📚Noisy Deadlines

socialmedia

It's been a little over a month since I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts. At the beginning I went through some weird cravings to check something, anything and: scroll, scroll, scroll! That probably lasted a couple of weeks. I was constantly getting into news websites, checking the weather forecast, checking e-mail... in a rate that was abnormal. Even sites with any addictive features like Read.Write.as became an obsession. I realized I was just duplicating a learned behaviour after using the internet for years: scrolling endlessly. If one source was done, I jumped to another, to keep on scrolling. Weird. I think it was a withdrawal reaction. And for the first time I was aware that this scrolling addiction was imprinted in me at a subconscious level.

After the realization something clicked in my head: I just decided that was not a behaviour I wanted to practice anymore. I also observed that my phone was my twitch. It was easy enough to reach out and start some “doom scrolling”. This post “How My Digital Lifestyle is Changing” brings the definition of “doom scrolling” which I found interesting. So, yeah, my digital lifestyle is changing as well.

And every time we stop doing an addictive behaviour we better have a substitute. A more fulfilling one. Cal Newport in his book “Digital Minimalism” says that if we white-knuckle through a “digital declutter” without substituting the old behaviour with a better one, we will go back to the old behaviour. And social media, specifically, are basically a replacement for social interaction. We think it will fulfill our “social bucket” but then we are caught up in its addictive algorithms and the quality social connection we expected is not there. Cal Newport suggests that we need to think about high quality leisure activities to replace the time we would have spent otherwise (like doom scrolling).

For me, reading, writing, long walks with my partner and yoga were my substitutes last month. I fulfilled the social part of the equation by engaging with my city's local science-fiction and fantasy book club. They've been having virtual meet-ups since the pandemic started. I attended one meeting yesterday and had lots of fun! Since I'm an introvert I don't crave a whole lot of social interaction, so that was the perfect cup of tea.

After I felt I was disengaged enough from the scrolling addictive behaviour, I started exploring the Fediverse to see how it was different from the major social media platforms. I have a Mastodon account now. At first I thought I would fall into the same old doom scrolling pattern, but since it's decentralized and it doesn't have the ads/news monetizing cycle, I don't feel the addictive pull. I access it on my own terms and it doesn't create that craving or FOMO feeling for me. I'll keep on experimenting.

I just saw this video today by The Minimalists that I think gets to one of the main issue with social media, and it is by design. Food for thought.

#socialmedia #attentionresistance #internet #noisymusings #deletefacebook #digitalminimalism


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

My process to delete these social media accounts has a timeline. It was not overnight.

Delete Facebook - Jan 10, 2021

Being aware

I've been thinking about the attention economy and social media addiction since at least 2016.

I created my Facebook account in 2009. After Facebook introduced the bottomless scrolling newsfeed with companies advertising inside the platform, I started to get annoyed by it. But at the same time I developed an addiction to it. I remember that feeling of logging in to Facebook and scrolling for a couple hours only to realize it was a waste of time. But everybody I knew was (is) there: high school friends, friends I made at a training course in Sweden, family, co-workers, bloggers, etc. This was before the Cambridge Analytica scandal but I remember seeing those “personality polls” they used to get information. I don't think I ever clicked on those, but they were everywhere.

Trying to remove distractions but still using it

I decided to get rid of Facebook's feed by “unfollowing” everyone I knew. This was before there were plugins or extensions that could hide your entire timeline. Then I used plugins extensively to avoid the feed and all the ads. I was only interested in participating in some Groups that organized local meet-ups, for example. So I used tricks to only see the Groups when I logged in and avoided all the other distracting things on the page.

Long story short, all those strategies weren't getting to the core of the problem. I started to join more groups and I was still checking Facebook every day, several times a day.

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This week Cal Newport talked about this paper titled “The Welfare Effects of Social Media.” I don't have access to the paper but research of this type always interests me. The social media site used on the research was Facebook and it's not surprising to see that:

“Deactivating Facebook freed up 60 minutes per day for the average person in our Treatment group.”

