Yesterday marked two weeks of going through my “digital detox”. I followed Cal Newport’s direction for a 30 day digital detox from his book “Digital Minimalism.” I had been losing my interest in most social media platforms anyway and had become especially weary of all the pro and anti-President stuff on the big blue F. It had gotten to the point that I would only check Twitter every few days and found myself closing Facebook after just a few minutes. They really had become just a mindless habit, rather than a meaningful interaction.
As Newport states, the whole reason these companies exist is to use us (and our data) to be able to sell eyeball time to advertisers. They have no product to sell or real service. We are the product and the advertisers are their customers. The endless scroll on all the platforms is clear evidence that they never want you to leave. But consider Facebook’s “algorithm” too. I’m sure you have at least one friend (or “friend”) that you feel like you haven’t seen or heard anything from in a while. I would bet (at least 9 times out of 10) if you went to their feed directly you would see they’ve been posting stuff just like everybody else … Facebook just hasn’t been showing their updates to you. So many of my old high school friends from Germany were posting and I wasn’t seeing any updates from them. Frustrating to say the least.
So, for 30 days I set up a framework for my digital detox based on Newport’s guidance:
- I banned myself from all social media platforms except Instagram (I do a project 365 in which I post a three image collage every day … and I post it through Instagram to my blog and Facebook for friends/family)
- I removed all social media apps from my phone (except Instagram … which I limited myself to no more than 30 minutes per day)
- I turned off all notifications on my phone except SMS/text (for family and work), Marco Polo (only used for family), and Outlook (for work email) … and those notifications were all set to silent so I had to actively check rather than passively get notified
- I limited myself to an hour of TV per weekday and three hours per weekend (Fri-Sun)
- I limited myself to an hour of video games per weekday and three hours per weekend (Fri-Sun)
That’s pretty much it. I feel like it was restrictive enough without compromising the family relationships or work I needed to get done. It also left me some recreation I enjoyed without wasting a whole day binge-watching something.
So far … so good. I’ve had little to no temptation to visit Twitter or Facebook (or Reddit). When I get bored, I either think about stuff (what a novel concept), read, or pick something on my to-do list to work on. I’ve read three books in two weeks and am about halfway through my fourth. I’ve read more news from sources I want to check rather than force-fed biased links from unknown sites. And I’ve actually gotten more tasks done on my to-do list than usual for that time-span.
It did take a bit of an effort at first to not mindlessly open something on my phone when I was bored; but I had removed most of those temptations when I started so there was nothing to open anyway. I do miss catching up on quite a few people on Facebook that are in distant parts of the globe. But that will be something I mindfully re-introduce at the end of this detox with further guidance from Newport and “Digital Minimalism”.
Even if you don’t play along, at least pick up “Digital Minimalism” and give it a read to get more awareness of how these sites affect you. And please come back in two weeks; I’ll complete this and post another blog with my next steps.