I recently caught a segment on NPR that revealed gripping reasons why giving up social media yields significant benefits for your mental health.
The pervasive effects of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on our day-to-day lives came into an audible focus over the radio on that colorful fall day.
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 by email. In the evening, I’d find myself distracted by the same devil, instead of paying attention to my family.
Why Should I Give Up Facebook?
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 is 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 thing 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 within 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 she decided to pull that plug. But she’s since happily recaptured a long-lost reading habit, made possible by putting Facebook behind her.
Think of this as 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 smartphone); e.g., the babysitter losing track of the kids because her head was stuck so far up the Facebook Hole of Vapidity.
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 Snapchat throughout your life.
Odds are, if you’re like me, you’ll realize 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.
A Life Without Screen Distractions
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. I plan to check in on Twitter for 5 minutes via my desktop each morning, during my writing window of 5 AM to 6:30 AM.
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!
Aziz Ansari has given up a lot more than I have apparently: No browser or email on his phone. Man. There’s always a 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:
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 sh*t 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 head for a minute.
I wanted to stop that thing when 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 of 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 entrée 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 www.abandonedcubicle.com.
Next stop: Smart Phone, get behind me.
I posted about my attempt to purge social media from my life back in early October. The idea was to limit the amount of noise and distractions. With Twitter especially, my attention span was turning to mush. Every few minutes it seemed, I had to check-in. Let’s dig in more on how to kick an addiction to social media…
Being a fairly attentive student of life, I’ve got a track record for applying research findings in my daily life. Before social media, I read printed material. I’m aging myself here.
In my bachelor days, I’d rely on Men’s Health magazine to help me dress better and learn how to cook, all while holding a shake-weight. You know, stuff that chicks dig?
The good news for me is that I tend to stick with habits that seem to make life exemplified. Think of things like exercise, sleep, limited screen time, eating healthy, flossing, etc., etc. With my “social media diet”, I can chalk up another new habit. And share with you fine readers all of the glorious benefits of leaving that noise behind.
Twitter In the Sh*tter
That’s right. I said it. That app hasn’t made a reappearance on my phone. Now I will admit, however, that I might have snuck a few sessions via Safari here and there.
But I can count on one hand how many times that occurred. And most of those times were while waiting for American Airlines to get their sh*t together while I was stuck at the O’Hare International Airport terminal (my second home, not by choice.)
My initial strategy has worked out pretty well. I’ll check in on Twitter for a few minutes each day from my desktop while working on blog stuff. No fuss, no muss.
The trade-offs are this: I lose out on all the traffic-generating cat litter trivia that one must relentlessly post, but I gain in concentration and thereby avoid upsetting my wife for not listening to her because of Twitter. Guess which trade-off yields the most REAL benefit?
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy checking in on Twitter each day on my desktop for those precious few minutes. I enjoy the community exchange with my friends in the blogosphere.
But I have to limit my engagement to those precious few minutes. It seems to be working out quite well. I have no twitching or other side effects of Twitter withdrawal.
Even better, I have to think my “exceeds expectations” review this year at work had a little something to do with improved concentration and an ability to get sh*t done down the home stretch.
Think a constant Twitter check-in would’ve helped me along those lines? I don’t think so.
Giving up Facebook for Good
Here’s a little Mr. Money Mustache cartoon violence for ya. Bap! In ya face, Facebook! Bloody nose? Sorry. Violence is bad. Let’s just give you the middle finger and call it good, okay? No need to be Cro-Magnon Philadelphia Eagles fans here…
I sure as hell don’t miss Facebook. It’s become an orgy of conflict and nonsense all rolled up into a big digital ball of sh*t. The last time I tried to engage I let gravity pull me into some political battles with family and friends. That was all I needed in my life, right?!?
Besides, we all know now how the Ruskies have used Facebook to court the millions of gullible fools who can’t discern information from garbage. There’s an interesting thread out there challenging Zuckerberg’s notion of bringing the world together. Facebook instead seems to be creating more vitriolic divisions among society: friends and families included.
My interaction with Facebook is limited to automatically posting new posts. I may pop in to promote Airbnb with friends and family from time to time, but that’s about it. No Facebook in my life is about as close to Heaven as I think I’ll ever get. Well, next to being in the Swiss Alps with Mrs. Cubert… 🙂
The Airbnb Experiment required me to add more apps to my phone. Among them, are Airbnb of course, but also Google’s Wi-Fi station monitoring app, and a smart-lock app (look Ma, no keys!) Needless to say, I’ve got my hands full responding to booking requests and making on-the-fly pricing adjustments.
I don’t mind that at all since it’s part of the big-picture real estate side gig. Maybe the point of mentioning all this is that I now have even less time and wherewithal to bother with social media. I’ve got to stay focused on my day job, while also maintaining the real estate businesses.
Whew. (Did I mention I’ve also installed Venmo, to receive rent payments? It’s super-duper convenient!)
Reflections and Inspiration on Ditching Social Media
Admittedly, I was looking for a reason to be less tied to my phone. I’d read enough and experienced first-hand the lousy trade-offs of social media before I stumbled onto that NPR piece in October. So it’s not anything anywhere near quitting smoking or other terrible addictions.
Still, I look back over the past four months with a sense of greater freedom from the constant barrage of updates and miscellany. There’s still work to do, to be sure. My next potential target is to get back to a low-information diet. I seem to have replaced an old social media habit with a new “got to check the news” one.
The Washington Post gets visited probably a half-dozen times throughout the day from my phone. Maybe if it weren’t for the fact we have a Mel Brooks version of Game of Thrones happening in D.C. every day, I wouldn’t feel so compelled to tune in. If only our politicians could get back to being boring and slightly effective.
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