I deactivated my Facebook account last year and I don't miss it. Not having the urge to open Facebook and get lost in its endless timeline and roller-coaster of “likes” gave me more time and mental space. Time to read more books, time to reflect on what I read, time to meditate, time to do Yoga, time to do... nothing.

After doing this little experiment myself I'm sure social media, as it is available today, really hijacks our minds and changes our behaviours. It creates a weird feedback loop in which we click, click, click, get small amounts of dopamine due to its intermittent novelty and the return of our time investment is not proportional to the effort.

After I stayed away from social media for a while I realized I don't enjoy snippets of information anymore. And by that I mean: I deactivated Facebook, I drastically reduced the number of accounts I follow on Twitter and I deleted my accounts on Instagram and Pinterest. So even the short science/educational videos on You Tube started to annoy me. I prefer now to watch a full length documentary about a topic instead of watching 4-5 short videos about cool and interesting science facts.

I'm changing the way I consume content. It takes time because all around us everybody is still on this fast-paced mode of paying attention to quick snippets of information. And the way this information is presented to us is addictive. That's why I'm changing.

#attentionresistance #socialmedia #facebook


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I ask that because I noticed one day I was working extremely focused. The whole day. My working hours were highly productive. I was in a state of flow. It felt good. And that meant I didn't check social media. I checked my personal e-mail only 3 times the whole day. It was one of my most productive days in months!

And when I got home in the evening I sat down to read a book. And I just couldn't focus! I couldn't get past the first sentence. My mind was searching for something. CRAVING for something. And 15 minutes later of reading the same sentence over and over I realized I wanted to check news. Updates. New information!

It seemed like my brain needed stimulation before doing focussed work again. Does that mean I got addicted to the dopamine release related to the social media usage? I got my mobile phone and looked at the shiny screen... ...I opened Twitter, but there nothing much there anymore. ...2 minutes later I checked my 2 e-mails accounts. Nothing of importance. ...5 minutes later I checked Whatsapp and Telegram. Read all the messages. Nothing major to reply. ...10 minutes later I opened the Discord app. Read all the messages of the groups I currently participate on. Didn't need to reply anything. Done.

And then I was good to get back to my book.

There is one good thing happening here: none of the apps that I looked into had an endless timeline. Twitter could potentially have the never ending scrolling feed but I only follow 9 accounts there, so nothing much to see. And so I spent 17 minutes checking my “feeds”, which is not much considering that in the past I used to be sucked into the Facebook feed for hours.

I think I'm making progress...

But I still think my brain is not the same. Why did I had this urge to check any of those apps? I felt like a lab rat pulling the lever to get some food.

Weird... I wonder if I will ever get rid of this brain hack.

#socialmedia #addiction #attentionresistance #noisymusings


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Yesterday I deactivated my Facebook account. Yes, I didn't delete it yet, but I deleted my photo albums. I decided to be away from Twitter and Facebook this month inspired by Cal Newport's book Digital Minimalism.

The thing is: there is so much information available on the internet and I don't want to let an algorithm show me what to see. That's why I always love [moderated] discussion forums. It's theme focused and generally people there are looking for information and trying to help each other. Social media has some of it too, but 99% of it is just showing off.

I remember it was not used to be that way. It really was a more personal approach where we could connect and share ideas with close friends. Now it's an ad driven world where quantity matters more than quality. I used to love social media. I joined the first “connect to friends” websites back when “social media” was not even a noun. I used to have an account at SixDegrees.com. It was launched 22 years ago. It was shut down in 2001. Then I used MySpace (not my favorite), Orkut (2007, I remember there were hundreds of useless groups and hate speech started to build there) and then, Facebook (2009).

At the beginning I used Facebook to connect to a group of international colleagues from a course I've taken abroad. Facebook was not about news or companies profiles. There were only people. There were ads, yes, but they were less obnoxious. At some point all these companies started to show up on Facebook and ads started to overflow our timelines. And then viral videos. And then the non-chronological timeline. That annoyed me a lot. A timeline where you had no control of. Then I started to realize something was wrong with Facebook and with what my contacts were publishing there. It was all fake. It was all just for show. And I include myself in this madness. It's time to stop the madness.

