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Deconnecting & Reconnecting

For nearly four months at the end of last year, I quit using all social media. One day in late September, I made the commitment to myself to quit social media for 100 days – and that’s basically what was left in the year, if you round down a bit.

For this commitment, I didn’t delete any accounts – I just committed to not log in.

I admit that it wasn’t 100% success the whole way through. I did log into Facebook from my desktop at home a few times, mostly to get in touch with people via messenger that I otherwise couldn’t get hold of, or for some other very specific reason. Then I’d log back off as soon as I was done doing what I needed to.

Overall I’d say the experiment went well, but as the new year got closer and I thought about what I’d do once the 100 days was over, I realized that it didn’t feel sustainable. It felt a little… extreme, doing NO social media. I felt a little too disconnected. Like I was unnecessarily secluding myself from others, including people I actually care about.

So things have changed since my “rest of the year” challenge completed.

I knew for sure that it was too soon that I found myself falling back into old time-wasting habits. I had to find a middle ground. So I slowly started implementing other solutions, but permanent solutions, changes I felt I could deal with for the long-term.

This is where I’m quite happily at now:

I deleted all streaming services from my phone. Apps I was sure to delete include: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and… painfully… YouTube had to go, too. I tried to keep it around at first, but soon realized it wasn’t going to work out.

I have an android phone which allows me to set an alternative home screen that looks like this: wjgidtc

My phone actually looks like a phone! I can scroll right one time for a regular looking smart phone screen with icons to apps. Now, only non-streaming apps are on my phone. These aren’t apps I’m ever gonna open and mindlessly start scrolling through and getting lost in, because they’re totally utilitarian, including:

  • my bank’s app
  • Evernote
  • a simple list app, which has been super helpful and I’ll talk more about below
  • my budget app
  • my period-tracker/birth control app
  • a guitar tuner
  • Yelp
  • my car insurance app
  • and UP, the app for my activity band
  • and obviously I also have icons for regularly used apps, like my calendar and alarms

So, I want to mention two more points about changes to my phone use separately, because I discovered that they’re kinda biggies in making this whole thing effective.

  • I deactivated my phone’s browsers. That means that the only way I really have access to the web from my phone is via the above mentioned apps. I don’t have Chrome, I don’t even have my stock browser activated. They still exist on my phone, so in case I need them in a pinch, I can re-activate them, but then I immediately deactivate it once I’m done with it. This works because reactivating the browser is just enough of a hassle that it’s not worth going through for every whim of wonder.
  • So what do I do for those things I really want to look into later but aren’t pressing enough to merit activating my phone’s browser when I’m not near my computer? I downloaded Checklist, the list app I mentioned above. It’s a super simple and clean list app on Android (maybe Apple too), and I type in things that come up throughout the day that I want to spend time looking into when I get a chance to do so at my desktop. Right now I have things like “how taxing imports effects the economy”, which I think I typed in while I was waiting for my coffee at Starbucks. Normally, I would have started a fruitless search on the web standing there in the middle of Starbucks, and probably not really have remembered much of whatever my search brought up. The great thing is, I now get more out of my research on questions like these because I do the research while sitting at my computer, sometimes with a notebook nearby, and devote real time to understanding something rather than a broken 4 minutes spent in line somewhere. Best of all, not looking it upon a whim kept me engaged in the moment – the priceless gift of the present.
  • Lastly, getting rid of the browsers is also important because it prevents you from trying to use streaming social media on your browser since you just deleted all the apps. 😉

 

As for my computer, I installed News Feed Eradicator for Facebook on my Google Chrome browser. With the Eradicator installed, when I go onto Facebook all I see is a little quote in place of my news feed, which looks like this:

facebook-feed

In addition to this, I set my account up so I get notifications (not emailed, but actually ON Facebook) when friends post, but I only turned on notifications from friends I really want to hear from – either people that I’m close to or are particularly interesting.

