The leaves outside of our apartment window has been reminding me of this same time, last year. I usually relish this kind of memory marking. What was I doing the last time the leaves began to curl? What was happening when the acorns began to roll around under foot? What did the purple asters bear witness to in last year’s October?
But this year, the yellow light that slants into my apartment in the late afternoon has been haunting me. Last October, I thought we were in the middle of the very worst part of a very hard year. I remember sitting at my computer feeling raw and wretched in the onslaught of campaign-related news, but I found solace in believing that soon it would all be over.
And then, of course, Election Day came and it wasn’t over.
We’re headed toward an anniversary. A year’s worth of months have come and gone bringing us closer to the day, not long from this one, when we’ll ask each other, “What were you doing this time last year?”
On November 8 last year, I spent the morning in Central Park. November 8th is James’s birthday and we’d decided to take the day off of work. Together we took Faye to a makeup Forest School class that we’d rescheduled for the occasion. We’d make a day of it, we thought. We’d bask in the fall sunshine and then we’d go as a family to cast our ballots. We’d show our two-year-old what democracy looks like. Later, we’d eat cake in bed and watch election returns.
More than being nearly a year since the presidential election, it’s also been a year since my social media binging spiraled out of control. Mostly the binging has been done in private and mostly on Twitter. I’m not a terribly prolific tweeter, but I’m fairly certain that for the better part of the year I didn’t miss a single tweet from anyone who I follow. In the past year, I’ve opened the Twitter app on my phone an uncountable—unfathomable—number of times. After being so gutted—and for shame, shocked—by the results of the presidential election, a part of me feared that something else unconscionable would happen while I wasn’t paying attention. For months and months I would wake up several times a night to refresh the app and scan my timeline for evidence of a new calamity. I’d nurse newborn Silas in the light of the January moon and an iPhone. Back to work, I’d pump at my desk while scrolling my timeline. (I’m not sure if anyone else has tried to pump breast milk while reading hot takes about the end of the world, but I can attest that it doesn’t make an already irksome endeavor any easier.) On my walk to the subway, I’d digest the tweets I missed since the last time I checked in. All day long, I’d compulsively refresh an app that actively made me feel terrible. I told myself I was using Twitter to say abreast of breaking news, but instead of feeling informed, I felt anxiety ridden.
Nearly three weeks ago, I deleted Twitter from my phone.
I was helped along by reading Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant. The book is based on the week-long challenge she created in 2015, asking listeners of her podcast to unplug from their devices a bit and tap into their creative potential. The book offers a much more nuanced look at technology than simply saying, “delete Twitter,” but for me, the part of the challenge that asked folks to delete an app from their phone was the most immediately impactful. Miraculously, I’ve started to feel a little bit better.
My Twitter diet shouldn’t be confused with burying my head in the sand. I still read the news. And, truth be told, I still visit my timeline during the week to check in. I use it to find my way to thoughtful commentary. I still send out an occasional tweet. But I don’t refresh the app ten times a day when I’m feeling bored or worried. I don’t scroll Twitter before bed. I don’t wake up repeatedly in the middle of the night to see whether we’ve launched a nuclear missile.
Deleting the app doesn’t change all that much, of course. Clearly, we’re still in the thick of a mess. No doubt we’ll continue to be rattled on a daily basis by a relentless news cycle. I’m not turning a blind eye to the goings on of the world around me, but I am protecting a bit of my time and a bit of my sanity.
How about you guys? Are you plugging in or out these days?
After the Vegas Massacre I deleted Twitter from my phone for 10 days. The constant influx of bad news and the triggering updates on the Weinstein case were too much for me. I’m back on now, but I have it on the second screen in my iPhone (as in, I have to scroll over to get to it), which sort of forces me to think before I compulsively click and scroll.
I like Twitter because it is a democratizing outlet for people — I follow SO MANY amazing women and men, many active in racial and economic justice efforts, and I don’t want to lose their insight. However, I do think boundaries are very helpful.
I’ve been Facebook free since 2011 … if anyone is going to dump a social media platform, might I suggest that one? It has made my life MUCH LESS COMPLICATED, especially in the last year… I do not want to know the political beliefs of my colleagues…
Yes, totally. I definitely follow lots of folks whose perspectives I wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise. Still, I needed a break from the mindless, anxiety producing scroll!
It’s interesting that since becoming a mum 12 yrs ago, I have a heightened sense of ’emergency ‘…. I’m not sure if it stems from the tsunami that hit Thailand which a work colleague and family were in; or the terrible Victorian fires that claimed so many lives not so long after…. I could easily have been in either of those from where we live near the beach and/or near the bush. Once you have children you really pick up their worries too.
We actively don’t watch tv news in our house unless the kids are safely in bed and we don’t tend to listen to the radio news if they’re in the car either.
I’d rather find it out for myself than being assaulted by the appalling way news is casually reported now. I think it’s wrapped in being a parent Erin – you wish and hope for the best with your kids and set them on the right path for happiness
I also took the no-twitter plunge a few months ago. It was early summer, and I realized I was leaving my twitter feed feeling so drained and unclear, which was the opposite of why I joined it (which, like you, was to keep up with our chaotic political situation). So when it stopped inspiring me to take concrete action, I logged out and haven’t logged in since. I still check a few individual feeds on my laptop, but not in the unthinking, automatic way I checked my feed before.