I've long deleted my timeline on Facebook, meaning: I don't see anything on my timeline. I was occasionally logging to Facebook to check out some groups. And that's all I did there. I deleted my photo albums. And I'm still trying to delete my comments and likes but there's no way to automate that. I have to go to every single post and delete it manually. I'm still searching for a better solution.

I wonder if I delete my account, all my data will be deleted or Facebook will still have that data in their servers. I wanted to do a full delete from their servers. I don't know if that's possible yet.

For now, I deactivated my account. I'll be away from Facebook for 30 days.

#socialmedia #facebook #digitalminimalism #attentionresistance #noisymusings


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Erasing facebook

I've been thinking a lot about social media lately.

Actually, I've been thinking about it for a long time. And I've taken action to minimize my exposure: I deleted my Instagram and Pinterest account, I used extensions to eliminate Facebook's annoying timeline, I unfollowed hundreds of profiles on Twitter. But I still use social media a little.

I still check Twitter for local weather and traffic news or alerts. And I like to check the latest tweets from some cool authors I follow. I connect with people using the Facebook Groups platform. I have a LinkedIn account. I occasionally go check Reddit.

And after all this time reflecting, tweaking and observing my behavior I still think that the minimum amount of social media usage is not that beneficial. Maybe the benefits do not completely outweighs the downsides.

I can list at least 5 books I've read in the past that made me rethink the way I engage with social media and with the Internet in general:

And now I'm reading Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. And just like Tristan Harris saying that social media apps today are like slot machines, Cal Newport says they are the “new smoking”:

“The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your “likes” is the new smoking.” ― Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Which, in the end, is saying that they are extremely addictive, no doubt.

And I worry about it. Have I become addicted without even knowing? How did those websites and apps changed my behavior? Is my mind being hijacked? Am I aware?

I don't have answers right now but I am feeling that after reading Cal Newport's new book I'm gonna have a radical change on how I use social media and the Internet.

#socialmedia #digitalminimalism #noisymusings #attentionresistance

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Attention Wars

Who owns our attention? Are you paying attention?

This Braincraft series is a nice discussion about the #attentionwars.

There are 6 episodes discussing persuasive design, the psychology of attention and how to use technology more intentionally.

I love that in the end of each episode Vanessa Hill (the presenter) tells us to watch the series at our own pace and at our time 😊.

Recommended!

#socialmedia #attentionresistance #braincraft


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

The Hyperlink versus the Stream: a nice quick discussion point on what is going on, from Cal Newport : From the Hyperlink to the Stream: Hossein Derakshan’s Critique of the Internet in the Age of Social Media

Note: the article from Hossein Derakshan can be found here. Worth a read or re-read!

#socialmedia #digitalminimalism #attentionresistance #noisymusings


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Yes, I did it!

I was by no means an Instagram heavy user but I became more and more annoyed with the amount of ads appearing on my feed. And since Instagram is focused on the mobile interface, I couldn't find any workaround to remedy this annoyance. I've managed to tweak my Facebook so that it became less overwhelming to me but I couldn't find any workarounds for Instagram.

And you know what? I don't miss it. AT ALL!

Sure, it was a kind of an outlet for me to explore my amateur photographer side but the model of “likes” and “follows” and ads really irked me. Even if I was not following anybody the ads were there draining my attention. I've been using social media less and less. I still have a Twitter account that I use to check the weather and traffic conditions occasionally. My Facebook is heavily tweaked so that the only reason I go there is to participate in some Groups I find value in. And that's it. No feeds. No ads. Nothing popping up and demanding my attention.

I love this interesting article distinguishing between “social internet” and “social media” by Cal Newport: On Social Media and Its Discontents.

So, almost 4 months without Instagram and life is beautiful!

#socialmedia #attentionresistance #noisymusings


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.