I’m not sure when I first started using social media but it was probably around the year 2004 or so with MySpace, Friendster and some of the other early platforms. By 2006 when Facebook opened up it’s registration to anyone with an email address I was pretty hooked up into the whole world of online persona. Twitter followed shortly thereafter, along with Reddit, Instagram and so on.
I didn’t really think about why I was using social media or the potential drawbacks of doing so. I pretty much just embraced it and in some ways got a bit addicted to it.
As a software developer I work primarily in front of a computer screen and over the years I noticed that I would have to fight the urge to check my Twitter feed during the work day. When my mind would want to take a break from the current problem I was working on, the temptation was to just open up Facebook or Twitter and take a quick look at what was happening there on my timeline.
These were warning signs, indicators that my use of social media wasn’t exactly healthy. However I think the real alarm came as I realized that I would be checking Twitter on my phone during times that I would be hanging out with my kids. I’d be sitting with my son as he practiced piano and instead of focusing on his playing I would unlock my phone and glance at my Twitter feed.
It was like I couldn’t just live in the moment, I was constantly being pulled away from the present and chasing the endorphin fix of the social stream.
Thankfully I wasn’t completely oblivious to these problem and in fact for years now I have been aware of this struggle. I would try to make changes to combat this. There were times I would be more disciplined and not give into these pulls towards distraction. But then I would get lazy and fall back into the same old patterns.
The one thing I didn’t think I could do was to actually delete my social media accounts. I needed to stay connected, I just needed to be more self controlled. At least that is what I thought until I watched a TED Talk called “Quit social media” by Dr. Cal Newport.
In this video, Cal Newport didn’t pull any punches, told it like it is and basically made a very strong case to simply quit social media.
It was a wake up call…
The day after watching the video I took decisive action.
I deleted my Instagram and Facebook accounts
These were my two biggest distractions and held the least value, two weeks later I have no regrets.
I decided to keep my Twitter account for now but drastically change how it.
I deleted the Twitter app from my phone and I am trying the practice of only checking Twitter a maximum of twice a day - once in the morning and once in the evening. (I also unfollowed about 100 users which minimizes the noise). I’m planning to see how this works and make further changes if necessary but so far it’s been working well and I find many days I don’t even check Twitter at all.
It’s only been about two weeks since I did this but already I am sensing a world of difference. Here are a few that come to mind:
- I’m more focused throughout the day and more productive.
- I am finding that I am enjoying silence and even seeking it out
- I am more present in moments with my wife and kids, I’m seeking out more conversations with them and enjoying being with them.
- I feel less stressed and more content with my life and the world around me
I also have the sense that these changes are just the beginning. I want to live a life with more clarity, focus and mindfulness. Quitting social media is only a part of the puzzle in this quest. But for me, it was a key decision that I think will ripple out into other areas of my life.