Why I’m going on a social media fast.

I’ve grown increasingly unhappy with how social media dictates my time and attention. So for the first month of 2017 I will not be using any form of social media.

Recently I read Cal Newport’s Deep Work. I’ve always been a fan of his productivity blog, and picked up his book as soon as I saw it in Goodread’s books of the year. In Deep Work, Newport gives his tips on how to produce meaningful work. A recurring theme in the book is the contrast of meaningful ‘deep’ tasks versus busy ‘shallow’ tasks.

Some examples of shallow tasks include administrative work, responding to emails, and social media usage.
Deep tasks include research, practicing (think musical instruments, a skill, sports), writing, and thinking (the entrepreneurial kind).

I can’t reduce administrative work or emails due to my work, but I can reduce my social media consumption.

Social media, in its many forms occupies a great deal of our time while not allowing us to produce deep tasks.

“I have to practice the piano, oh but let me check Twitter for 30 minutes.”

Even before I read the book, I felt a growing resentment towards how much my social media accounts fracture my attention. It’s as if I’ve rewired my brain to either:

1. Produce content for social media
2. Observe the content produced by others

Producing content is my habitual state to share something on instagram, snapchat, or facebook. Observing content is looking at direct messages or snaps sent to me by friends, reading something someone posted on my facebook wall, or just perusing through my instagram feed.

It’s so easy to while away time browsing social media for me. I don’t consider that time productive, but it’s hard to stop because I find it so entertaining. There are always funny cat photos and click-bait articles that catch my attention. I just open my fb app to check a post I’m tagged in, but before I realize, I’m 4 different browser tabs deep:

reading about a crazy proposal in Disneyland
shopping for a trendy stuffed animal on amazon
tagging my friend in a cat meme
googling whether Kylie Jenner and Tyga are together. (Are they?)

It’s as if I’ve rewired my brain to concentrate on as many things as possible at the same time. I’m a slave to my phone. My hand reaches for it CONSTANTLY as a habit – when I first wake up, in the middle of eating, before I drive somewhere, after I drive somewhere, in an elevator, as soon as I get off a plane, before bed, and the list goes on.

Whenever I look at my phone, it interrupts my line of thought and I end up spending more time ‘resetting’ my brain in order to return to my previous task.

The reason I’ve never decreased my social media usage before is because it’s the biggest source of my entertainment. I’ve also been worried that by decreasing my social media usage, I’ll lose connections with my friends or acquaintances.

“Oh but I have a 200 day snapchat streak with someone, oh but we have the snapchat BFF heart, I’ll lose instagram followers, I’ll miss special events on Facebook.” 

It’s finally gotten to the point that I’m willing to make those trade-offs in order to re-route my brain to focus on deep tasks. It’s not pleasurable, but I need to do it. I can lose some acquaintances, some snapchat streaks, some instagram followers in order to perform the deep tasks that I really want to but just don’t get around to. (Like the title of this blog, for example?)

For January 2017, I will:

1. Delete the following apps off my phone/Ipad and block the browsers on my work computer.

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat (goodbye my besties)
  • WeChat
  • LinkedIn

2. Refrain from using any of the above listed apps and the following websites.

  • buzzfeed
  • twitter (I don’t personally tweet but I do read other people’s tweets on my browser)
  • youtube*

I will still be using facebook messanger, Whatsapp, and imessage to communicate with friends. I will continue to blog and read blogs that I follow.

What I hope to gain from this social media fast is mental clarity and to more time to perform meaningful tasks. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick up some new hobbies with the extra time I save.

Concurrently with this social media fast, I will also be doing another diet challenge for the month of January so please stay tuned for more blog posts!

Have you ever gone on a social media fast? How did it go?

*I’m still unsure about my Youtube consumption. I want to completely veto the website for the month because I spend a great deal of time on there – but on January 2nd my favorite kpop group is releasing an MV and I’d like to watch that to support them. (Which includes their stages on weekly music shows as well) 

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10 thoughts on “Why I’m going on a social media fast.

  1. The best thing I’ve ever done was delete my FB account. It lasted a year before I eventually got back on in order to follow a few specific groups relating to my University work. To make sure I didn’t fall into bad habits, I deleted everyone I see in real life (yes, even my mother!) and it’s left me with maybe 20 people who I’ve met overseas and have no other way to contact them. So my news feed is basically non-existent and I have no reason to get on there other than to check the Uni group. Now that my University studies have completely finished up in November, my use of FB will almost diminish to 0. I use Instagram, but tend not to get caught up in browsing for more than 5 minutes because it’s only photos, so I don’t get caught up in clickbait articles.

    Hopefully the cold turkey approach works for all your social media vices. The other thing you could try is to keep social media, but change your focus. Use YT to watch educational videos, and use FB to follow more serious/interesting pages i.e. blogging tips, while reducing the number of ‘nothing’ pages that we all get sucked in to following i.e. cat in bread photos, as hilarious as they are! That way, you won’t feel like you’re missing out, but you’ll get more substance out of social media.

    Also, if it’s for entertainment, watching a TV show etc. is time-limited, so you watch a show for an hour or so, but don’t suddenly lose yourself for 5 hours and end up with nothing to show for it. Although Netflix users might disagree with that lol

    Anyway, good post and good luck!

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    1. Haha what would you do when someone you meet wants to add you on Facebook?

      I’m also hoping that after a month of going without social media, I’ll realize which channels actually added meaningful value to my life (maybe none, or maybe all of them) and which ones I don’t miss at all. At the end of the month hopefully I’ll come back with a renewed focus on the channels I did miss – and then try to cut back on shallow information/entertainment through those.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If somebody new asks me if I’m on there I’ll say ‘yeah, but I never check it’ and that seems to stop the friend requests 😉 I’m looking forward to an update post in a month or two!

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  2. In my social media course last year, our professor suggested for us to go “offline” for a weekend. In the end, not a single person in my class was able to do it and it was only for 2 days (granted, we are all social media lovers, which is why we chose to take that class).

    But I guess with everything in life, there needs to be moderation. Too much or too little of anything can be bad. If you’re interested, I blogged about the obsession with social media before:

    https://sincerelyloewe.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/wellness-wednesday-going-offline/

    https://sincerelyloewe.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/thoughts-social-media-isnt-a-lie/

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    1. Yesterday Marten and I made a pact to not watch TV or use electronics, in the hope that we’d play a board game together. I ended up playing Pokemon on my DS and he read on his Kindle. I still ended up checking my phone for notifications and so did he. It’s definitely such a habit for both of us that we’re not quite sure what to do with offline time anymore unless it’s been scheduled.

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      1. Sometimes it’s also nice to not plan offline time, and just let it happen. If you are really having a good time with the people around you and conversation/fun is non-stop, I think you’ll also naturally not reach for your phone.

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  3. It is really easy, more often times than not you get to find out a lot about yourself and your peers, with out social media who will make the effort to keep in contact FB messenger aside. I find I only actually communicate with a handful of people. With out the snap chatters, fb+ insta tags how much do you really know about someone?

    I find much easier to disconnect in the summer vs the winter. Since there is more to do and to occupy your time with outdoors vs. being stuck inside cause of the snow storms….

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