Do You Need A Digital Declutter?

Hand reach out from laptop screen, isolated on black background

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.)


Stay tuned.

I Need to Friend Waldo on Facebook

Imagine what would have happened if the artist who drew Where’s Waldo? had put just a little more space around Waldo?  We would have picked him out immediately, right?

When there is just a little more space around things, they come into view; we can see them. They can move and breathe and make choices.

Today when I opened my email after returning from my evening yoga class, there was an email from Facebook with the subject line: Kathleen, You have notifications pending.

What the…

On Saturday it will be a week since I’ve been on Facebook. I am taking a deliberate break from Facebook, a media fast, if you will. I didn’t announce it, or notify anyone I was doing it, I just stopped going there. That’s my perogative, right? What does Facebook care?

Then the body of the email went on to tell me about all the stuff I have been missing: Friend requests, Notifications, Messages, complete with thumbnail pictures of some of the people I follow.

How did Facebook even know I wasn’t there? I’m more or less a “lurker” there anyway. I spend most of my time “liking” other people’s status updates, or making a little comment here or there. I don’t post photos, I don’t promote this blog, I just read it, like I would read the newspaper: to find out what people are up to, thinking about, obsessing over.

But lately Facebook has been cluttering my consciousness with too much stuff. I was feeling the need for a little space so I could feel articulated, seen, like Waldo might be seen if there was more space around him.

I needed space to just be, without the clutter of other people’s concerns reverberating in my head all day. Is that too much to ask, Facebook?

Why do you need to hunt me down via email? Tell me about all the stuff I’m missing?

I’ll be back, but in my own time and on my own terms. I need time to figure out how to be with you in a way that there is articulated space around me for other things.

I need to find Waldo, and create a little space around him. Some space for a friendship to grow.

Media Fast

I was talking to Emily the other day, and the conversation turned to what we are reading these days. Em always has a book or two going, and she was telling me that her employees are all voracious readers, too. When they are on break at work, they all sit and read.

She loves that about them. I love that, too. (I always picture people on “break from work” either texting or taking a cigarette break.)

I am still reading my February book and here it is almost 10 days into March. I was cruising Facebook today and it suddenly occurred to me that in the time I was doing that, I could have been reading my book.

Today starts the university’s Spring Break which means that G heads down south with her team. I will be here with Boomer, holding down the fort and teaching my classes. I am thinking that a little media fast might be in order. I think I will give up Facebook this week, and instead, put my face in a book.



Food For Thought

I have made some new goals for myself recently.  In addition to my daily Holosync session (I am now on day 290 of that without a miss) and my “pen” writing in my paper journal (I just re-started after a 2 week break and am now on day 10).

I have committed to this blog for 6 days a week (Sundays off). And I kept to that schedule for the month of September, but I’m beginning to struggle with coming up with content every day.  I need “Food for Thought.”

I need to read.  Reading is my “food.”  When I am engaging with another mind through a book, all kinds of connections start happening and there is a firestorm in my brain, and I think that I will never STOP writing.

But without food it’s like gnawing on a shoelace.

I have so many books cued up on my Kindle and on my bed table it’s not even funny.  I need to schedule in some serious reading time.  But where?  Where can I find or steal time?  What needs to go?

Today Facebook was down for awhile.  I logged in and all my friends were GONE.  It was highly disturbing.  I felt like something I had painstakingly built had been destroyed.  And in a way that was true.  I have built something there: a network of shared moments, and shared lives with quite a few people, and I felt bereft when it suddenly disappeared.  (It returned.)

But when I think of where I will find the time to read, I know it will have to be here; I will have to cut back on online activities.  I spend entirely too much time here– time that would be better spent reading.

So I’m going to try to set some parameters here.  Anyone have any experience with doing this? Like “no computer after “X hour” or before “X hour?”  How about a media fast?  Anyone done that?

I’d really appreciate your input on this.