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)
- 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.
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.
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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