One of the things on my list of goals for the year is to reduce my dependence on social media. This has been something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now, but I’ve had problems defining what this means to me.
I’m a very active user of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and – to a lesser extent – Pinterest, Tinder and Goodreads. I chat with people using Facebook Messenger, Hangouts, Slack, two different Skype accounts (business and private) and my colleagues using Lync. I keep track of news and current events using Reddit and Feedly. I subscribe to 24 podcasts, netting maybe 15-20 new episodes of things to listen to every week.
Between all of this, there is very little time to just sit back and relax.
The worst thing is; there are very few things on the list that I can imagine cutting out of my life right away. Every single service has at least one person or phenomenon unique to it that I have problems either cutting out of my life altogether or moving to another place. Strangely enough, the easiest services to cut would probably be two of the three that I currently use the most; Facebook and Instagram. I get most of my meaningful social interaction via IM chats and Twitter; most of the content I get from Facebook and Instagram feels like filler in comparison.
So; instead of making any dramatic change to all of my services at once; I’m going to roll out smaller changes every now and again, focusing on one service at a time and trying to figure out how I can spend less time using it. For starters, I’ve just unfollowed, on Instagram, everybody I don’t have a personal relationship – or want to have one – with. It went from 187 people to 80. Instead of a new post popping up every ten to fifteen minutes, I get maybe twenty a day now. I’ve also cut back on following a couple of people on Twitter, but will probably be cleaning house even further in a couple of weeks.
I talk a lot about what I’m about to do, but not so much about why I want to do it. Why does one want to reduce their dependence on social media and cut back on all the wonderful people and interactions they have in their lives?
It’s simple, and it all boils down to a single word: distraction. All of these people, all of these things that are happening, all of these inputs – they’re all extremely distracting and don’t allow me to sit down and focus on what it is I want to be doing. Sure; I might suffer from ADHD, which means that it’s not all that easy for me to focus on what it is I want to be doing in the first place, but constantly having the feeling that I just might be missing something that might be happening on some service I’m not currently glued to is extremely frustrating. I’ve got TweetDeck open in full screen on a secondary screen as I’m writing this, and every time one of the six columns updates, my head involuntarily twitches in that direction to see what somebody’s written. While writing that sentence, this popped up in my feed:
"Oh, all mystery writers go to Heaven, didn't you know?" – angel on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents"
— Bonnie Burton (@bonniegrrl) January 30, 2015
… And that tweet, which doesn’t affect me at all or doesn’t in any measurable way add something to my life, still stole a second of my time and made me pause in mid-sentence, possibly forgetting what I was writing about or getting myself derailed. Of course; right after I wrote that word, “derailed”, in the end of the previous sentence, another tweet appeared in my timeline:
— Christian Carlsson (@ChristianCkd) January 30, 2015
(For those who don’t speak Swedish or who aren’t familiar with the situation: The leader of the Christian Democrats, one of the smallest parties in our government, stepped down yesterday, and there’s a magazine holding a vote for who people would most prefer seeing replace him. That’s what the tweet is about.)
Naturally, I clicked the link, voted for my favorite candidate, and then went back to Twitter to write a Tweet of my own to discuss this:
— Breki Tomasson (@BrekiT) January 30, 2015
Then I remembered I was writing a blog post. Again; distractions, distractions, distractions. That, my friends, is why I want to reduce my dependence on social media. I want a small channel of data that doesn’t constantly need to be monitored in real time, and which allows me to keep in touch with friends and family, fans and idols, strangers and acquaintances, in a way that is relaxed and easy. I realize that, in a large way, this is a perspective thing for me and not an actual problem with the social media itself. I don’t need to have Twitter open 24/7, nor do I need to follow so many people on Facebook. Still; it’s also a very complicated thing for me to get the balance just right.