Saturday afternoon, on the long Easter weekend suddenly I realised I was spending way too much time on Social Media viz. Facebook and Whatsapp and more than that it was in meaningless, pointless activities. The main test of everything is how it makes you feel or how it makes your life better. This was making me feel stressed and angry AND it was not making my life better in any way.
Following from that logic, I could see the next action clearly. I closed the browser windows that had Facebook open, closed the Chrome app called Whatschrome which I use for interacting with Whatsapp messages on my computer, and uninstalled Whatsapp from my phone. Also uninstalled FB messenger from the phone.
By no means was I planning to make all this permanent, but I felt like the long weekend would be a good test to try it out and see how I felt.
The logic behind this is that if I feel the need to share something I could blog about it. If it was not important enough to warrant a blog post then it was not important enough to share. If I felt the need to read something, I have many books, both paper and electronic, in my reading list.
I also had interesting assignment work to do for my Uni assignments and there's always office work to catch up on if you really feel bored.
Now, what, you ask, was the result? The result was amazing. I never like those Ted talks or web articles where people say things like "I gave up social media and became a millionaire!" or "How I got my life back from social media." Well, you know the kind of things I mean.
I have always maintained that Facebook is not the problem, social media is not the problem, your habits are the problem. You can do whatever you want, nobody is forcing you, you have to take control. But remember that quote "The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken." My habits were getting to that point. Thankfully, I have a very stubborn personality.
Speaking of stubborn, a few hours after I closed Facebook I started getting notifications on my phone about things my friends had posted. Not things about me, not a photo of me, just things general things they had posted so that I would go and look at Facebook again. So, I had to uninstall Facebook. I had already turned off all notifications from it but it was still doing it which I considered evil behaviour.
This was a weekend and a weekend during Coronavirus lockdown so I didn't have any obligation to be productive, but I still was. Productive, and creative. The increase in focus was phenomenal. Yes, I did feel the withdrawal, but as I said, strong, stubborn personality.
I had many, many thoughts that I wanted to post about on FB, but each time I asked - why? And each time the answer was, it doesn't matter. Another quote I love "Nothing matters very much. Very few things matter at all."
For communication, I still had my email. All my family and all my close friends have my phone number so I was available for emergencies.
Now, where do we go from here?
During these 3 days I wrote, I read, I watched movies, I did my homework, even did some office work. And I felt a physical lessening of mental stress. Like, seriously. I shit you not.
It follows that this is a good idea, just that this was an extreme case. I will need Whatsapp to talk to family, friends and classmates. I will even need FB to communicate with some friends or read my friends' updates. But it all doesn't have to be in a constant stream. I can and will regulate it keep it to the point where I don't have to silence 3 different devices before sitting down to meditate.
Google makes an app called Digital Wellbeing that helps you monitor and regulate your social media habits. I have just installed it and I am going to use it to control my social media as well as communications patterns.
Here is a link if you would like to try it as well:
Maybe I will report back in a couple of weeks to say how much it has helped me if it does.
Tonight, I am still enjoying the freedom. Tomorrow morning I will check back on Facebook and reinstall Whatsapp.
Have you ever felt the need to distance yourself from your digital habits? Would love to hear your thoughts.