I quit facebook a few years ago, and quitting twitter felt the same way– like shutting the window on a noisy street and letting silence sink in. It’s been good. 🙂
“Like shutting the window on a noisy street” – YES
I love that so much – ‘shutting the window on a noisy street’ – I’m going to think of all social media like that. By shutting that window I can see what’s inside ‘my room’ that I want to focus on or achieve.
Favorite tweet as of recent:
Brazos @Brazos_Elkins · Oct 17
yep, everyone’s life is still better than mine
ah yes. my fellow trash bretheren.
Also though, a message from a Kiwi friend I woke up to this morning: “We got a 37 yo female left wing prime minister now. Jealous?!” —> How cruel of her. And yet, how awesome that some parts of this world are getting it right.
Both of those tweets are worth reading. Thanks for sharing!
Also a Kiwi and yes, some of us are very glad to have a new Prime Minister! As a comment on unplugging from social media – I use Instagram to follow all the cool little places and people in my city, country and around the world that I’m actually interested in. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and check it online about once a week.
This echoes my sentiments exactly, Erin. I, like you, felt it was my duty to be plugged into Twitter at (almost) all times because I didn’t want to miss the perspectives of activists and professionals I respect.
I felt guilty if I wasn’t checking in at least once every couple hours. And while I learned so much and still find Twitter to have enlightening information that I don’t always find elsewhere, being that plugged in was actually a mistake for me, so I cut way back and I’ve found it to be helpful for my sanity but also my activism.
As always, thank you for sharing thoughtfully and honestly. So much appreciation for your posts – always, but this year especially. xo
This post really resonated with me since I went through something similar post election. I was constantly on Facebook for news (in the middle of the night, too) and waiting for impeachment. All this extra computer time ended up draining my adrenal reserve and I became unbelievably tired. I got off Facebook, took 18 weeks of Restorative Yoga classes and am now feeling back to normal. Ironically, even though I was staying abreast, I felt like I was doing less. When I got off Facebook, I found myself calling my senators more and being more active in my community. We already have so much stress in our lives, keeping up with the news ALL the time actually backfired for me.
I deleted my Facebook account and removed both of the apps, Facebook and the Facebook Messenger, off of my phone following the Women’s March in January. I had immediately wanted to delete them following the election, but working as a city/state organizer for the Women’s March on Washington and being responsible for getting two buses full of my fellow Memphians to Washington D.C. for the March required me to use Facebook to organize, communicate, plan. Once I got home and realized I no longer needed social media in the same way, I was happy and relieved to say goodbye to Facebook. I have never once missed it, and I actively stay on top of the news in ways that I feel are much healthier/less anxiety ridden for me.
Only semi-related but THANK YOU for looking out for Memphis and Tennessee. 🙂
Unplugging so hard over here. I deleted the instagram and twitter apps off my phone (I’ve been off facebook for years), and I used parental controls to literally block all the websites I was compulsively checking for news – buzzfeed, gothamist, nymag, etc. (And don’t forget twitter.com which is happy to ensnare me via my phone browser!)
My goal isn’t to bury my head in the sand, as you said, but to help myself become more present in my reality, in the moment I’m living, in the things happening around me. Checking in became so compulsive that I would take out my phone and launch twitter/buzzfeed/etc literally without any awareness that I was doing it – I’d just look down and see it, waiting.
Now, I get the error screen on my browser, and if I want to read the sites, I have to go into settings and disable parental controls. It’s a fantastic deterrent – and turns out, 95% of the time, I didn’t want to read them anyway.
I kept your site on my safelist, of course. It’s always a grounding, enriching place to visit. 🙂
I’m not on twitter as I have enough of a problem keeping limits on instagram and Facebook. Mostly I use Facebook for groups now and instagram is work. If you want to feel good about humanity again, join your local buy nothing group on fb and sit back and watch people being kind and generous all day long. As far as politics go and keeping up, I’m trying to focus on what I can do and not take in too much of everything that’s out of my control. One thing I did this year, thanks to 45, is become a street medic to help out those hurt by police violence at actions. My favorite phrase that I learned from my training is ‘spread calm.’ It’s so simple, but has been enormously helpful to say when I or others start feeling panicky.
“Spread calm” – making a note of that mantra. Thanks for sharing and thanks for your service as a street medic.
Yes to Buy Nothing! My local group is essentially the reason I still have my Facebook account.
I recently had my third kid and was lucky enough to spend a portion of my maternity leave (which fell over the summer months) with my 6 and 4 year old in addition to the newborn. My hands were full and I didn’t have the energy or time to scroll through any of my social media apps or keep up with the news. I asked my husband to let me know if there was anything I really needed to know and left it at that. It was a breath of fresh air. While I completely acknowledge that not being informed about what is happening in the world is not a great path to take, it was such a nice break for me. Politics aside, even just the day to day news of horrible things happening to people (kids drowning, murder-suicides, fatal car accidents…you name it!) can be sooooo draining. Now I am back at work and the news has a way of finding me and I find myself increasingly stressed out. I’m hoping to find a balance between burying my head in the sand and reading everything and not being able to sleep at night! Post-pregnancy hormones aren’t helping my cause either!
