I did a 3-day social network rehab, here’s what I learned

I got a little bit upset last Sunday for no good reason, so I decided to take a break from all my social network for 3 days and see what happens.

Why am I doing it

There’s no correlation indicated by this “so” — I didn’t get triggered by something on the social network (benefit of dumping censored like shit social network hosted in mainland China like Douban). I don’t know why I suddenly came to the conclusion of I should get away from social network that day, but I did it anyways.

I guess the underlying force that’s driving me to do it could be fear of starting a new job after not been working for 7 months. Yes I’m starting a new job, and yes I haven’t been working since mid January this year. That’s another long story (if you read Chinese you can check it out here).

In the past 7 months I’ve spent most of my time doing following things if I’m not sleeping, hiking, working out, reading, watching Netflix or traveling and meeting friends offline:

  • Scrolling and posting to my mastodon (a decentralized twitter-like social network, I host my own instance which is connected to many others’)
  • Chatting with my new friends I met on discord, on discord
  • Connecting with my real life friends (and sometimes online friends) on Instagram
  • Occasionally checking twitter for artists and friends from tech world

Sometimes these things ate up more than 50% of the time I’m awake. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Actually I probably got to connect to more people than I’ve done in the past 5 years combined and I’m really happy about it (even I’m usually a bit anti-social) and surprised that I did it. Probably because work is not using up all my energy.

But, as I’m restarting my professional life after a while, such life style would definitely NOT be sustainable.

I’m pretty good at executing things that I actually want to do. Yes, I procrastinate A LOT, on small things like getting up, taking shower, finishing a meal, putting my phone down, and very often, on work I don’t want to do. But for things I DO want to do, I execute them hard and at full speed:

  • I didn’t touch my computer for 6 months when I was preparing for Gaokao (a much harder version of SAT to get into college in China) back in the era of no smartphone.
  • I have studied for GRE (the test you need to take to apply for most of US graduate schools) for a few months more than 8 hours every day, while I have full time college classes to attend.
  • I have learned Pixel Art for 100 days non stop, probably 1 – 3 hours a day, while having a full time job, no matter if I’m sick or traveling or only slept 4 hours or have a tight deadline to beat.
  • I have lost 10% of my weight in 3 months without spending extra time on diet or exercising, just by hard starting a 20/4 intermittent fasting (IF) without any IF experience.
  • You got the idea.

So, even I’ve been a heavy social network user back when social network wasn’t a thing (the good old days of blog and bbs), a 3-day social network rehab was merely a challenge for me.

I use the word rehab instead of a more common word “detoxic” because nothing is intoxicating me on my social network (although “rehab” probably make it sound like a worse problem). It’s just me want to reshape a long time habit to better adapt to a lifestyle change.

What I did

Following things were crossed off my list for 3 days:

  • Personal Discord (discord for work is another story)
  • Mastodon (so, the only Chinese social network platform I’m still actively on)
  • Instagram
  • Forums, twitter, reddit, etc
  • Douban (I had been only updating watching, reading, playing libraries and not using it for social purpose for a while anyways. Now it’s just stop checking notification or occasionally replying)

What I still left on:

  • DMs (I’m not disappearing or isolating myself in any means)
  • 3 Wechat group chat (The only active ones I have is a 3 close group and 2 college friends ones)
  • Youtube (I usually just queue up videos to watching during workout and hadn’t have spending a ton of time on it anyways)
  • Telegram channel (I post fun things I read or watched to my own channel occasionally, and I read a few tech and gaming news channel)

With the good several hours spared from social network everyday, what I did more were:

  • Work, probably just because it’s still new, but I’ve never felt so productive, shipped my first PR to production on day 3.
  • Newsletter and blog reading, mostly Morning Brew, my rss feed, google news, sspai (a Chinese tech review platform)
  • Random errands that’s been sitting on my todo list for a while

I also started (again) a daily focus list to list and cross off important achievements of a day. I’ve tried this multiple times, on physical paper, on hand-writing e-ink tablet, using digital todo list. Non of those attempts succeeded in either boosting my productivity or making me feel good.

