Monday, January 14, 2019

Turning Offline

It feels a little ironic to use an online platform to talk about how I've stopped using most online platforms, but -- 

A few things coalesced during the final months of 2018 that left me discontent with the state of my social media and screen use.

I've threaded this idea through a few posts, but I've been gradually culling my life of clutter -- physically, digitally, mentally. I began with who I followed on social media, unfriending/unfollowing the majority of people on my feeds whom I didn't personally know. By December, I was additionally uncomfortable with the deliberate lack of care Facebook showed for its users' data and the spread of misinformation and anger on Twitter, and I deleted them both. The sense of relief wasn't instantaneous, but now, several weeks later, the cumulative effect has been staggering. I had unknowingly wasted so much time and mental energy on filtering through other people's content that once it wasn't in front of me, I felt immense freedom from the endless weight of it.

Along with ridding myself of two social media behemoths, I realized how much time I was wasting on my phone. The introduction of the iPhone Screen Time feature told me I was spending nearly 4 hours a day on my phone (which, if you had asked me, I would have estimated at closer to 2 hours a day). Horrified, I worked my way through Catherine Price's How to Break Up With Your Phone, which led to me deleting most of the apps on my phone and setting new phone habits. 

Interspersed with the above changes was the abrupt falling out of interest in sharing things about my life online. I don't personally know the majority of the people who follow me on Instagram*, my single remaining social media platform, and I care less and less about exchanging personal details for likes and comments, particularly on a platform where users don't own their own content. If I'm going to share online at all, I'd rather it be here, on a site where there's more space for genuine engagement and an overlap of readers with friends and family in real life.

I recently refound the article about Aziz Ansari going analog and realized how much I've come around to that mode of thinking. Though I wouldn't go as far as deleting my internet browsers and email, there is a certain appeal to letting go of the internet's constant pull on your attention. Until recently, I would easily and often waste time on the internet, endlessly clicking on fluffy articles or videos and squandering away hours at a time on nonsense, trying to chase the dopamine hit of finding something new and exciting. I dove inward one day and figured out what types of things caused me to go to my phone/laptop and how I tended to waste my time once there, and then found ways to counteract them.

And now that I've dragged myself offline, I have newfound free time. I've been able to think, actually deeply think. All the times I bemoaned an inability to process what I was thinking, and the culprit was sensory and information overload. I now journal every day. I read, even more than I did before (I've read 10 books in the first 14 days of the year), and I take notes on what I read. I make deliberate plans to catch up with people, and I don't even think about pulling out my phone while doing so.

In short: it's fine to be inspired by what other people post online, but at the end of the day, I have to live in the life I create. If I'm frittering my time away on activities that don't matter and coveting what other people have accomplished with their time, I'll never be satisfied with what I already have.

*Facebook owns Instagram, so my data concerns aren't fully addressed. But I've never put as much personal information on Instagram as I have on Facebook, and I've had it for much less time so I've been more cautious with how much I use it.

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