Kudos to you, Erin. I am not on twitter, but as a grad student without a structured schedule, I found that social media left me drained and altogether took up a huge chunk of my day. About a month ago, I decided to not check any social media during my working hours. When I’m craving that 30-second break from my work, I, no joke, look at my plants or gaze out the window. If I need a longer break, I read a book or go for a short walk. And, like you, I seek out thoughtful news that informs and teaches me (op-eds and long features in particular). This process may not work for you, given the nature of your work, but I do think there’s a way to consume these platforms and media mindfully.
I’ve never been on Twitter, mostly because I’ve always thought that I didn’t need yet another social media presence, but I recently deleted Facebook from my phone and it has been life changing. Facebook was the same for me that Twitter was for you: consuming, compulsive, life draining. Now I check Facebook every few days (or even once a week) instead of umpteen times everyday. It feels like coming up for fresh air.
I also installed an app on my phone to help me track usage called Moment. My goal is an hour or less on my phone each day and no use 8pm-8am. I’ve had this app for almost a year, but really had a hard look at my stats recently and thought, “what could I be doing with my time if I put down my phone?” And the answer is a lot of good stuff. I don’t always reach my goals, but it’s a nice nudge in the direction of them, and to try to use my phone as a tool instead of a distraction.
This is such a good idea. About March of this year I decided I had to stop compulsively checking the news on my phone, waiting for the next disaster to break. It was doing me no good and my anxiety level was through the roof. I instituted specific rules for myself about my news consumption and it helped immeasurably. This post is a good reminder to me to reset.
Like a few other commenters, I’ve never gotten into Twitter (except to complain to customer service accounts haha), but Reddit, Facebook, and the news seem to suck up all of my time. Partly inspired by Cal Newport’s Deep Work, and partly exhausted from all the screen time, I’m also taking a conscious step back from the internet these days. I struggle to stay focused at work (baby steps!), but my evenings have become wonderfully free. I cook dinner, read books, call my parents, and generally use my time in more relaxing and satisfying ways. I’m working towards a no-internet-at-work rule (I’m in the same boat as SJK was), but it’s tough!
Well done. Right there with ya. I too did the bored and brilliant challenge. I have never had a FB or Twitter…for me, it was needing to remove “inspiration” from my constant line of sight. I deleted Pinterest, my blog roll, and tons of home/lifestyle instagrams bc I felt this incessant need to measure up, compare, dwell, and (blec) envy. It wasn’t the apps or the content as much as my own inability to feed off creative energy in a way that was productive. There is a chapter in Manoush’s book about memory and outsourcing it to our devices–Pinterest was def a crutch. I was binge pinning so I wouldn’t ever forget any cool idea, outfit, saying, bathroom, or DIY EVER. Exhausting. Also, not very discerning. I was deferring my information fatigue by “saving it” for later. Currently daydreaming about home ownership and finding I’m searching and scrolling renovation instas I have deleted in my anxious fury. I am literally sneaking the insta-snacks that give me heartburn. (slaps forehead!).
I have been struggling with this too! I deleted Facebook off my phone a few months ago. And now I’m inspired to try Twitter too. Thank you for writing this, Erin!
Thank you for your candor, Erin. I too have spent the last year feeling horribly anxiety ridden and recently deleted Facebook from my phone in attempt to regain some sanity. It sounds like it has roughly the same effect on me as Twitter has on you and I just decided enough is enough. I still look at FB occasionally on my desktop (which I am at infrequently) but it feels more like a choice than an impulse. I also recently turned my phone to grayscale (per James Hamblin’s advice) and find myself FAR less tempted to use it at all – particularly scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, which is a weakness of mine. I highly recommend! Keep fighting the good fight. You’re not alone. x
WI’ll you explain “grayscale” and explain how to change your phone to this setting? I’m interested! Thanks!
Yes! Do tell please!
Grayscale is an accessibility setting in your phone. The theory is that the absence of color cues will reduce the urge to use your phone or check notifications. Hamblin is the author of If Our Bodies Could Talk. https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/480240/adventures-in-grayscale/
Trying it today, actually!
I check my Twitter feed several times a day praying that indictments have started. I have eczema for the first time in my life and the flare up has lasted all year. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Please Mr Mueller, it’s time to act now.
I heard you deleted the Internet from your phone. And that you deleted Twitter and Instagram and e-mail. No way that’s true, right?
It is! Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You’re not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things. What happens is, eventually you forget about it. You don’t care anymore. When I first took the browser off my phone, I’m like, [gasp] How am I gonna look stuff up? But most of the shit you look up, it’s not stuff you need to know. All those websites you read while you’re in a cab, you don’t need to look at any of that stuff. It’s better to just sit and be in your own head for a minute. I wanted to stop that thing where I get home and look at websites for an hour and a half, checking to see if there’s a new thing. And read a book instead. I’ve been doing it for a couple months, and it’s worked. I’m reading, like, three books right now. I’m putting something in my mind. It feels so much better than just reading the Internet and not remembering anything.
What about important news and politics?
I was reading all this Trump stuff, and it doesn’t feel like we’re reading news for the reason we used to, which was to get a better sense of what’s going on in the world and to enrich yourself by being aware. It seems like we’re reading wrestling rumors. It’s like reading about what happened on Monday Night Raw. When you take a step back, it all just seems so sensationalized. Trump’s gonna get impeached! No, he’s not. None of that shit’s happening. But you are going to read all the articles. So if you take yourself out of it, you’re not infected with this toxicity all the time. Also, guess what? Everything is fine! I’m not out of the loop on anything. Like, if something real is going down, I’ll find out about it.