This time I use Notion toggle + checkbox (also explored using Database as I do for most of other cases but didn’t work, as the additional clicking into an entry adds friction). So far it’s feeling strong and will see if it last.

What I learned

As you can see I spend more paragraphs on “why” than “what”, because “what” in this case is fundamentally very simple and anyone can do it, if they want. But looking back and analyzing “why” is what makes me “want” to do it, like really want, not just “yeah maybe some day” want.

So takeaways:

When completely taking something off my list, I don’t FOMO.

To be honest I don’t FOMO (fear of missing out) for most of things anyways. I ate alone at school. I say no to most of company parties. I ignored and will be ignoring bitcoin, NFT and GME without regret. But for social network, there’s an urge to check every few minutes to see if there’s new reply or like. When I decided to completely not touching it, the urge is gone.

I want to share

I still have a lot of things I want to share. Including but not limited to: new discord features I learned, a productive conversion with CEO, a colleague that looks like a friend, my cats cuddling, a deal I found relevant to certain group of people, my random thoughts, etc. Halfway through this rehab I started to want to write this blog. Without social network a lot of those things have no outlet. I can triage some of them to real life and channels I still left on, but those are not sufficient or appropriate for every case.

Solution?

So now I’m considering timeboxing my social network usage. In those dedicated slots I’ll scroll my feed and sending likes without guilt. Outside of those box if I have something to say, post it, but don’t check feed or notification.

Not sure if it will work but worth a try.


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8 thoughts on “I did a 3-day social network rehab, here’s what I learned”

  1. 原谅我用中文写评论
    如果你一开始就是只决定离开 SNS 三天,这会不会是你没有 HOMO 感觉的原因?(抱歉擅自揣度您的想法)如果是离开一个月、更久,或者完全离开,我觉得很多人是会有与现代社会脱节的担忧的,这大概是 SNS 的戒断反应之一。
    另外值得说明的一点是,如果是像我这样很少有现实社交的人,离开了网络,是需要有转移这部分社交需求的渠道的,不然很容易陷入到自我封闭里去。

    1. 我是决定了不关心的事情就很少 FOMO 啦,就像我决定长时间离开知乎离开豆瓣也没有在 FOMO。所以如果将来真的有一天我决定离开所有社交网络的话的,那多半是我 made informed decision of this doesn’t matter to me, which indicates that 我的需求在其他地方得到满足。如果不能的话,那为什么要做这种决定呢?另外,就算决定了还是可以改回来嘛,何必自己为难自己。

      1. 可能与我做决定的方式有关。
        我在 https://misskey.io/notes/8pc20ih55a 有说,“知道什么东西是该放弃掉” 是重要的。
        意味着一样东西就算存在好处,在权衡其缺点,我的时间,产生的价值等因素之后,如果不值得,那就放弃,就算它存在好处。
        但主观就是主观,不会管这些功利性的东西,加上原先已经习惯了这些东西,在某些时刻产生的“失去”的感觉更加强烈,就是 FOMO 了

      2. 抱歉,我的论述可能有点混乱和文不对题,尽力补充一下。
        重新总结一下。“决定了不关心的事情就很少 FOMO ”,我做不到,可能我的理性和感性隔离得有点开,互相之间的影响力比较弱。
        “需求在其他地方得到满足“,除了是我判断这是刚性需求以外,我不会在完全得到这样的结论时才会行动,原因论述见前文。
        (上条评论我邮箱又写错了,贵博客不考虑一下加删除评论或者修改的功能吗)

  2. 哈哈哈从来没有FOMO感但非常有分享欲+1
    即使我几乎不刷朋友圈,微信号还能用的时候我还是会发朋友圈。然后发现什么好玩的或者有意义的事情就想在豆瓣/长毛象写出来让大家看到。

    让我戒掉这种特别爱说的习惯好像太难受了点,所以其实需要克制的可能是发了东西要不停check回复从而浪费的时间?

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