Or why this blog even exists.
At the end of 2020, inspired by the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, I decided to go on a 30 day social media detox where I uninstalled both Twitter and Instagram — and I never fully came back from that. (TikTok was never in the picture for me.)
There are many reasons why I decided to try out this detox. I was exhausted from the constant stream of attention grabbing stimuli that was optimized for instant agreeability and likability with little room for nuance. I didn’t like having to compare my life to the sum of everyone else’s highlight reels. I didn’t like that I too was part of the problem, and I would catch myself not living in the moment, and instead thinking about how it can be best shared in some relatable story or tweet. I didn’t like that my attention span seemed to be getting shorter and shorter. I didn’t like being told that the world is going to ruins in a million different ways, and I hated not knowing what to do about any of it, or having the headspace to form my own thoughts around it all.
So I took the leap. I hit the x button on the worse offending apps on my Home Screen. During the first few weeks, I would catch myself unlocking my phone to open Twitter or Instagram, but finding neither app. For the first months or so, I would still compose tweets in my head, or think about how nice some photos I took would look in an Instagram story.
But all of that faded rather quickly, and I noticed myself in a state I hadn’t been in a while: I was bored!
Before, when my brain experienced any kind of idle state, I would reach for my phone, open Twitter or Instagram, et voilà, an endless stream of stimuli. Now, I was left with nothing but time and space for my own thoughts.
A healthy brain is, by nature, very curious. It doesn’t want to do nothing. The difference now was that I could use my newfound boredom to be intentional about how and how much to fill this nothingness, instead of letting Twitter and Instagram’s algorithms decide that for me.
I won’t get into what I did with this newfound time and space quite yet (that can be a topic for another post), but I know that I enjoyed my time off Twitter and Instagram so much that I still don’t have those apps installed on my phone.
But I still haven’t attempted to address this apparent contradiction that I am writing this blog post about how great it is to not use Twitter or social media platforms, and then proceeding to sharing it on Twitter. Let me try to explain.
It took me a year and a half, but I’ve come to the conclusion that despite its problems, the Internet is a beautiful place. It is where I’ve met new friends, found inspiration, and learned new things.
The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I don’t necessarily want to minimize my interaction with the digital world, but to identify what is most essential to live a life that is most fulfilling to me.
But I needed this initial minimization to zero to give myself the mental space to figure out what is most essential to me.
For me, Twitter has always been a great tool to connect with people around the world, as long as it doesn’t keep me distracted all the time. As an experiment, I’m using Twitter only through the mobile website, which I find far less addicting to use (perhaps due to its clunkier interface), and continuing to rely on it as a platform to share longer form thoughts I put here on this blog. As for Instagram, I still haven’t figured out a more mindful way of using it, so if anyone has had any success there, please let me know.
Anyway, thank you for reading until the end (you must have a decent attention span 😉), and please let me know what your thoughts are!
Here are some of books that helped develop my thoughts around digital minimalism / essentialism:
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
- How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
- Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman
- Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence by Anna Lembke