On Jan 1, 2019 I decided to get out of Facebook, WhatsApp groups and Twitter for a month. I stayed on LinkedIn and this blog though. I came back on Feb 1.
Why did I leave ?
The reason to leave was three fold – one, there were a lot of things going on in social media on social and political issues that I felt compelled to respond to , and in the process had to pick up a lot of negativity . I tried to unfollow a few people to see if that was enough – and it was not nearly enough. Two, I started feeling its taking a disproportionate share of my free time which I could use for other things like reading books that I bought over holiday season but did not get around to finishing, or take my dogs for a long walk, or go out with my family. And last but not least – privacy concerns !
Lesson – It’s about freeing the phone first
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of staying away from (most of) social media . The first few days was difficult and I had to dig deep to not open the apps on my phone. I took the easy route and just deleted FB and Twitter on phone, and logged out of the accounts on browser on my Mac. That is all that it took – the need to look at my phone frequently went away fairly went away. And the stats on iPhone confirmed my screen time came down drastically. I started becoming more present in real life conversations – and started doing more phone calls . And what else improved ? Battery life on my iPhone ! That was like winning the lottery
What did I miss ?
I missed out on several “breaking news” type things – including a few where I really could have said “I told you so !” to some folks (and probably would have felt really good about it too ). That was the greatest temptation to “cheat” and take a quick look back at my FB and twitter feeds. I missed photos and videos of dogs – which is the best part of FB for me.
Watch it, don’t just read it !
My biggest “find” in this time was Youtube. I generally used Youtube to find old songs I love, and occasionally clips from dog shows I could not attend . I found out there are a lot of other things on youtube that I had previously not spent time checking out. The two sets of videos I love the most now are David Rubenstein’s interviews and the ones from Stanford Business School.
Back on the grid as a changed man
On Feb 1, I logged back on twitter and FB from my Macbook. I also joined back just one of the Whatsapp groups I exited – to keep up with some dear friends. I Interestingly I did not find the urge to keep scrolling to find what all I missed. I just responded to a few friends who had left messages and announced that I am back on both platforms. I think the FB algos have eased off on me and I see much less offensive content now. I also did myself a favor and decided to not re-install the apps on my phone. So now I get to look at both only twice a day or so – which is perfect. And my ability to not get drawn into useless discussions seem to have improved a tad.
Some of you might know that I have a zero inbox policy on email. A side effect of that habit is that I cannot ignore notifications on any app. So I turned off notifications on everything but email and slack. If I have any regret – it is that I did not do that years ago.
What next ?
I do think both FB and twitter still serve some useful purposes for me – which is why I did not totally delete my accounts. But I now know that if I decide later to delete the accounts in both – I won’t miss them nearly as much as I thought as recently as two months ago. And I think I will probably take sabbaticals from both more times during the year going forward.
(Cross-posted @ Vijay's thoughts on all things big and small)