It’s incredible what a few days off social media can do. I’ve only gone without Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for 2.5 weeks, and it already made me happier than I could have imagined. I’m more productive and getting more accomplished each day than I ever did in my life. At the same, I’m much more relaxed and rested than I used to. Even though I do more, it doesn’t feel like hard work at all.
I thought I would miss Twitter a lot, and there are certain people there I do miss for sure. However, I can see now Twitter as a whole hasn’t served me that well. I thought I deliberately curated my Twitter feed, but now that I have the space to look at it from a distance, I can see how much of it was unnecessary drama.
As much as I’d love to see what the guys at Lambda School are up to, hear the latest thoughts of Paul Graham or Shane Parish, or massage my brain with the twisted logic of Ribbonfarm folks, I’ve been unable so far to filter these out entirely from the endless stream of political outrage and non-events completely blown out of proportion. There’s a lot of value in Twitter, but I’ll need to learn how not to be pulled into dramas I don’t want to be a part of.
When it comes to Facebook and Instagram, I don’t miss these two at all. Perhaps I was using them in a silly and immature way, but now both don’t seem like much more than a vanity fair. I’d post a cute photo or a piece of some super profound wisdom and then keep coming back every few minutes to check if someone left a like or comment. I always knew it’s pointless but kept doing it anyway. Only now that I stopped visiting these platforms entirely, I can see how much time I’ve spend anticipating social validation, and how poor of a job Facebook and Instagram likes are doing in this regard. These days when I need social validation I call a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, and it’s much more satisfying.
I can also see now how much my need for validation influenced what I publish here on my blog. When I saw positive feedback, I felt inclined to post more of the same kind of thing. When there was no feedback at all, or someone unfollowed me right after, I felt discouraged to ever come back to the same topic again. In the past this made me give up on trying to write about a few things I deeply care about. These days I’m writing for an audience of one, and it’s liberating to be able to do this just for myself.
Another side effect of going off social media is that I no longer procrastinate or feel overwhelmed. So far whenever I waited for something at work to download or for a colleague to answer, my fingers would automagically take me straight to Twitter. Before I knew it, I was right in the middle of a heated discussion on whether it was right for a teenage kid to smile, and felt disheartened with the state of the public debate. Enough of such conversations in a day, and the future of our planet may seem hopeless after a while.
These days it’s funny how I have almost no distractions to run to. There’s only so much happening in company Slack channels, all that is left in my Pocket are very long articles that require deep focus and undivided attention, and I deliberately follow but a handful of blogs in the WordPress.com reader. In result, whenever I’m waiting for things to process I do instead… one of the things I wanted to do but thought I don’t have time for. As it turns out, reaching out to a friend, testing a PR, or even issuing an invoice doesn’t take more time than opening Twitter again, but leaves me feeling much better than Twitter ever did.
I’m not saying social media is evil and we should stop using them. I still think Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can be used as tools for empowerment. At the same time, taking a break has made me consider on what kind of things I spend my attention and rediscover the incredible benefits of both deep focus and deep rest. If you’ve had recently troubles with either, I’d strongly encourage you to give it a try.