The other day I got an email from Cal Newport. He’s proposing to his email list the idea of doing a “digital declutter” in the month of January. It’s part of a study for his next book.
Here’s how he defines a digital declutter:
“…you take a 30-day break from optional technologies in your personal life (social media, web browsing, etc). During this period, you clarify what you really value and experiment with how best to serve these values. At the end of the 30 days, you then add back technologies to your life in an intentional way with the goal of supporting these values.”
I signed up for it.
I don’t know all the fine print yet, but there goes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for sure.
I don’t know about online newspapers, or podcasts yet either, but for sure he’ll paint bright lines around “constant email-checking”.
I am a little terrified of this.
That’s because I am currently under the zombie spell of media. Particularly political stuff.
I read my Twitter feed first thing.
I scroll Instagram.
I’m on Facebook.
I read the online versions of both the New York Times and the The Washington Post daily. I don’t watch Morning Joe, but I listen to the show’s 30-40 minute podcast every day.
And what do I get out of this?
Thousands and thousands of micro-hits of dopamine. All. Day. Long.
And I’m totally addicted. Rage and indignation are powerful and exciting drugs. A dark force inside me eats this stuff. And this force is hungry.
So I’m going cold-turkey for a month. The month of January.
It’s gonna be hard. That kind of “giving up sugar” hard.
But the hope is by month’s end I’ll have learned how to align my values to my social media habits, and not just use them to distract or enrage me. I want to learn how to be conscious in my use of it, not just get dopamine hits all day long.
I don’t want to get riled up, either good or bad, by media. I want to use it to support, collaborate, or connect with other people– not do whatever it is I’m doing with it now.
It’s very clear I need to take charge of my own eyeballs again. And also full responsibility for how I spend my time. I can’t let Twitter and Facebook, and Morning Joe hijack my attention, which is to say, my life, anymore.
I think this will be a good way to start the new year.
G says she want to do this, too. I’ll be nice having a fellow sufferer. But even if she doesn’t do it, she understands why I need to, and will be there to root me on.
And this is not just me. From what I’m picking up from the people I talk to in real life, and follow on Facebook (hah), I’m not the only one feeling the need for this.
A lot of people struggle with social media.. If this “digital declutter” in January sounds interesting to you, here’s what you do: just follow this blog, and I’ll pass along any instructions and tips Cal passes on to me. We can do this together if you want.
We can share stories and struggles in the comments.
(Now I just hope writing and reading blogs is allowed.)