So I log in to Facebook a couple of times a day, maybe, from my home desktop, and each time I find maybe 6 or 30 or so notifications waiting each time. I opened up the notifications bar, and scan through, and only click on ones that pique my interest – the photo already looks funny, or that person always posts good stuff, or a friend left me a comment, or whatever. I don’t even open all of my notifications all the time. And that’s the point. I’m curating my own feed, not being fed an endless supply of shit that Facebook thinks I should be seeing.  Truly endless! No more.

Additionally, as you may already be able to tell from my screenshot, I also have an Ad blocker installed.

Basically, I only use social media from home while I’m on my computer, and I’m focusing on utilizing my phone as the powerful tool it should be seen as, not a nuisance in my life or an enemy in a love-hate battle of will. My phone feels like a friendly addition to my life now, for the first time in a long time.

That all being said, I have to admit that I also have a tablet that hasn’t really changed at all. I use a Samsung Galaxy Tab. It only has access to the internet via wifi, and it’s large enough that I don’t whip it out on every whim if I’m in a public place with wifi (and I don’t even take it everywhere with me). I do have Instagram on there.

My method with Instagram, since it’s no longer on my phone, has been to take whatever photos I want on my phone throughout the day, and then during my downtime at home when I might be using my tablet, I can Bluetooth photos from my phone to my tablet for posting.

I also have Facebook on my tablet. Fully functional.

So it’s still there. I still have access to this stuff. I’m not totally becoming a hermit or anything, and I don’t think that people who decide to totally forego all social media are being hermits anyway. But for me, this is working well.

Maybe people who haven’t experienced this strong struggle with streaming apps (or, internet addiction) think I’m overthinking all of this. But I think, more and more, and especially for younger generations, stepping back and taking a look at ourselves and our lives where social media is concerned is becoming increasingly important. Especially as this new media is being shown to shape how we think in ways that we aren’t really aware of. It’s important to maintain autonomy and personal responsibility.

I control where I get my news. I control who I connect with. Not Facebook. Not an algorithm. That’s important. Staying connected isn’t all about social media – it’s about staying connected to OURSELVES, first and foremost. And if we’re relying too heavily on websites like Facebook and Google and all their algorithms to make so many decisions for us, decisions that affect the very choices we make in life – well, I’m just not okay with that. And this is how I’m fighting against that. To me, it’s a matter of keeping my free will, free.

I got a computer in my room when I was 15 years old, but before that I was using the family computer since I was in 2nd grade, when I sent my first email to a classroom friend, and learned to use floppy disks in 5th grade. I was stoked when my family got our first flat screen computer monitor because it seemed SO futuristic, and I was elated to get rid of dial-up when I was in 8th grade. I had two online relationships when I was younger, back when it was still kinda weird and creepy to seriously meet people online. One of them turned into a real-life, long-term relationship. I got my first cell phone when I was 16 – it was a flip phone – and my first smart phone at about 20.

My point I’m trying to make is: I grew up with the increase in personal computer technology into our daily and personal lives. A true-blue millennial. I’m young yet I still remember what life was like before everyone had a cell phone and before home computers. As a child, I learned to read a paper map and how to use a phonebook but I also learned basic programming in middle school. And I still have my whole life ahead of me to continue to see where this is all going. With memories of simpler times still so fresh in my mind and my heart, I have a sense that we should tread easily in this territory and remain aware and conscious.

That’s what I’m wanting to get back at, to be honest. Those simpler times, when my brain wasn’t buzzing all the time, when I felt inspired and then actually did something about it. And since implementing these changes in how I engage with technology every day, my brain space does feel like it’s increased exponentially, honestly.

I’m more productive. I have a huge projects in the works that I started up just after all these changes, and I honestly am not sure I ever would be getting this far if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve changed how I live.

I’m happier. I’m more engaged with the world. I’m more in touch with what matters to me. I’m more engaged with the people around me, people I care about. Friendships that have been set at the wayside seem to have started to flourish.

Maybe it’s all coincidence. But I’m not gonna risk it to find out. All I know is, I like how this is going, and I have no intention to change a thing – unless it’s perhaps to continue down this road of de-connecting from superfluity, and re-connecting with my real life, right now.

 

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