Three weeks ago, I decided to go dark on social media. No convoluted account deletion process; no backups. I just logged out everywhere, and deleted all my apps. It's one of the best things I've ever done.
I thought I'd check in with a quick breakdown: what worked, and what didn't. Here we go.
I haven't logged into Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I feel much calmer for it. I also feel better for not contributing to the Facebook machine. And I've gained 7 to 10 hours a week in time I'm not looking at my phone.
Crucially, I don't feel like I'm missing out or going to be forgotten, which were two of the things I was afraid of. I miss the hour-to-hour outrage but am on top of the important news. Lots of people have reached out to me; I've reached out to others; I've had the most non-work one on one email conversations in a decade. It's led to lunches, meeting up with people for dinner that I haven't seen in ages - it's been genuinely great.
The way I use my phone when I am looking at my phone has changed, too. I'm reading a lot more news and long-form content. I treated myself to a New Yorker digital subscription, which has been nourishing. (I've also got subscriptions to the NYT, Washington Post, and WSJ, and realizing that I'm missing a more international perspective. Recommendations needed!) I'm still thinking about this James Baldwin essay. I've started heavily using Pocket to save articles I might want to do something with later. Have you read the Laurie Penny blockchain cruise piece? You really have to.
And I'm blogging a lot more. For the first week or so, I felt compelled to write something every day. I'm definitely not doing that now, but not tweeting lets the thoughts bubble up until they're something a little more substantial. I've also branched out into writing things for other outlets; I'm hoping one will show up today. But the best part about blogging is that writing helps me order my thoughts and go deeper on topics I'm interested in. It also, for more personal subjects, helps me process.
What didn't work
I had to log back into LinkedIn. Of all the social networks, I'm sad that this is the one that proved indispensible. But it turns out I don't have a lot of peoples' email addresses, so when I needed to reach out to someone, I couldn't do it any other way. I've accepted my fate here for now, but I'm fairly uncomfortable with Microsoft being at the center of my professional relationships, so I'll need to figure something else out.
And I can't help it: I check Google Analytics for my blog. It's taken the place of hoping for interactions on my tweets, and the little realtime graph still provides enough of a dopamine rush to give me a hit. I need to wean myself away - perhaps by simply removing Google Analytics from my site. (Arguably, if I'm serious about decentralization and privacy, this is something I should do anyway - so I've just talked myself into it. It'll be gone today.)
I still spend far too much time looking at my phone. I thought about illustrating this piece with some stats, but I decided not to. They're embarrassing.
Finally: my blog is still mostly about tech. Or at least, it has been - but that's not the entirety of what I read and think about. So I'm trying to figure out if I want to have two outlets, or if anyone cares whether I digress from user privacy to talk about writing for Doctor Who or - and this might be a piece that happens soon - making pad thai for my mother. In some ways, I feel like I need to ask your permission to do this, which is sad, and I shouldn't. (So, again: I've just talked myself into not worrying about it.)
In other words: I haven't been bold enough. I could go further. So, I will.
Conclusions so far
This change has been more positive than expected. I'll probably keep it up in the new year, perhaps with some tweaks. Give it a try!