While part 1 I outlined the basic problem with social media, part 2 was a reflection on my own problematic media usage, this part is about the steps I am taking to get control back over the information and media that reach me.
Twitter and Instagram
I will delete Twitter and Instagram. Twitter is simply an unhealthy way of getting information. It is often emotional, reactive and to be honest I mostly just checked it to get my dopamine hit of likes. It pains me a bit to leave Instagram as it did gave me some ideas for photography. But again I used to check it compulsively, I compared likes and gave myself over to the illusion that this medium somehow helps me establish human connections.
This is something social media is very good at. Giving it’s users the feeling to have a human connection with someone when in fact it is a very shallow relationship if any at all. Sure real friendships can develop over social media but for me it is not worth the time spent there. I’d rather go someplace where people actually meet face to face. And most of the interactions I had online were with people I actually knew from somewher else.
In fact I made a “last post” on Instagram offering all the local people who follow me to exchange mails, phone numbers or to meet for a photo walk. No one took me up on this offer and I did not really expect it either. Just another signal to leave this medium behind me and focus on the people who are actually part of my life or could become part of my life.
I no longer want to read daily news. I am still a subscriber of “The Economist”. A weekly news magazine that provides me with a more global perspective on things. Reading German newspapers one would think this country is corrupt, ungovernable, full of crime and without any social cohesion. Then I read about other countries in The Economist and I am grateful for our efficient and honest bureaucracy, the fair political process, the freedoms we enjoy and the economic wealth we produce.
I am also subscribed to two political and philosophical magazines that are not just reporting on daily occurrences but actually analyze complex topics, connect dots and try to engage the reader on a much more thoughtful level than quick headlines and short articles on the latest scandal ever can. It is also a good exercise in keeping focus by reading multi-page articles.
For local news I simply grab one of the many free newspapers or event magazines. I mainly want to know about new openings, events, some changes to local laws, changes to train or bus routes and such things.
Forums, Reddit, Tech Sites
I want to reduce the times I spent checking for new information on these sites. Most of it repeats itself or is not really relevant for my life. My goal is to check these sites whenever I have certain questions, looking for new ideas or wanting to actually buy a new lens or notebook or something of this matter. Constantly checking these sites just fuels this need to buy new and “better” stuff.
I want to write more about videos games in another post. It took me two years to finally let go of this distraction. It started by selling my computer and opting for a notebook when my daughter was born and ended with finally deleting my Steam account over last Christmas. The time spent with games feels like a colossal waste. When I leave this earth it is going to be one of the very few things I will regret spending too much time on. But more about that in a later post.
I have no good solution for Youtube. I won’t delete it because I watch some channels that are really worth my time. But I also waste a lot of time distracting myself. Right now with the hard lock downs going on I can’t take this medication away from me. But I will keep in mind what a lot of my YouTube consumption actually is…a way to self medicate.
I don’t see my blog reading habit as problematic. I read a lot of blogs that engage my thinking or creativity. I also enjoy commenting on my and other people’s blogs which is much more involved and reflective than Twitter or Facebook. The problem I have with blogs though is that I constantly check my feeds out of boredom to see if there is something new. That seems a bit unhealthy.
So I signed up with Blogtrottr which sends me a daily digest of each blog or website I want to follow. I can sort these emails into a special folder and read them at my leisure without compulsively checking for new content. I am not quite happy with it though because I get separates emails for each blog. I am still looking for a service that would gather all blogs into one daily digest. Like having a magazine with different topics.
The next few weeks or rather months will tell how much these changes will improve my mental wellbeing. I thought long and hard about better managing or limiting my media usage but in the end I had to admit that cutting most of them off is the only viable way. Maybe some people can handle social media better but many people and myself included can’t. So deletion is the only good solution. Do we really miss out on not using Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? Did people before the Internet lead less satisfying lifes? I don’t think so.