– Aziz Ansari
I read this interview of his. And stopped logging into my social media. Its weighing me down and sucking my soul one tweet at a time. I want to be productive at work and dont need this sort of thing in my life.
Yes! Read this interview too and was fascinated!
For me it’s instagram. Over the course of the last month, I’ve deleted it for a week, uploaded the app again, deleted, uploaded, etc. This is how I initially detached from Facebook several years ago, too. The issue I have with Instagram is that I love photography, and I enjoy sharing my own there. I keep wishing they’d allow users to post from the desktop version. That, for me, would be ideal. I’d still post probably, but wouldn’t keep the app on my phone, so would do less mindless scrolling, etc. In the meantime, though, on the days I go without the app on my phone I find myself leaving my phone in my bag when I come home, and going whole evenings and nights without looking at my phone at all. I’m more present with myself, and my family. My brain actually feels soothed. Thanks to your post, I just deleted the app again. For tonight, anyway. (Change isn’t linear.)
Same. I use Instagram for work, so taking it off my phone isn’t an option because I have to post. But I wish it were!
I’ve deleted Instagram last week. I also love photography I’ve actually made great contacts and met wonderful people there but it’s just too much noise. You can still upload from your phone like I occasionally do from your browser on your phone. But not having the app is so freeing. Note: you won’t receive DM on the browser but you can state that on your profile and leave an email there if you want.
So fascinating! I actually find a real sense of solace and community in Instagram and while sure, I sometimes absently scroll, it doesn’t feel like I’m scrolling my way across a doomsday nightmare the way Twitter does!
Yea, I can see that difference. The content I look at on IG is usually less news-related, so for me it has definitely also been, often, a welcomed change of scenery from other stuff going. But over the last year I’ve definitely noticed mindlessness, constant absent-minded scrolling—maybe looking for an escape? Which is when I felt the need to back off. Rita, I had no idea you could post from the web browser on the phone?! Will look into that!
Twitter would be doing the country a great service if it simply banned ’45 from the app. I rarely look at twitter these days, but find myself a bit obsessed with Instagram, and am starting to ask myself why I’m so caught up in the lives of strangers.
I’ve reserved “Bored and Brilliant” at my local library. Thanks for the tip!
I deleted Facebook from my phone post-election because it was simply too ugly. I also stopped watching late night talk shows — even the hosts I typically agree with — because my anxiety would rise. I read theSkimm daily and occasionally other trusted news sources. That’s my tolerance level these days.
I went dark on Facebook in August 2016 and didn’t return for a year for the same reason. I didn’t want to see my friends and relatives spewing hate and being nasty towards each other just because they didn’t agree. I chose my friends based on their hearts, not what they happened to press “like” on a Facebook post. It was ridiculously freeing.
Now that I am back on Facebook, I really just follow some Canning pages and some cooking pages (I have to remember to stay off the yard sale pages or else my bank account will cry – lol).
Sometimes it’s just better not knowing what people think they can say under the veil of the internet.
I feel just the same. While I did not delete twitter or any other app, I am trying to keep the phone out of the bedroom and away from the dinner table. This already helps a lot. In general I am trying to use the web more consciously and avoid the constant refreshing of screens and apps. I actually wrote a post about this just recently. You can read it here, if you are interested: http://katrinhuth.de/blog/2017/10/use-the-web-consciously/
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Also I am now going to dig into that book and podcast you mentioned!
It was all happening in a dream.
We were in Kyoto, Japan on vacation. Already a day ahead of the US. We had spent the better part of the day playing tourist . We ate breakfast at a small local cafe. I took a photo of the mural. Bought the transit day pass. Visited the Kitano Tenmangu shrine where the students come to make offerings to the god of academics who controls success on exams. There were many kids–putting the coins, ringing the bell, bowing twice, clapping twice, praying, clapping once again. This was the temple of wisdom. It rained off and on that day. We ate at a little cafe in Gion for a late lunch, then made our way to the Kiyomizudera Temple. It was crowded but did not disappoint. The maples were glorious. Damp and cold we headed back to our hotel to do laundry and rest a bit before heading out for dinner. We turned on the news. The numbers kept pouring in. It was shocking and depressing to watch. How could this have happened? I never in a million years thought it would happen. I prayed it wasn’t happening.
We went out for dinner that evening. Ended up in a lovely restaurant in a side street off Shijo dori which served traditional Japanese food. I wanted something comforting. A woman kept watching us. She wanted to ask. Eventually “Amerika-jin desu ka? (Are you American?)” “Hai.” “Trump?” she said. As if she was saying “how could you?” “We didn’t.” I wracked my brain to find the few Japanese words I knew that would be applicable. All I could come up with was “kowai, kowai (scary).” Then I asked if she spoke English. “Hai.” And then the flood gates opened. Turns out she studied economics in America. She was very concerned with the implication the election would have on the global economy, on the TPP, and Japan in particular. Many people wanted to discuss the TPP with us. The next day we left to do some largely off the grid hiking in the mountains of Wakayama. There was no news. It was exactly what we needed, and yet I also wanted to talk about it. To friends, family.
It was very difficult for me to come back to the states. By the time we returned, everyone had had their initial grieving phase and were moving into action. I felt far removed and like I was in a daze. It has taken a while to recover, as it were. Things are now different. Turning off has helped tremendously.
