This past December during the season of Advent, which celebrates the Divine becoming flesh or incarnate, I also wanted to be more incarnate in life. I desired to be present with family, friends, and the world around me. So, I took a break from social media. I deleted all social media apps from my phone and blocked a lot of websites on my laptop.
Although it was brief, it was a good few weeks. I didn’t experience too much FOMO. I think I used my phone a lot less. I felt more productive and less distracted. I was bored more often, which I think was good for my brain. I was more present with my wife and sons. I was still able to keep in touch with my friends and loved ones. The world didn’t end and I didn’t miss out on too many things.
This break gave me some time to consider how I want to continue to use social media. During the ‘fast,’ I decided to regularly do this throughout the year. Initially, I planned a similar break during Advent, Lent, and a month over the summer. This would allow me to be free from social media for a third of the year. Not bad, I thought.
Then, I started reading books like Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, Jaron Lanier’s, 10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Andrew Sullivan’s article, I Used to be a Human Being: An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too, Catherine Price’s How to Break Up with Your Phone, and a few articles on New York Times here and here, among others.
And, now things are all messed up.
Now it seems imperative that I should quit social media entirely, but also seems impossible to do so. It’s only been 10 years. I know life without social media. I was there before Friendster, even.
So why do I feel as if it’s essential to my life? Is it actually essential to my life?
Some questions I have been asking are: What is my reason for being on social media and is that truly a reason to be on social media? Is trying to get a few additional ‘likes’ or build my platform really worth the hours I spend online? How much of my time and attention is needed to earn a small profit of occasional social media connections? What value is regularly checking social media bringing to my life?
I’ve also been paying attention to how social media makes me feel as I use them. Usually, Facebook makes me angry or completely numb as I scroll unaware, Twitter makes me frustrated, and Instagram’s regular advertisements annoy me.
To figure all this out, I am using Lent to go through a Digital Declutter based off of the challenge Cal Newport gives in his book. I’ll be deleting all optional technology from my phone, which includes all social media, news, email, shopping, etc. My phone will be a ‘dumbphone’ that sends texts, makes calls, plays music and podcasts, and gives directions when needed. I’ll be blocking similar websites on my laptop using BlockSite. All my future blog posts have already been scheduled. This should limit my time online while not hindering my responsibilities at work.
Hopefully, using my phone and social media less will mean that I can be more productive and focused and less distracted and anxious. Hopefully, I’ll experience plenty of leisure activities, such as playing my guitar, going for walks, journaling and writing more frequently, and even discovering a new hobby or two.
More than anything, I want to be face-to-face with people, not face-to-phone around people.
At the end of the Digital Declutter, Newport suggests adding back only those apps or websites that actually add value to your life. So, who knows where I will find myself after this process and what I’ll be deleting or adding back into my life. My guess is I’ll probably delete Facebook, but may keep Instagram. I think this will be more than a detox, it will be a declutter that will allow me a more focused and fulfilled life.