As a belated Christmas gift to myself I am deleting Facebook and Twitter from my phone for at least three weeks.
Twenty-one days. The time it takes to break and build habits.
Call it an experiment. Starts yesterday, Jan. 2.
My goal: Make it 21 days without downloading the apps back onto my phone.
My ultimate goal: Never download them back onto my phone again.
I started this experiment about three weeks ago when I quit Twitter entirely. Deleted the app from my phone, signed out of my browsers, all that.
Yesterday I was walking down the beach with my wife and kid and found myself opening Facebook on my phone, and I said, You know what? This is kind of dumb.
So I deleted Facebook and Facebook Messenger from my phone, too. Felt better almost instantly.
(Of course, then I posted an image of deleted Facebook from my phone to Instagram. But hey, baby steps, right?)
Why get rid of them?
A few reasons.
For my wife and I, next year is going to be the most hectic and busy year of our lives. I have my first really big book coming out. I have a new job writing regular features for an outlet, and I will be traveling at least once a month on average for that. Not to mention the travel for promoting the book and speaking and so on. Oh, and—AND!—said wife and I are having our second child in June.
I’ll be sitting at a dinner table, or sitting on the floor with my son while he’s playing, or relaxing with my wife on the couch, and find myself just lost in there, clicking on article after article.
I want to be more where I am and do more of what I’m actually doing instead of knowing that at any moment I can open an app that’ll instantly tell me what people are thinking or doing.
Time I used to spend reading novels or doodling in notebooks or just staring out the window thinking is now time gobbled up by scrolling through those social networks’ feeds.
One of my greatest strengths, obsessive curiosity, is also one of my deepest flaws, something I have to learn how to rein in.
And yeah. So far, feels good.
That doesn’t surprise me, really. While researching Head in the Game, I came across several studies and articles—like this one and this one, just to name a couple—that connect Facebook and Twitter usage with poorer mental health.
They are kind of like psychological liquor.
I got this metaphor in part from Simon Sinek, who, in this excellent interview about millennials in the workplace, explains that using social media releases the same chemical in the brain—dopamine—that gets us addicted to other things like alcohol.
Basically, in addition to other excellent points he makes about the addictiveness of social media, Sinek compares teenagers using social media to parents giving them the keys to the liquor cabinet.
Since deleting Twitter a few weeks ago I have read two novels and am halfway through a third. I still look like I’m on my phone all the time because I am, but that’s because I’ve started reading books on my iPhone Kindle app way more.
I’ve also just felt more calm and at peace.
Over the past several years I’ve started caring way too much what other people think, and not even of me but in general. It’s one thing to explore and sympathize with and understand others’ perspectives. It’s another to be consumed by them, which I had become.
I don’t want to abandon social media altogether because I think it can be a wonderful thing. I have learned a lot from smart people because of things they write and share on social media. But social media can also be deeply toxic and that toxicity has been getting to me lately. Something about having the whole world’s thoughts and creations at my fingertips overwhelms my anxious, OCD mind.
It’s also really been getting to me how people treat social media the way they treat their windshields when they’re driving. They road-rage-scream and snark and swear at people as they fly by them online.
I’m not even exaggerating with that metaphor. This is a real comparison psychologists have made.
To be clear, I’m not quitting social media entirely. I still have Instagram on my phone, and I’ll let myself get on Twitter and Facebook if I’m on my computer. But usually when I’m on my computer I’m on there to work, and if I do get on Facebook and Twitter it’s for a brief break, not to scroll mindlessly the way I do on my phone.
A couple days ago, I got back on Twitter on my computer, but didn’t download the app again. Feels like a good balance.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’m looking forward to seeing how I will write and think—and what I will do—when I’m not perpetually connected to what everyone else might be thinking or doing.
So far, I haven’t missed having either app on my phone at all. That is a little surprising. I thought I’d go through some kind of withdrawal. You know, shaking, sweats, puking. Thankfully, I’ve had none of that.
If anything, I just feel a lot of relief.