A Digital Declutter: Lenten Log Off

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As I have blogged previously (and elsewhere) I am starting to question whether social media is good for us and if social media and technology adds value to my life, at least enough value to keep it. So, during the 40 days of Lent, I decided to do a “Digital Declutter” based off of the challenge Cal Newport gives in his book.

I deleted all optional technology from my phone, which included all social media, news, email, shopping, etc. For me, this included the following apps on my phone: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, New York Times, News, Gmail, Marco Polo, Amazon, YouTube, Yelp, Trulia, and a handful of others that I rarely used. I also set up blockers on my browser to include all new, social media, and any other “infotainment” sites.

With Lent’s conclusion, I thought I’d share some reactions from my 40-day social media declutter experiment.

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Within the first few days, I found myself trying to go to particular sites or constantly refreshing my email. I’d open my phone only to find the app gone and on my laptop, the website blocker would show me a fun reminder. See the pictures to the side.

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After a few days, I noticed the amount of time I use my phone drastically dropped from two or three hours a day to, on average, an hour. Some days I have used it as little as eight minutes. I even got to the point where I decided to leave my phone at home while my family went out to run errands.

Not checking any news sites has meant I’m a bit out of the loop and I have come to embrace that. Luckily, family members and friends have informed me of big events happening in the world. The biggest events have been the burning of Notre-Dame, the release of the Mueller report, the election of Chicago’s new mayor, and the college admissions scandal. All of this I learned from friends or coworkers, but each time had to ask them to give me more details.

Without the news and Twitter, I have become less irritated at Trump and less frustrated at politics. It’s been vastly refreshing. Without email on my phone, I don’t feel the need to always respond and be ‘on the clock.’ When I’m home, I’m home and not seeing if any new emails come in. I’ve also tried to only check email a couple of times a day while at work and I will share more about that in future posts.

And, when I come up with a funny tweet or a sentence that I think would get a lot of likes on Facebook, I just tell someone instead. Or laugh to myself about it. In all honesty, I feel as if there is less noise in my world. And, I don’t fear I’m missing out on anything. I think my so-called missing out is actually enabling me to be fully present and aware to people around me, especially my wife and sons.

It’s as if social media has become an obligation that takes up more of our time and mental energy than we realize. And, it seems as if we never really thought through the ramifications of saying “yes” to initially signing up.

I want to use technology rather than have technology use me.

I want to be face-to-face with people rather than face-to-phone around people.

I want to be aware rather than addicted to impersonal technology.

I want to be mindful rather than mindless scrolling.

In a future post, I’ll share a bit more about how it felt to log back onto social media and the decisions I’ve made about ending my relationship with social media.