My tagline on social profiles has been “I father. I write. I drink coffee.” for as long as I can remember. For almost as long, I've only consistently done two of those things.
Instagram was different. It wasn't Facebook, which I deleted many years ago and never looked back. It was visual and immersive and you could find photos and collections that inspired you. You could curate an amazing group of accounts to follow on almost any creative topic. Typography, architecture, Air Jordans, interior design, graphic design, and, of course, coffee porn. It has served me well for all of those things. It has also been a great way to consume hilarious content from several comedians I follow.
All that to say, Instagram has been, and continues to be, a positive experience for me to use. Even after they started implementing features and modes that were obviously to mimic features in other platforms I don't use and don't care to use. Stories is Snapchat. Reels is TikTok. The list is sure to go on.
Even after they were purchased by Facebook. Even after the original leadership took issue with the direction Facebook was forcing and left the company. Even after they added “from Facebook” throughout the UI of the app. Here I am, a pleased user of a free platform I get joy from using...knowingly being the product. My data being Instagram’s digital asset. Facebook’s asset. Being targeted by their scary good ad algorithm. Justifying that the inspiration and the creators that post it somehow negates the concerning practices of the parent company and its executive leadership.
Twitter is a bit different. It's mostly my place to follow podcasters and internet pundits I feel have something worthwhile to say or promote. Little chunks of text, often with a link out to more, that don't take much of my attention for any significant amount of time. Occasionally a platform where I post a quick thought on something about tech or a funny take on life. Informative, but without the joy or engagement that Instagram fosters.
Reddit is pure information junkie territory. If there is a topic that interests someone, chances are other people are interacting with one another about it via a subreddit. I'd steered clear of Reddit for a long time because I worried the value wouldn't outweigh the distraction. That wasn't the case once I started using it. If anything, it saved me time searching for things across online forums and sites. It's a useful platform when you curate the subreddits you subscribe to carefully and aggressively. I wouldn't necessarily classify what I get out of it as “joy”, but learning something new or solving a problem usually brings positive emotions to my brain.
So here I am... not believing my use of “social media” is anything concerning with relation to my focus or attention. Not being consumed by it, or letting it dictate my emotions on any topic of relevance in my life. Not having written a blog post in a very long time. Not having finished a novel or a long-form piece of written prose outside of an email newsletter or in-depth investigative journalist piece. Inspired and motivated, but without the time I need to execute.
My life is a bit more hectic than most. I have a large family and a long work commute (pre-pandemic). Of course, it will take time to get my ideas out into something well-written and consumable. Of course, the list of interesting books I feel inclined to read will continue to grow. Of course, none of this makes sense when I step back and take inventory of what content consumes my time. So, I'm taking a break. I'm going to see what the rest of this insane year of 2020 can bring with a few seemingly simple changes (considering the year so far, this is peanuts).
Here's my to-do list:
- Remove Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit apps from my phone and tablet. I'm not going full “tinfoil hat”, so if someone sends me a post they think I'd especially enjoy via text or if I see a link to one in a newsletter I keep around, it will load in the browser just fine. I'm not canceling/closing my accounts at this point; just creating a barrier.
- Setup shortcuts/automation to post about the content I've created to the social profiles I maintain for that purpose. Set these up using methods that don't require the app to be installed on the devices mentioned above.
- Setup shortcuts/newsletters for an aggressively curated highlight reel from these sources. Limit consumption of this highlight reel to 20 minutes per week.
- Link to this post in the profile of my social accounts. Not because I anticipate anyone will care (I have a small number of “followers” anyway), but if they do, this experiment may interest them.
- Write posts. Read books. Evaluate how that's gone in a few months.
Don't consider this me quitting social media. Consider it me heading out for a coffee... or a pack of cigarettes.