the right thing for me.
Some people think I am brave and would like to do the same thing. Other people think I’ve lost my mind.
About the book.
In the first half of Digital Minimalism, Newport presents his case to explain why you don’t need social media apps. He then encourages you to embark on a 30-day digital detox, during which time you don’t use any social media apps. After 30 days, you can add back any apps you decide you can’t live without, but you do it deliberately and set rules for their use.
In the second half of the book, Newport provides suggestions on what to do instead of spending time on social media. His suggestions include learning new skills and reconnecting in real-time with people. He also explains why he thinks you should never hit the like button on any social media posts.
Newport also explains how and why software developers made social media apps so “sticky.” And by sticky I mean addictive. Swiping down on the screen to see what comes up next is a lot like the actions gambling addicts take when they pull down the levers on slot machines.
My personal detox.
I started my personal digital detox on July 23. First, I removed all the social media apps from my phone and iPad. Then I signed off of them on my other devices. To the extent I could, I also shut off all email notifications that would try to lure me back. As of August 19th, I’m 28 days into my detox. Technically I have just two days to go until I can go back. But I’m doing this along with a friend, and we’ve challenged each other to go through Labor Day. That makes my time away from social media a full 47 days.
How is it going? So far, so good. After a few days of instinctively pulling my phone out of my pocket and then staring at it wondering just what I thought I was going to do, I’ve found I have more time for reading, writing, and blogging. In addition to spending more time in my garden, I have time to work on a miniature greenhouse kit and an actual jigsaw puzzle. I finally published my first monthly email newsletter, the one I never found the time to write, even though I had been collecting subscribers for it for over a year.
Now I’m connecting with people in real-time, which includes more thoughtful replies on email and even the occasional birthday card sent through the U.S. post office. It seems more genuine than posting “Happy Birthday” on someone’s Facebook timeline.
Will I go back to social media when my self-imposed digital detox time period is up? I won’t leave you hanging with a suspenseful ending. The simple answer is no, I’m not going back for the most part. I don’t plan to go back to Twitter at all. Nor Instagram. I might keep Facebook but with a slashed list of “friends”, far fewer groups, and maybe an occasional monthly check-in. And even that is “iffy” at best. I definitely don’t plan to put any social media apps back on my phone.
I also plan to re-read Digital Minimalism again before the end of my digital detox to build up my confidence to continue to live a focused life in a noisy world.