Monday, February 1, 2021

Half-time is Not Enough

 If you've been following my blog the past year or so, you know that I have been experimenting with social media fasting off and on. This past month, I went two weeks on, two weeks off with social media. Previously, I had taken two, one month-long social media fasts, one in February and one in November. The one in February of 2020 was pure "detox" - a chance to flush my system, as it were, and see what it felt like to do it (this was after reading Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. That was very successful - I accomplished a lot of the things I had been meaning and wanting to do for some time. It felt like a fresh start on life. I know, sounds crazy, but it was freeing! Then, with the election stress cascading upwards into a volcano, I decided to take off the month of November. This was quiet nice in that I avoided so much of the hullaballoo surrounding the election and saved myself a lot of stress. 

I decided that I wanted to do the social media fast more frequently, so, as stated, I split January half-and-half. And what did I find?

It didn't work.

More than anything, I was irritable as heck. Sure, having back to back to back high-stress 50+ hour work weeks didn't help matters. But that wasn't the core issue. i wasn't creating as much, I wasn't enjoying what I was doing as much, I didn't feel "in the zone" like I did with those first two longer fasts.

When I first read Digital Minimalism and saw Newport's (very strong) suggestion to take an entire month off of social media, I thought he was . . . a little extreme. He essentially stated that if you don't go off for a full month, you won't enjoy the full benefit of the fast, that a "hard reset" wasn't possible with anything less than a month away. 

He was right.

At least, I think he was. When I took a month off of social media, I felt it, I felt different, like deep down. When I took my two weeks off this past month, I most definitely did not feel it until the very, very end of the two weeks. I was just starting to feel that freedom and cleansing when I went back to social media. Then I found myself again wasting way too much time scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, and wondering what the heck I was doing. I think that while I was off for the two weeks, in the back of my mind I was thinking "just another week to go!" or "just a few more days!" - I self-sabotaged because I knew the end was coming quickly and I could go "have my fill" as soon as I finished the fast.

The fast had become a chore, not a joy, as it had in those months where I was able to unlatch from the promise of feeding my social media addiction. 

So here's what I'm going to do: one week "on" social media, three weeks off. I need to see what that feels like. I need to see what that does for me creatively - because creativity takes time, probably more time than we realize. The muses cannot be rushed and the more we try to rush them, the more we shortchange ourselves in whatever creative pursuit(s) we are undertaking.

In one week, then, I will "blip" off the twitter and facebook and instagram radar for three weeks. I've *seriously* considered sending out one last message on facebook and abandoning it completely. I get enough through twitter and instagram alone. In fact, I probably get too much! I may take a chunk of this three week period to figure out how I can gracefully exit FB and still keep the contacts that I want to, because I do want to keep in contact with some people there. I just don't really want to spend much, if any, time at all there.

And if three weeks off isn't enough, maybe I'll take a month off, then a week on, then a month off. Who knows? This is sort of a grand experiment for my mental and emotional well-being (as well as for my creative output). Will I abandon social media altogether? Very doubtful, but maybe. I suppose it depends on what you mean by "social media". There's no danger of me leaving Goodreads anytime soon. And I am keen on continuing to blog and read other people's creative blogs. But could I see myself abandoning twitter and instagram too? Maybe. Maybe. Time will tell. After all, one of my goals is to re-analog more of my life. I don't hate the digital world. but it does take away time from meat-space, and, frankly, that's where I live, love, and dream. And who doesn't want more time to dream - dream my own dreams, not those being spoon fed to me by the digital world. Man, now I sound like some crazed conspiracy theorist - and those are exactly some of the people I'm trying to get away from! Of course, Covid skews the perspective. I think that this journey would be much easier without having to worry about the plague. Maybe after things have calmed down in meat-space, it will be easier to re-analog. In the meantime, the struggle continues.

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After a great conversation with some friends about social media and its inherent issues, I've decided I will now definitely take the three weeks off/one week on approach starting next week Monday. Part of this conversation circled around the performative nature of social media - that when we are on social media, we are often performing for others, rather than interacting with them. Thinking about this has caused me a lot of reflection. We might be on to something here.

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