Let's talk about social media
It's been a little over a month since I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts. At the beginning I went through some weird cravings to check something, anything and: scroll, scroll, scroll! That probably lasted a couple of weeks. I was constantly getting into news websites, checking the weather forecast, checking e-mail... in a rate that was abnormal. Even sites with any addictive features like Read.Write.as became an obsession. I realized I was just duplicating a learned behaviour after using the internet for years: scrolling endlessly. If one source was done, I jumped to another, to keep on scrolling. Weird. I think it was a withdrawal reaction. And for the first time I was aware that this scrolling addiction was imprinted in me at a subconscious level.
After the realization something clicked in my head: I just decided that was not a behaviour I wanted to practice anymore. I also observed that my phone was my twitch. It was easy enough to reach out and start some “doom scrolling”. This post “How My Digital Lifestyle is Changing” brings the definition of “doom scrolling” which I found interesting. So, yeah, my digital lifestyle is changing as well.
And every time we stop doing an addictive behaviour we better have a substitute. A more fulfilling one. Cal Newport in his book “Digital Minimalism” says that if we white-knuckle through a “digital declutter” without substituting the old behaviour with a better one, we will go back to the old behaviour. And social media, specifically, are basically a replacement for social interaction. We think it will fulfill our “social bucket” but then we are caught up in its addictive algorithms and the quality social connection we expected is not there. Cal Newport suggests that we need to think about high quality leisure activities to replace the time we would have spent otherwise (like doom scrolling).
For me, reading, writing, long walks with my partner and yoga were my substitutes last month. I fulfilled the social part of the equation by engaging with my city's local science-fiction and fantasy book club. They've been having virtual meet-ups since the pandemic started. I attended one meeting yesterday and had lots of fun! Since I'm an introvert I don't crave a whole lot of social interaction, so that was the perfect cup of tea.
After I felt I was disengaged enough from the scrolling addictive behaviour, I started exploring the Fediverse to see how it was different from the major social media platforms. I have a Mastodon account now. At first I thought I would fall into the same old doom scrolling pattern, but since it's decentralized and it doesn't have the ads/news monetizing cycle, I don't feel the addictive pull. I access it on my own terms and it doesn't create that craving or FOMO feeling for me. I'll keep on experimenting.
I just saw this video today by The Minimalists that I think gets to one of the main issue with social media, and it is by design. Food for thought.
By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.