I have mostly stopped using and scrolling through facebook. I do use it but with some personal restrictions. For a loooong time, I’ve only had around 100 friends on my page and they are always people i genuinely enjoy and would spend time with in real life. I do not follow a zillion pages and recently, I’ve reduced the number of news sources and i rarely read the comments section. The MOST beneficial: i refuse to comment. Period. I cannot engage in the nonsense, the cruelty, the outright clulessness. Its helping. A lot.
Right before the election, I deleted Facebook on my phone. I reasoned that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to speak to friends and family that I loved but that had questionable (in my view….) political beliefs. What I discovered was that I. don’t. miss. it. At all. I check in from to time and then forget about it for months. It’s liberating!
I’m finding it really easy to come up with reasons why I don’t want to get off social media – the most compelling of course being the easy personal connections that seem almost impossible to maintain if I’m not on there.
But then I have a number of friends who have opted out of one or the other platform, and they seem to have no problem maintaining the relationships they choose to maintain.
But then I also notice that the friends who have opted out are, with one exception, child-free, and many of them have partners who are deeply engaged with social media, so they benefit from residual effects of their partner’s engagement. (I have zero ways of contacting the one friend who has kids apart from her partner, with whom I’m FB friends.)
My partner doesn’t use social media. He deleted his FB account when we started dating. He is also an extremely private person who needs very little contact with the rest of the world.
I don’t know. I want to feel less chained to social media, but I fear the loss of connection, particularly during a period of life when it’s extremely difficult to maintain connection otherwise. I would delete apps, but I only use a computer at home when I’m working, and I don’t want to shift (even more) of my social media usage to work hours, where I’ve already started using a browser extension to limit my mindless scrolling time. I’m making an effort to put my phone away when I come home and leave it plugged in until after my son goes to bed. It’s a start.
Totally hear you on this. I think there’s lots that’s wonderful about the connectivity of social media. I think it’s nice to pause occasionally and question our personal limits with this stuff. I really noticed how much Twitter was negatively impacting me when I logged into for the first time during our end of summer vacation in August and felt my blood pressure immediately begin to rise!
I have a few friends who take periodic social media breaks – a month off of FB, say. I might need to do the same.
I have been guilty of checking my news app constantly. Listening to NPR religiously and feeling on edge since November 8. I’ve deleted my instagram app once earlier this year. I deleted FB years ago and never felt bad about that. I live in Idaho and I find myself out in public judging everyone. Thinking ‘I bet you voted for him’. I made the mistake and googled how many people voted for DT in Idaho and it was in the range of 500,000 and Hillary was 250,000ish. I felt sick. My husband has had to remind me several times to balance my intake of social media and the news. I also feel so outraged at people who say they don’t pay attention and don’t care. It has been a battle to find balance for me. I try and limit myself and just keep myself in check as much as possible. The struggle is REAL. I agree with not reading comments and not argue with internet strangers regarding politics.
I started taking a similar approach to Facebook. I found myself scrolling mindlessly for most of the day and finally switched to scrolling through my feed (briefly) once in the morning and once at night — and when I realize I’m not paying attention I quit immediately! It’s such an unnecessary time-suck.
I unplug as much as possible but feel some guilt ( like I’m not doing my part as a citizen? I’m turning a deaf ear to the problems of the world?) about it when I do. Moderation is hard to achieve. I’m favoring Instagram to Facebook because I think it’s a different, somewhat calmer was of expressing one’s self. But putting the phone down and reaching for a book after 6pm has been a struggle. Keep up the good fight everyone!
I was briefly on Twitter, but decided it didn’t meet any of my needs, which included a peaceful life. I know 45 tweets national policy in 140 characters at 3 am, but I am not phased by his misspelled rants on that platform. He gets confused about constitutional law and balance of powers and other minor irritations, so the courts and Congressional impotence keep him in check. I use FB to communicate with faraway friends and lots of cousins, which is plenty. Pinterest is my eye candy, and since giving up sugar, I need SOMETHING! Being an academic librarian, I’m plugged in all the time at work, so at home, I commune with creatures who speak nonverbally while we are outside standing under an intensely star strewn sky. I enjoy the feeds for the arts and literature, wildlife and travel. astronomy and fun math (not an oxymoron), and the thoughtful political essay that contributes to the conversation. But the last 10 months have been a hardscrabbled effort to stay informed while feeling that everything is an immediate fight or flight. Living as slowly as I am able is the only way I know that gives me the balance to be a peaceful warrior. Thank you, Erin, for your beautifully written posts that help keep my hopeful.
I’ve been toying with the idea of removing social media apps from my phone (I don’t have a desktop) for a while now and it feels like the topic keeps coming up everywhere I look.
I don’t have the same issue with the toxic/doomsday stuff (maybe because I’m not from the US?) but I do hate the way it is such a time-suck. I also feel terrible anytime my kids see me on my phone because they can’t tell the difference between me reading a book/paying a bill/connecting with a friend or relative vs absent minded scrolling etc. I don’t do Twitter or Pinterest but have hung on to Facebook for no real reason. My biggest drain is instagram – it’s a love/hate relationship. I’m a visual person and I love the insight into people’s lives. I’ve made genuine friends. I also love to scroll back over my own feed and see all the pics of my kids as they’ve grown and remember the little silly/funny stuff they did that I wrote in the captions; it’s my version of a photo book. BUT sometimes it can feel a bit like everyone’s life is bigger/better/prettier/tastier/healthier than yours and I hate that aspect. Maybe I just need to log-in once a week to post what I want to and have a quick scroll?
