Free time with no Facebook

This week Cal Newport talked about this paper titled “The Welfare Effects of Social Media.” I don’t have access to the paper but research of this type always interests me. The social media site used on the research was Facebook and it’s not surprising to see that:

“Deactivating Facebook freed up 60 minutes per day for the average person in our Treatment group.”

I deactivated my Facebook account last year and I don’t miss it. Not having the urge to open Facebook and get lost in its endless timeline and roller-coaster of “likes” gave me more time and mental space. Time to read more books, time to reflect on what I read, time to meditate, time to do Yoga, time to do… nothing.

After doing this little experiment myself I’m sure social media, as it is available today, really hijacks our minds and changes our behaviours. It creates a weird feedback loop in which we click, click, click, get small amounts of dopamine due to its intermittent novelty and the return of our time investment is not proportional to the effort.

After I stayed away from social media for a while I realized I don’t enjoy snippets of information anymore. And by that I mean: I deactivated Facebook, I drastically reduced the number of accounts I follow on Twitter and I deleted my accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. So even the short science/educational videos on You Tube started to annoy me. I prefer now to watch a full length documentary about a topic instead of watching 4-5 short videos about cool and interesting science facts.

I’m changing the way I consume content. It takes time because all around us everybody is still on this fast-paced mode of paying attention to quick snippets of information. And the way this information is presented to us is addictive. That’s why I’m changing.

Are our brains being hacked?

I ask that because I noticed one day I was working extremely focused. The whole day. My working hours were highly productive. I was in a state of flow. It felt good. And that meant I didn’t check social media. I checked my personal e-mail only 3 times the whole day. It was one of my most productive days in months!

And when I got home in the evening I sat down to read a book. And I just couldn’t focus! I couldn’t get past the first sentence. My mind was searching for something. CRAVING for something. And 15 minutes later of reading the same sentence over and over I realized I wanted to check the news. Updates. New information!

It seemed like my brain needed stimulation before doing focussed work again. Does that mean I got addicted to the dopamine release related to social media usage?
I got my mobile phone and looked at the shiny screen…
…I opened Twitter, but there is nothing much there anymore.
…2 minutes later I checked my 2 e-mails accounts. Nothing of importance.
…5 minutes later I checked Whatsapp and Telegram. Read all the messages. Nothing major to reply.
…10 minutes later I opened the Discord app. Read all the messages of the groups I currently participate on. Didn’t need to reply to anything. Done.

And then I was good to get back to my book.

There is one good thing happening here: none of the apps that I looked into had an endless timeline. Twitter could potentially have the never ending scrolling feed but I only follow 9 accounts there, so nothing much to see. And so I spent 17 minutes checking my “feeds”, which is not much considering that in the past I used to be sucked into the Facebook feed for hours.

I think I’m making progress…

But I still think my brain is not the same.
Why did I had this urge to check any of those apps?
I felt like a lab rat pulling the lever to get some food.

Weird… I wonder if I will ever get rid of this brain hack.

#socialmedia #addiction

No more Facebook 👎

Yesterday I deactivated my Facebook account. Yes, I didn’t delete it yet, but I deleted my photo albums. I decided to be away from Twitter and Facebook this month inspired by Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism.

The thing is: there is so much information available on the internet and I don’t want to let an algorithm show me what to see. That’s why I always love [moderated] discussion forums. It’s theme focused and generally people there are looking for information and trying to help each other. Social media has some of it too, but 99% of it is just showing off.

I remember it was not used to be that way. It really was a more personal approach where we could connect and share ideas with close friends. Now it’s an ad driven world where quantity matters more than quality. I used to love social media. I joined the first “connect to friends” websites back when “social media” was not even a noun. I used to have an account at SixDegrees.com. It was launched 22 years ago. It was shut down in 2001. Then I used MySpace (not my favorite), Orkut (2007, I remember there were hundreds of useless groups and hate speech started to build there) and then, Facebook (2009).

At the beginning I used Facebook to connect to a group of international colleagues from a course I’ve taken abroad. Facebook was not about news or companies profiles. There were only people. There were ads, yes, but they were less obnoxious. At some point all these companies started to show up on Facebook and ads started to overflow our timelines. And then viral videos. And then the non-chronological timeline. That annoyed me a lot. A timeline where you had no control of. Then I started to realize something was wrong with Facebook and with what my contacts were publishing there. It was all fake. It was all just for show. And I include myself in this madness.
It’s time to stop the madness.

I’ve long deleted my timeline on Facebook, meaning: I don’t see anything on my timeline. I was occasionally logging to Facebook to check out some groups. And that’s all I did there.
I deleted my photo albums. And I’m still trying to delete my comments and likes but there’s no way to automate that. I have to go to every single post and delete it manually. I’m still searching for a better solution.

I wonder if I delete my account, all my data will be deleted or Facebook will still have that data in their servers. I wanted to do a full delete from their servers. I don’t know if that’s possible yet.

For now, I deactivated my account. I’ll be away from Facebook for 30 days.

#socialmedia #facebook #digitalminimalism #personal

Thinking about social media

Thinking about social media

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media lately.

Actually, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.
And I’ve taken action to minimize my exposure: I deleted my Instagram and Pinterest account, I used extensions to eliminate Facebook’s annoying timeline, I unfollowed hundreds of profiles on Twitter.
But I still use social media a little.

I still check Twitter for local weather and traffic news or alerts. And I like to check the latest tweets from some cool authors I follow.
I connect with people using the Facebook Groups platform.
I have a LinkedIn account.
I occasionally go check Reddit.

And after all this time reflecting, tweaking and observing my behavior I still think that the minimum amount of social media usage is not that beneficial. Maybe the benefits do not completely outweighs the downsides.

I can list at least 5 books I’ve read in the past that made me rethink the way I engage with social media and with the Internet in general:

And now I’m reading Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. And just like Tristan Harris saying that social media apps today are like slot machines, Cal Newport says they are the “new smoking”:

“The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your “likes” is the new smoking.”
― Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Which, in the end, is saying that they are extremely addictive, no doubt.

And I worry about it. Have I become addicted without even knowing? How did those websites and apps changed my behavior? Is my mind being hijacked? Am I aware?

I don’t have answers right now but I am feeling that after reading Cal Newport’s new book I’m gonna have a radical change on how I use social media and the Internet.

#socialmedia #digitalminimalism

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Attention Wars Mini-Series

Attention Wars

Who owns our attention?
Are you paying attention?

This Braincraft series is a nice discussion about the #attentionwars.

There are 6 episodes discussing persuasive design, the psychology of attention and how to use technology more intentionally.

I love that in the end of each episode Vanessa Hill (the presenter) tells us to watch the series at our own pace and at our time 😊.

Recommended!

#socialmedia #attention #braincraft