one month ago I started a new digital/fast news detox experiment . I haven’t had a perfect run of it. I’ve certainly indulged in a bit more social media than I should have, on Friendica mostly but a little bit on Facebook. I definitely indulged more in instant messaging to fill in some of the time. I also wasn’t good about timeboxing my RSS feed reading to the evening hour either. I was bad about cutting down on my YouTube time as well, but I did keep that almost exclusively to tech and food topics not current events and not short clips either. Even with all of that it was a radical change in my consumption habits and a radical reduction in the dopamine fix seeking. It was successful enough I plan on rolling it into a second month with some tweaks.
As I wrote, in an ideal world all of the space opened up by removing those things would have been filled with active or passive productive pursuits rather than the smattering of things that I used instead. However all of those more distractionary activities combined can’t fill the gap of hundreds of tweets an hour on topics that triggered my dopamine response either by being interesting or infuriating or both. I don’t miss the weariness that all of that brought me, though. I don’t miss the weariness that watching the world burn while the one third doing it get ahead and another third just passively goes along with it or ignores it. I know that shit is going on. I was able to keep up with it mostly through my local paper and a little through The Economist and word of mouth. The daily, hourly, by-the-minute reporting of all of that insanity isn’t necessary to know what I need to do to do my part of trying to stop the insanity. If anything ignoring all of that keeps my reserves up.
Along with what I removed I added in a bunch of reading and content on Insight Meditation, also termed Vipassana Meditation. While I have done a good job of avoiding most of these triggering things one of the things I haven’t done a good job of is being less reactive to them. I intened to keep working on that. I also intend to keep up the current consumption habits and try for another round of the digital detox. Now that I like some of the changes I’m going to again try to do the original schedule but I’m going to take some more steps.
Next Phase Steps
The first thing in the next phase is to delete Twitter. I don’t miss Twitter as much as I thought I would. As Musk gets more odious and its clear the platform is going to be turned into an even bigger steaming pile than it already is, me leaving is even better. Even if that deal doesn’t go through and Twitter somehow spontaneously turned into some oasis, the fact is I don’t need it or the perpetual stimulation it was giving me. What does “delete Twitter” mean? I’m going to archive all of my tweets and connections for my personal archive and then I’m going to delete all of my lists, follows, and tweets. Then I’m going to ensure that all of the images and movies in bridged Friendica posts from the old server and the new are properly archived with that content so I can still see it. At that point I’ll sunset the profile by deleting all of the tweets, retweets, media, reactions, etc. Lastly I’ll clear out all other information so that all is left is the handle, an empty account, and one tweet pointing to my Friendica account. Friendica will be my primary social media experience now while I continue to double down on being off of Facebook except for managing being invited to Events and using Messenger through the Matrix bridge.
Second, I’m going to cancel all my subscriptions to news organizations except for The Economist and my local paper. Those will remain my only intentional current events news sources. Realistically I still see other things on other people’s timelines or hear about them from conversations in day to day life. I have sometimes failed at avoiding the temptation to peek but I still haven’t returned to regular indulgences, nor do I need to. I have also unsubscribed from all my current events/politics podcasts except for The Economist as well. Again, I don’t get any useful additional information that I need for making decisions about how to make my own contributions to unfucking things by indulging in consuming them either. Does that mean I will never read a Newsweek article or do a DDG search on some material relevant to a topic? No. I’m not going to continue with that entire blockade. However I’m not going to seek out that content or indulge in it regularly. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum of when initiated by a conversation with another person directly but not reading links people posted.
Third, I’m going to try to address my reactivity issue by seriously exploring Vipassana Meditation. I found an online intensive meditation retreat that can replace the nearly impossible to get into in-person ones. I have a decent amount of schedule and distraction free space at home. So I’m going to use that to bootcamp my butt into a better meditation habit. After that though the whole application of insight meditation is not just for the 20 minutes or more I spend each day in meditation session. It is also about living with more deliberateness and being in the moment when things happen. That is a much bigger topic for multiple blog posts that I’m not qualified to write on and I don’t even have my own thoughts fully gelled on the topic. I will leave it at the goal of all of that isn’t to pretend that one doesn’t have emotional responses to events, happy or sad, but what you do with how you process those emotions.
Fourth, I’m going to double down on the timeboxing of the news/social media indulgences. The new rules will start with last trial’s rule that I post whatever I want and react to comments on my posts for up to one hour a day in aggregate. I’m going to keep the 30 minute window but it will be for all news and also Friendica only social media browsing. That means I’ll have 30 minutes a day in the time after dinner but long before bed to indulge in any of the following news sources: the local daily paper, The Economist, anything in the RSS feed, and Friendica social media posts/comments by other users. On all of the social media interactions the thing I need to watch out for is the urge to indulge in the dopamine response cycle. I could feel that creeping in last month. I’m hoping a combination of being aware of that and the positive side effects of the insight meditation will break that finally. If it doesn’t I’ll have to address that in the next trial.
Fifth, while in an ideal world I will totally eliminate falling back on instant messaging and YouTube as time fillers, as long as I try to be less autonomic about that I will continue to use them without major restriction. I’m still sticking to avoiding current events/politics type stuff on YouTube as well as short clips of any kind. For instant messaging the volume of time I use it is less an area of improvement than reflexively checking, again because of the feeding into the dopamine response cycle. I think it will stay pretty manageable.
Now off to the second phase!