For anyone interested, The Slow Home podcast did an episode on opting out of social media just the other day too.
I’ve never had Twitter and I never plan to. And I may be the only Republican who bought (and enjoyed) your book and likes your blog. Yes, I voted for Trump and am a proud Conservative. Hopefully I am still welcome here-if not, I will leave-my life will still go on. While I do not support everything Trump says or does-he really needs to get rid of his Twitter account, in my opinion-I do believe in most of his policies. Limited government, lower taxes, capitalism, protecting our borders, school choice and many more things. If only the mainstream Republicans would get out of his way, I believe Trump really could make America great again. Time will tell.
AMEN, Erin. Can you remind us of this every week, please?!?!??!?!
I did the same with Facebook and Twitter on my phone – but I didn’t make it this long! I had to do it in January when I realized it was causing me so much anxiety. And just as you described, I was looking for the next horrible thing each time and each time there really was another horrible thing. My general anxiety level is more manageable after deleting them, but it’s difficult that it’s not as though that solves ANY of the problems of the world. I wish I could say I had used the extra time I gained by volunteering for someone running for office, but perhaps that would be a good idea for us all to consider in the run up to the midterms.
I lived through a very similar twitter reaction. My birthday is November 8, a day that went so off the rails, and I had a very new baby last fall. I spiraled into the twitter rabbit hole but a month after the inauguration I realized that instead of being a tired mother to a newborn, I was a tired twitter addict retweeting from dozens of rogue government agencies. I deleted twitter in February and restricted my news diet. I had been a frequent non obsessive twitter user for years but all I felt was relief! I now get updates from NYTimes so I don’t feel unconnected or need to read hours of news. I also read The New Yorker app on trains or planes. Tuning out to tune into my life and family was a good anti-anxiety idea and now I feel informed and recharged enough to contribute and resist where the need is greatest.
I’m in. I don’t have social media accounts, but that doesn’t keep me from finding public accounts (just Instagram and Twitter) via browser. (Wince)
I am mostly horrified by my incessant phone checking and mindless surfing, generally speaking. I am intensely motivated to habit shift my phone use in achievable baby steps starting with leaving the phone out of the bedroom and *gasp* bathroom. There, I confessed to it.
Ha, I love this comment. I use the RealizD free app, to track how much I am on my phone each day (and how many pick-ups). It’s astounding feedback sometimes. Whenever I delete Instagram off my phone, I see my usage hours (yes, many hours) plummet to often under an hour (unless it’s a busy work day—I have to use my phone a lot for work). Also, really enjoyed reading the article, “Before the Internet”, by Emma Rathbone (New Yorker, this summer). Partly what started making me think a lot about this stuff in the context of my own life.
This describes me exactly: “…a part of me feared that something else unconscionable would happen while I wasn’t paying attention. For months and months I would wake up several times a night to refresh the app and scan my timeline for evidence of a new calamity. ”
Before last November, I was really good about leaving my phone in another room when I went to bed. In the first months after the election, I woke up every night in a panic. I have students with DACA status and others who are recently-arrived refugees; going to work each day meant helping them figure what might be coming, and I felt physically sick for months. Over the past months, I’ve begun to wean myself back off the midnight check-ins. I’m in this for the long haul, and I need sleep to survive. Thanks for writing this, Erin.
I had the horrible habit of bringing my phone to bed and getting sucked into a rabbit hole of blog posts or binge watching Netflix. With three kids all in school, I have an early wake-up call so my sleep was really suffering and my mornings were rough, plus I was feeling guilty for not using that time to read! So, now I bring my Kindle to bed instead, and I’m less likely to stay up until all hours with it (unless it’s a really good book or I have insomnia, LOL)
Amen, sister. I also deleted Twitter from my phone a few months ago. It was actually after a post you wrote about paying for and consuming real news publications 🙂 I realized how much junk I was reading online and how much time I spent doing it. Now I read from a few news sources that I’ve selected. The app Pocket is also wonderful for saving and suggesting articles to read. Highly recommend!
Yeah pumping or nursing and scared. That was the majory of the last year for me too. I cancelled my facebook acount, tuned my screen grey, rearranced my icon so I could not mindlessly open then and put a restriction on safari for most of the day. It all kinda helps. But I still check the gardian website 20 times a day. I am waiting for A) the fall of trump. Or B) the end of the world. I am not sure which will happen first and having kids/new baby is making my anxiety worse.
I have been following you a long time and know how upset you were last year. Your posts and prompts about contacting representatives went a long way and were an inspiration. I too had to cut out social media last year about a month before the elections, primarily Facebook. It is hard to see arguing and negative posts constantly from both sides, and also to see where your own family resides on such issues. The day after the election I was still on Instagram and some news sites, hitting constant refresh, like you, until it was too much. I stepped away from almost all social media for about a year and started coming back online this last August. Slowly and with mindfulness. In fact, with everything I have learned and researched over the past year on human behavior and social networks, I now want to help others. If anyone is still overwhelmed by social media or the thought of creating beneficial social media habits, I would be happy to help (click my name). It’s hard to change a habit that hits our brains with dopamine every time we use it, but through all the bad there is so much good that can be harnessed through social media as well. It’s not a necessary evil if it’s reframed and you can use different tactics than the apps and timelines that the companies want you to. I think if we can get a handle of social media and promote goodwill with it, it can spread. As you mentioned, it’s not the quantity of time we spend with it (were it can make you happy one minute and devastated the next), but the quality. In my life, lowering anxiety is number one and I do notice a big difference a year later. Thank you for showing us a simple life beyond the screen.
