In the beginning of February I focused on not using social media for 30 days. Those 30 days are coming to an end now so I'm reflecting.... what exactly have I learned if anything?
The following is a log of my thoughts and how I processed them through this experiment.
Day -4: "I haven't logged onto Facebook in a while, let me delete it. ( half hour later, I'm reading updates from people I haven't seen in 10 years.) Ok for real, time to delete this beast.
4 days before my social media cleanse, I decided to completely delete my Facebook page and erase my data (supposedly). This has been something I've been meaning to do for a while yet never got to it. Aside from Facebook's public scrutiny over how they exploit user data to advertisers, censorship, and allowing the spread of false content, I felt it's deletion from my life was well overdo for a service I've hardly ever used since high school. It was time to say adios to FB.
But why quit all of social media?
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” - Steve Jobs
Jobs delivered his famous 2005 Stanford University commencement speech where he addresses the idea of following your own intuition. It's kind of funny that I'm attempting to quit a few apps on a device that Jobs had a lot to do with its inception. Yet he's telling graduates to find their own voice among the noise, noise that has been enhanced in part by the advent of the smartphone and all of the apps that came with it. Of course, the iPhone itself isn't as addicting as the apps that come from third parties but it's still a device that can be easily turned into a time-waster. And, Your time is the most profitable natural resource. To see how corporations use natural resources, look at how the Earth is doing, and we have a pretty good idea of what’s likely to happen to us and our brains.
There's really 3 reasons I quit social media for 30 days:
- I wanted to do this for my own sanity
It seems like ever since Covid-19, my brain has been on hyperdrive with social media stimulus (no, not that kind of stimulus💰 ) coming at me from every corner. I needed a break. And I'm not alone, it sounds like there's an ever-growing body of researchers who believe there may be some sort of Covid-19 related trauma being played out in front of us all. Aside from that, the constant pull of other peoples lives is something I don't need more of at this point in my life.
- I wanted to see if I could quit for 30 days.
30 days isn't a long time, but when it comes to social media - I don't believe I've ever taken this long of a break since I downloaded the apps circa 2010/2011. There may have been a backpacking trip somewhere in there where I didn't have access to those apps, but for the most part I haven't been detached like this in a VERY long time.
- Most importantly: I wanted time back to focus on myself
Like Steve Jobs' commencement speech, I didn't want to have my own creativity falter due to the opinions and noise of others. I wanted more time to read, write, and think instead of succumbing to a constant barrage of dopamine hits from social media.
Enter my 30 day experiment:
Day 8: "I haven't been off social media for this long since I downloaded the apps back in 2011/2012."
This was one of the first thoughts that came to mind when I started my 30 day social media cleanse. This thought was routinely coming up around week 1 where I kept telling myself: "wow, I don't remember the last time I took a break this long from Instagram.
Day 16: "What happens when you stop drinking coffee cold turkey?" What's the mental clarity difference between tea and coffee? Where's the nearest boba place near me?"
How the hell does this relate to quitting social media? Well aside from having these prevailing thoughts of quitting coffee and changing even more habits during this social media cleanse, I found myself forming a brand new addiction in the span of a week: Google searching. I had successfully replaced my social media scrolling with something else which is called addiction substituting. This wasn't exactly how I saw my 30-day cleanse going, but it was interesting to witness this transition. And yes, I did also quit coffee and began drinking only tea during this 30 day experiment. Something I really didn't need Google for. At the time I didn't know this but , I was essentially habit stacking. Which James Clear explains is "a special form of an implementation intention. Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, you pair it with a current habit." This is a reason why I think those studies that say flossing your teeth reduces heart disease are mostly correlative and not causative - folks who floss their teeth probably have a healthier lifestyle in general , hence reducing heart disease.
Day 20: "Maybe I can use IG for business and networking purposes then log off before I get too engaged"
This is where my own mind started to go off on tangents and attempted to derail my experiment. But , I put an end to that ASAP, and substituted my IG/Snapchat addiction with some real networking via : LinkedIn. However, this proved to be a mistake because a lot of content on LinkedIn has now become way too Facebook'y and spammy. But I kept telling myself this is better than just scrolling on IG and looking at peoples fake poses and cute dogs, but was it really? probably not, but I gave myself some slack. An important caveat: During this experiment I was in the process of building Sanghos and needed to network with a few people for user research so I had to use LinkedIn on a few occasions.
Day 25: "I wonder what I've missed"
This is the point where I start to question what exactly have I missed during my time away. Do I miss the spammy product ads that are delivered to me on a silver platter, or the endless videos of cute dogs and cats, none of that really. What I do begin to miss is the connection I had with my friends. This connection is something I've missed during this entire experiment, and frankly something that's been hard to get during quarantine. It's been strange not knowing what my friends are doing everyday of their life, but it's also nice to not worry all the time. If something is that important, I'm sure they'd text me or better yet send over a carrier pigeon.
Day 30: "I can probably do this for another 30 days"
The last day of my little experiment. Will Devin make it to the finish line unscathed? I sure did. And to tell you the truth it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Sure it got lonely and I didn't know what the newest meme or viral video was, but I was okay with not burdening my brain with that dogma. I was ok with not knowing. When I did eventually log back on, I felt a sense of newness - a fresh start to mindfully use social media not as a tool for boredom or distraction, but for connection and inspiration.
- Use social media mindfully. Don't use it for the sake of scrolling. Instead, use it to connect with someone you may not have otherwise met without the advent of the platform.
- Just because you quit one thing, doesn't mean it won't lead to a replacement behavior. Just notice when it happens and make sure it doesn't overtake you.
- Life moves on whether you decide to post a picture of your food or not. So be present when you're with friends and family and when you do post, be mindful of the content you put out into the world.
- I'll still continue some sort of social media cleanse once or twice a week. Albeit not as drastic as a 30-day cleanse, I'll still be sure to delete the apps every once in a while when I want to truly focus and I'll even go as far as placing my phone in a kitchen timer safe for an entire day if I have to.
- I'll also be using stories much less and instead of posting right there in the moment, I'll wait to post towards the end of the day to make sure the content I'm providing is worthy of others attention.
In conclusion, I'm glad I went all the way to the end with this experiment. It was a refreshing reset. But I've realized this is the world we live in, and social media is here to stay. Just make sure you don't rely on them too much or else you'll be trapped by dogma
Stop the noise in your mind in order for the wondrous sounds of life to be heard. Then you can begin to live your life authentically and deeply. - Thich Nhat Hanh