in Being

10 things I learnt from being off the Internets for 30 days.

 

I took 30 days off all social media and most of the distracting internet. That really meant – no Twitter, no Facebook , no LinkedIn and most news sites were off. The only things in were Github and stackoverflow and a handful of other sites directly connected to my work.

Here are some insights from my time away:

  1. The first 3 days were the hardest.
  2. I had a habit – who knew! Checking my timeline and Facebook updates within 2 minutes of waking up is WTF!? This habit is really about my needs to learn and to feel part of a community, to be an audience for others and to have an audience for my ideas too.
  3. Deleting Twitter and Facebook apps on my phone and my laptop were essential to breaking the habit!
  4. Not checking Twitter and FB the first thing after I wake up gives me more time to cuddle my wife.
  5. My internet of everything is actually pretty small. The internets is vast but actually I only visit 5 to 12 non-work related sites a day. Mostly news and startup blogs – a miniscule percentage.
  6. I use my mobile mostly for Twitter, FB and email. With 2 switched off and the last on essential service only, I really didn’t need the expensive plan or expensive phone.
  7. Having a great interaction on Twitter or FB does not mean I actually like the other person or they like me or we will every be friends. It is a mirage of a relationship and it was rewiring my brain. There is more to a person than their tweets or Facebook updates. Without knowing this person, my brain fills in the blanks based on their tweets. If I like their tweets, chances are I like them and vice versa. This emergent behavior is pretty concerning, I am making value judgements based on very little data.
  8. I get a lot more done without all that Twitter and Facebook checking or updating – at least once I got my head away from thinking about going on them.
  9. I didn’t miss how I was using Twitter and Facebook. I think there is a better way to use both that gives me and others far more value. The really interesting conversations I wanted to have need more than a tweet. They need some thought, perhaps a blog post (more than 140 characters) and some conversation. I think this is where the power of Twitter really is. What I really missed was TED. I think it’s awesome and I need to keep watching – just a little less.
  10. Twitter and Facebook as I currently use them are not very useful to me. Moderately entertaining maybe, but not really useful. A useful network is more than people –  it needs purpose. Twitter is a channel –  a pretty meaningless one for most of the time until someone gives it substance and context – like an Arab Spring.

What Next?

There’s no denying that there are some interesting conversations to be had on Twitter and Facebook and over the last 4 years of using both I have had lots of conversations with lots of seemingly interesting people. But those conversations have overwhelmingly been shallow and throw away. If I consider the time I spent on Twitter as an investment, the returns are pretty low. So I’ve decided to significantly limit the time I spend on it even just having it running in the background.

Check in a couple of times a day

So I won’t be running Twitter whilst I work, it’s way too distracting. In fact I shall be using the cool OSX Mavericks feature of ‘Do Not Disturb’ to make sure all notifications are muted.

Since I work with a timer utility and my working day is divided into timed units, I’ll simply add a couple of 5 minute slots in the daily routine to see what interesting things are going on, reply to mentions or queue up longer post-replies on my blog. This goes for Facebook too and for the TED talks that I watch.

Less social distraction. Blog more about what I care about.

One of the things I really love about being on Twitter are the thoughts that the tweets I read inspire. What I really want to do is to reply deeply but the medium does not allow this. So I will blog a little more rather than tweet and post the blog as my response to those tweets. If the conversation is to continue it will need to do so on my blog site in a much easier to follow thread.

I would highly recommend taking a break from all things connected – you get more of your life back. Your real life –  the one with people and feelings and stuff. You also get your time back – to think, make and do versus simply being titillated by cute cats and clever 140 character quips.

 

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