So good! I deleted Facebook from my phone about three years ago and it was one of the best things! I am also a bit obsessed with checking for disasters on moments – so this could be a good plan too. The fact I am feeling anxious about deleting Twitter probably means I should! I’d definitely get more books read on train journeys
About a month ago I deleted IG from my phone. One day at the end of the day I found myself still doing house stuff that would normally have been finished by noon (i am a very early riser). I realized that I was would stop doing whatever I was doing and get lost in the world of IG posts and stories.
As much as I enjoyed looking into the world of strangers I knew I needed to step away. So I did. I still enjoy IG, but it’s at night when my day is done and I’m in bed streaming on my iPad.
I also now keep my phone on my desk and not in my pocket. It doesn’t go with me from room to room while i do my stuff. When I’m sitting on the deck, it’s still on my desk. I still have my home phone and when my family wants to talk to me thats what they call.
Right after the election I deleted twitter. I was spiraling into despair and realized that there was nothing useful to be had. I pay for the New York Times, so I know I’m not missing out on **news**, and by taking away the instant Twitter hit, I realized I was happier (well, at least, less stressed). I’m currently contemplating deleting facebook. I think I’d be content with just Instagram and Snapchat (I don’t actually use most of Snapchat, but my sister sends me Snaps of her cats every few days that I enjoy). That’s about the extent of my social media diet, and I think it’s enough for me.
I realize this makes me sound like a luddite. I’m not – I voraciously read blogs, and consume so much information electronically. I am just hyper aware of my own privacy and like that I don’t have a massive internet presence. There are so many things I can’t take back (I’m looking at you, early 2000’s Facebook posts, when “is” was still in the status box), but this I can control.
Yes! I actually deactivated Facebook leading up to the primaries. It was hard–it has been hard, fomo and all. I have missed things. But my mental health has improved greatly. This past January I stopped using Instagram. Again, my mental health improved greatly. Social media works for some people, but I prefer to limit to a few blogs (this one obvs) and news outlets, and spend the rest of my time enjoying my family, my hobbies, and my life.
I put a hold on Bored and Brilliant at my library. Thanks for mentioning the book!
I deleted Twitter earlier this year but only after going through and unfollowing all 200 people I’d followed – mainly because they first followed me. That lasted one week. When I reactivated Twitter (to respond to some things I was reading), I found it freeing to be following no one. I then carefully added only select people which feels very freeing.
I can’t keep up with all the social media feeds…. so I dip in once in awhile. My instagram feed has changed since I have changed – new interests. I read a post by someone a year ago who was overwhelmed by it all until she decided to curate her social media feeds to follow people who are going through what she’s going through right now….. and she eliminated the feeds that made her feel bad (successful authors who started blogs at the same time she did; perfect seeming moms, etc). And now she’s happy and content with her feed. I began adapting that view as well.. I’m following women who are learning to love their bodies and be strong and happy and content. I’m following friends who are turning their passions into businesses (photography, painting, clothing design).
I also had to unfollow many, many people to get to this point.
Now my social media feels more personal and it’s become fun again!
I just deactivated all of my social media accounts for the foreseeable future. I was unable to find balance and was constantly scrolling, refreshing, and thinking, “This would make a good post!” during time with my daughter. I’m an author, so I felt pressure to stay plugged in because, you know, PLATFORM, but it wasn’t doing much anymore except taking up valuable time. Maybe I’ll go back one day, but for now I already feel lighter. Plus, we recently subscribed to the print NYT and reading that + listening to local NPR keeps me updated with everything I need to know.
I’m still attached to Twitter, but I recently deactivated Facebook, albeit for entirely non-political reasons (a very big, very hard breakup – wasn’t ready to deal with 7 years of photographs and memories). A lovely side effect has been not seeing everyone’s hastily written opinions. While I still see it on Twitter, there’s not too many folks I follow who I actually know. But, on Facebook, I know everyone, and it was beginning to tarnish my opinions of people. I think we’re all a little too quick to post. I would like to leave Twitter behind too, but I do still find some joy and hope on my timeline, and that keeps me hanging on.
Same here. I have deleted my Facebook account periodically over the past year when the comments were just too much – and not in a hide-my-head-in-the-sand way but because I realized how internally worked up I got, knots in my stomach, and in no way is that healthy for any part of me.
Currently I keep Facebook and Instagram apps (I never had Twitter) off my phone so that I can only check them on my desktop which I am infrequently on. It really is so helpful in creating an equilibrium. I also read the news (Washington Post & NY Times are the best, in my opinion) and listen to NPR/NYT podcasts but I don’t need all the back-and-forth from random people who typically don’t even have their facts straight. At this point I just want the facts.
Bored and Brilliant was such a great book – I love that the whole idea of being more mindful, less tech-obsessed has been taking off. I live in Marin, CA so I was very close to the Napa/Sonoma fires and it was encouraging to me to read an article today that those affected by the hurricanes, floods and fires are beginning to reassess their need to own so much. We all need to get back to the basics and our roots, in my opinion, as it seems we have steered off course.
