Taking My Mind Back

I’ve written a few times on my struggles with commercial social media and my approach to using it, and this is in particular a follow up to Sorry Twitter, It’s Not Me, It’s You

Of course, when I say “my struggles” I’m sure they’re not all that different from those that many people have. The first and foremost issue is that, on balance, it’s a giant waste of time. Yes, I have learned a few things that were helpful from friends and other contacts, and I’ve occasionally gotten updates about people I know that I was grateful to know about. But what percent of posts on Facebook or Twitter qualify as genuinely informative about something or someone I actually care about? The ratio of signal to noise is vanishingly unfavorable.

It’s not just that it’s not the best use of time, though. In many ways, use of commercial social media is an act of self-harm. Large commercial social media outlets have evolved their design to keep people online no matter what, and the most effective way has been to encourage argument and division rather than conversation and understanding. The intention is to make people angrier for using it, and keep us addicted to outrage. To put it dramatically, the cruelty is the point—or at least the revenue model.

As if that weren’t bad enough, its purposefully addictive design damages one’s attention span, even in older people who didn’t grow up with it. How many of us cannot even watch TV anymore without having phone in hand, thoughtlessly doomscrolling because our brains tell us that a 44 minute episode of even the most exciting show just isn’t triggering dopamine often enough?

The cherry on top was that I also recently got an unpleasant reminder of its negative privacy implications. No need for details, nothing terrible happened, but even a glancing blow was enough of a wake up call.

That triggering event was enough to push me to do what sadly has become unthinkable these days: I quit Facebook and Twitter—permanently. And I don’t mean that I uninstalled the app, or that I “deactivated” my accounts safe in the knowledge I could always reactivate them later and pick up right where I left off. I just stone cold deleted my accounts altogether. 

This was about one week ago, and only now am I getting to the point where I’m not reflexively picking up my phone to see what’s “new”. I can tell that I’m starting to be more productive, and regaining a better level of focus. Every day I can tell it was the right thing to do.