Digital Minimalism

I have long hoarded social media accounts for the same reasons that I used to hoard physical items- the belief that they are useful, the old fallacy of 'just in case,' and because it feels`normal. 

Flipping between apps or sites at ever shrinking intervals throughout the day is a modern parody of productivity which used to gobble up most of my time.

Now that I have culled my belongings, I am doing the same with those which occupy no space, yet drain my time and focus. 

I have been on social media for a substantial chunk of my life. At the time when it first became wildly popular, I was young enough to be easily susceptible to fabricated social norms. I hopped onto Twitter the moment I had my own laptop and subsequently spent most of my high school years Beatles-centric trading puns with strangers. As a lonely, insecure thirteen-year-old, it was thrilling and addictive. Twitter was swiftly followed by Tumblr, then Facebook, Instagram, and all their other blue logoed pals. My number of accounts ballooned as I became more serious about blogging. 

Last year I went 3 months without any internet use and six months after that during which I just used it for an hour per week. After a few weeks of despising the change, I stopped missing it. Instead, I spent my time reading, filling countless notebooks, making art, watching movies, taking walks and with friends. This is something everyone should do at least once- a lot of people talk about 'detoxing' for a couple of days, yet it takes much longer to really clean the residual gunk out of your brain. I did return to using the internet daily again in December, and my time online quickly went back to the previous levels. At first, it was fun, then it became stressful and distracting. 

This morning I deleted Tumblr and that felt amazing. It had devoured cumulative months of my life since I was fourteen and no longer had any real value. Gone were the days when I used it to discover new books, movies, or bands.

I felt obliged to keep my queue full, obliged to respond to messages, obliged to check my favourite blogs every day, obliged to keep a cohesive aesthetic throughout my posts.

Failing to meet these imagined obligations sent me into a tailspin of anxiety. So, I clicked the little grey button, tucked away in tiny font at the bottom of the settings page. My hands shook for some unfathomable reason. Within seconds the account was gone for good. 

Deleting Tumblr was the biggest step so far in a lengthy process of trial and error. I have tested different systems, methods, and schedules for stepping away from social media. As I always say, minimalism is all about stripping life back to the essential components without depriving yourself of happiness. If I withdrew from the internet altogether it would make me miserable. Content creation is what I want to prioritise, which is why I am making my internet use focused. I meticulously curate what I expose myself to and the enhanced mental clarity is worth the initial pangs of regret. 

EDIT: Two months after posting this, I also deleted Facebook and haven't regretted it once.

Here are some of the steps I have taken so far to cut back on my social media/internet usage:

  • Blocking distracting websites. I use this other chrome extension to block unproductive sites which I only ever visit as a means of avoiding work. 
  • Scheduling time on the sites I still use. Aside from blogging, my social media use is now restricted to Instagram and Youtube. I set aside blocks of time for Instagram- 10 minutes to post each day, and a few 30-minute blocks each week for scrolling or commenting. The same applies to Youtube- I allow myself a maximum of 30 minutes pe day for watching TED talks, news, or videos from my favourite channels. 
  • Deleting most of the apps from my phone. Aside from Instagram, the apps on my phone are all useful ones which I recommend; Night Owl (this removes blue light from my screen after 7 pm to avoid disrupting my sleep), Evernote, Cold Turkey (for when I need to block any usage for a time), Sleepbot (an alarm that wakes you up during the lightest part of your sleep cycle to prevent grogginess), IF (more about this later), Castbox (for podcasts), Water Time Pro (to ensure I drink enough), Vocabulary Builder, and Duolingo (for languages.) 
  • Using IFTTT. This service is amazing. It has changed the way I use the internet. IFTTT works by integrating various apps or services which saves so much time. The uses are numerous, but some of the recipes I use are; automatically tweeting Instagram pictures, turning my wifi off when I leave the house, silencing my phone after 10 pm, saving starred emails to Evernote, and saving email attachments in Google Drive. It requires no effort whatsoever to keep all of my account synchronised without me having to even log into them. 

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