Digital Wellbeing20 Sep 2018
This is not a “Why I Quit Social Media and You Should Too”™️ Medium post; I just want to share some of my feelings and experiences. You do you. 😁
I’ve been thinking a lot about attention and where I pay it, and in true Baader-Meinhof fashion it looks like I’m not the only one. I’ve thought on and off about this for a while, mostly through the lens of “productive uses of my time”, but it started to come into focus this Spring when I noticed how negative an impact Twitter was having on my mood. Around that same time Google and Apple decided to call attention to the situation by building “digital wellbeing” tools right into Android and iOS.
My concern is less the total time I spend on Social Media, News, Reddit, etc., and more the habit of turning to them in every free second and the micro aggressions that are notifications (plus a healthy dose of FOMO). I ended up with two broad buckets: things to stop entirely, and things to manage better.
Things to stop entirely:
- Political Twitter
Things to manage better:
- Google News
I’ve been living with the changes below for about two months (as of the time of this writing) and the FOMO is real but dwindling every day, and the reduction in stress is significant. I’m going to live with these changes for a while before I look for more tweaks, but even if I stop here (and don’t let nearly identical things fill the gaps) I still call it a win.
This one was easy; I deleted my account over a year ago and have never looked back. Screw Facebook. 😎
Lots of muted accounts and keywords and hashtags. Also unfollowing accounts that are purely political. I don’t begrudge anyone their activism and I would never say a celebrity should “stick to X” but I also have a very real limit to how much horror and vitriol I think it’s healthy to consume and the firehose of Twitter makes it way more likely you’ll drown while just trying to stay hydrated.
Twitter in general can be great and terrible and being very careful who I follow and engage with goes a long way to making it more great and less terrible. For accounts that occasionally tweet/retweet things I want to avoid we go back to the tried and true method of muting muting muting. I also uninstalled the app from my devices which de facto reduced how frequently I check Twitter dramatically.
Instagram has never been one of my major social networks and that means I follow a very small core group, which is good. I did notice I would just open it as something to do way more often than I liked just to “see if there’s anything new” so that app got the boot was well. Bonus: now that I check Instagram less often when I do open the website there actually is new stuff and I get to enjoy it.
I started using Google News when they released the refreshed app and it quickly became a thing to check when bored. On many Android phones there is also the Google Feed which is basically Google News anyway, so I was actually conditioned to the new Google News experience many months ago without even realizing it. Google does an excellent job of showing me stuff I (mostly) care about from sources I (mostly) respect so I have decided to continue using it with two key changes: 1. the Google Feed, which is basically just Google News anyway, has been disabled on my phone so I stop just swiping over to it and 2. Google News is limited to 30 minutes per day and becomes inaccessible automatically after that.
Reddit has always been a binge service for me; I either don’t use it at all or I use it way too damn much. Similar to Twitter I’ve made it better by aggressively curating the subreddits I subscribe to and never perusing things like r/all or r/popular. I’ve gotten my subscriptions refined enough that limiting time spent isn’t a necessity now.
Pocket Pocket is my read later service of choice, which means I occasionally check it to see if there is something I saved that now might be a good time to read (narrator: it never is), but I also use IFTTT to consume the RSS feeds of a few web comics I follow and pocket them. That means I’m also regularly “just checking” for new comics since they don’t all release on a regular schedule.
Update: While writing this paragraph I decided to stop using Pocket altogether. I changed my IFTTT recipes to send my handful of webcomics to Todoist instead with a due date in the evening so they’re out of my face, and deleted my Pocket account. If I want to save something to read later it can go into my Todoist inbox.
I subscribe to a few channels on Youtube and I enjoy them tremendously. They don’t take up too much of my life and I get a lot out of them. I also do not have the problem of trolling all over to watch related videos, live video, or any of that other nonsense. My issue is that Youtube keeps screwing with their notifications so I find myself “just checking” youtube a lot. It’s only a second of wasted time but it’s a lot of wasted mental cycles. I don’t have a good fix for this one yet (let me know if you do!) but as it’s a mostly minor problem I haven’t invested a lot optimizing here.