I completely relate to your feelings of anguish with regard to this time last year. I slipped into a deep clinical depression after the election, but have thank goodness recovered over the last 6 months. I’m still rendered speechless with nausea and disgust but am carrying on and taking solace in knowing that there are people like you and my like-minded friends out there.
As to your fine question:
I have never had any social media accounts and I have never felt left out of anything by the fact that I don’t. I am in great contact with those whom I love, either by phone, text, email or regular mail. The daily newspaper, television and the brilliant internet keep me well-informed about everything in which I am interested. All the rest seems like noise and often non-sense. I think it’s wonderful that so many are seeking to lead a more simplified life, and are beginning to realize they don’t need the constant bombardment of social media. I encourage everyone to wean themselves of it, and to realize that they don’t have to chirp, tweet, post, share or photograph everything they are seeing or eating or doing whilst they experience it in order to live a full and gorgeous life. Kudos to you for asking the question.
Love this. I went to Salvation Mountain with a friend for a quick day trip a few weeks ago: it was a 2-hour drive there and a 2-hour drive back and there was zero service in the desert. I got home and I felt so upbeat! And then I realized…it had been basically an entire day without my phone. I felt so optimistic! And then I immediately got on Twitter and saw all of the awful political news of the day and my ease was erased in an instant. Alas! It was a good reminder of how much nicer life without a complete focus on the world’s problems.
My biggest issue has been wanting to track my steps (and trying to get 10K a day!), which means I take my phone with me everywhere. UGH. I often try to place it on airplane mode–it’s on me, but not really distracting me. It probably wouldn’t hurt to delete an app or too–I find Twitter to be the most negative one in terms of driving down m ymood!
I need to take the plunge and commit to it long term. Thank you for this inspiration. The last year has been such a disaster, and the continuous checking of news via social media gives me anxiety like I’ve never experienced before…but it’s like a train wreck…I just can’t look away. My drug of choice is FB, and it is *so toxic. Twitter is my back up when things really get serious and I need/want instant updates. It’s all quite unhealthy and I know it, but have managed so far to only unplug from it all for a few weeks at a time before diving back in. Again, thank you for the inspiration.
I just wanted to say that Nov 8 is a great day! My husband proposed to me on Nov 8 14 years ago!
Thank you for this post, Erin. I don’t live in the United States, but I and my friends were so horrified by the results of the US presidential election last year that we bought subscriptions to the New York Times to try and understand how this could have happened. I have never been on Facebook and do not watch television. I live in a regional area where I am mostly concerned with environmental issues and growing food. But I am not a Luddite. I proofread books for a living, which the wonder of technology allows me to do online even though I am in a remote place. I was not interested in social media at all, but I joined Twitter to try and understand how a country I thought was the flagship of democracy had become so reactionary – and to try and understand why the UK had voted for Brexit. That was a year ago. I have now deleted Twitter and Instagram and won’t renew my subscription to the New York Times. I’ve stopped reading the Guardian. I believe strongly that the constant synaptic firings initiated by these clamorous, nagging, doom-centric apps had begun compromising my mental health. What I do instead is listen to podcasts, read blogs, read books, support libraries, make my voice heard in local politics, make telephone calls, join email lists and make donations to causes and try to show up as a person as much as possible. It interests me that my millennial daughter and her friends have recently deleted FB, Twitter and Instagram from their phones. When I asked why, they said, to paraphrase, that they were tired of algorithms messing with their heads and it was time to lead a real life. I’m trying to be the change that I would like to see.
This is something I’m still navigating and trying to find balance with. I deleted twitter from my phone when my 2 year son came up to me saying “no phone. me.” It nearly broke my heart. I hadn’t realized how often he must be seeing me standing or sitting engrossed in my phone instead of him. It’s been really freeing since I deleted the app, but I still find myself checking other social media outlets, especially first thing when I wake up. It’s a habit shift I’m trying to work on. Thanks for posting this. It’s something our generation struggles with and as we have and raise kids we need more awareness about screen addiction so as not to teach our children bad habits.
This is so true! I turned off Facebook for a month or so last winter and I’ve never been much for Twitter (except for the occasional professional conversation). This is what I realized: I drained all my emotional energy posting and commenting there and had none left for the real-life conversations with people I loved but disagreed with. I had to stop following people whose politics aligned with mine because I was drowning in the collective misery. We have to unplug. Reading every post and every single little reply isn’t going to help anyone. It’s just going to wear us out. Staying informed enough to know what’s going on and then taking care of our own lives, our own families, our own little words–that’s putting our oxygen mask on before we put on the other person’s. It’s necessary to productive action.
I was a new mom around the election and yeah, I also pumped at work while catching up on increasingly terrible news. Ultimately I decided that it wasn’t helping my mood (some nasty post-partum depression, which I’m still working on a year later). Aside from keeping up on world events, I decided not to follow the endless analysis and talk, because it only made me angry or hopeful for something that (so far) hasn’t happened. I’m a lot more joyful these days.
(And while pumping, I ended up watching old episodes of Call the Midwife, which was just the thing for such an intensely maternal process!)
Ah…nursing by phone-light. On one hand, it’s how I found your blog, which has been a treasure and made me feel a little less alone in the world. On the other, I have also been really anxious about our political state, especially since I have a brother stationed in Okinawa. Thanks to you and comments from other readers about compulsive news consumption. I’ve been thinking for a while now my online reading needs to be more mindful and less mind-numbing.
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