Day 011 – Social Media Diet and Results
Early last month, I realized that I was on a crash course to a near mental and social breakdown. I hadn't been sleeping well, I was constantly anxious, I was always tired. I was lashing out at my wife, my kids, my coworkers, my friends, random internet people...everyone.
What is going on? I asked myself over and over.
In a word: Overstimulation
My social media habits
Lets put aside the privacy aspects of these listed services and just talk about them as a service.
Very long ago I deleted my Facebook account and deleted all of my messages, pictures, friend connections, etc. The site even back in 2012 (a lifetime ago for some) was turning into a flamewars board of nothing but political hate, groan worthy memes that aren't even funny, and unrealistically staged photos from friends and family. It was, and still is, toxic in every sense of the word. I never understood the point of Twitter either back in its early days, but nowadays it is just as toxic (and the Signal-to-Noise ratio makes it completely unusable to me for a communication medium). Mastodon at times can be as bad from a S/N perspective as Twitter, but I still find it a more welcoming service.
I discovered Reddit sometime in the mid 2010s and found it to be a massive messageboard, of which I had ample experience with in the late 90s and early-mid 2000s. But I was mostly a passive user, and rarely interacted.
Youtube is of course one of the go-to websites of the Internet these days for news, communication, and entertainment. I'd say that I spend more time on Youtube than I do looking at any other website, or any TV show or movie.
It wasn't until 2018 that I discovered Mastodon. Then I discovered Discord, Telegram, Matrix, all with their IRC-like chat systems and relatively easy separation. And all of these services have a much better S/N ratio for communication, and you at least have a prayer's chance of staying up to date.
I was hooked. Most idle moments were spent bouncing from Reddit to Youtube to Mastodon to Telegram to Discord, and back. It started eating into my free time when I could be doing something else productive. Dozens of /r communities needed to be followed to stay up to date. Ignore Telegram for more than a few hours and you will be spending hours catching up with the chat logs. Same with Discord. And as for Mastodon, I long gave up trying to follow my Home feed greater than an hour or so, and instead use my Local Instance feed to keep informed.
Looking back, it was exactly the trap I wanted to avoid, and I want my wife and kids to avoid, but here I am.
It comes crashing down
The wake up call for me was when I posted something in a Discord channel, trying to get attention. “Hey you, look at me, here I am!” The community I was in was right to call me out on it, and tell me to stop.
And at that moment, I realized I had gone too far.
It shook me for hours. Maybe even a few days. What was I DOING? I asked myself.
This, on top of the last year or so of pandemic-induced stress, was a symptom of poor mental health. I was lucky that I spotted the symptoms in myself when I did.
Immediate triage – going on a social media diet
The first thing I did was uninstall Mastodon clients, Reddit, Telegram, and anything else that I could, in an effort to reduce quick access to these services, from my phone. I went into Discord and MASSIVELY trimmed down my channel list, including a few of the ones I was spending too much time on. I logged out of Mastodon, and stepped away.
I went into my web browser's bookmars and deleted the shortcuts to the websites I most frequently visited. If I wanted to visit them, i would need to type them in manually. Every website that I could, I would log out completely. It will take some effort to log back into them again.
I couldn't do anything about many other stressors in my life that were negatively impacting me though. I can't do anything about the pandemic. I can't do much about work. I can't do much about my kids being kids. But I could remove some of the unhealthy things I was continuously exposing myself to.
Longer term planning
I knew at some point I would want to get back on Mastodon at least, but before I did I would need to do some things.
- I will not install an Mastodon client on my phone ever again, or on my computers. If I want to access Mastodon, it will be by web browser on my computer only; phone use is forbidden.
- SEVERELY limit what Discord servers I connect to. That is a big triage right there.
- Do not under any circumstances log into anything else. No Reddit, Telegram, other Mastodon websites.
- If the option exists, do not even visit other websites.
- Continue to blacklist Facebook, Twitter, etc.
I also knew that I needed a mental break from work. My job being what it is, it can be extremely stressful on me, on my family, and every one of my coworkers. The pandemic isn't helping things; if anything it has made things worse.
Last week, I took a much needed vacation from work, coinciding with my son's spring break from school, and made it a priority to do some self reflection.
Although I didn't get a lot of down time to just sit and rest (when does a parent ever get to rest?) it was VERY nice to spend time with my family, and actually do a few things with my family (even if the options were severely limited due to said pandemic; sometimes its the simple things in life that matter).
Right now I'm feeling like my mental batteries are recharged, and I don't feel like I'm about to have a mental breakdown anymore. I feel like my normal self again: calm, collected, generally upbeat, and mostly content.
I'm going to give this social media diet a longer term go. I absolutely cannot afford to get back in that mindset.
I also spend an unsafe amount of time browsing news sites. This recent political season has been a roller coaster that I hope I never experience again in my life, and healthy or not the news sites have been feeding the need to know what's happening. I do it when I'm bored or I have downtime.
It needs to stop.
In the near future I'm going to trim my rotation of news websites down considerably, and limit my access to them. It's just as bad as browsing other websites, and with the utter madness of the political season finally winding down to a normal level, there just isn't any need anymore.
Things are normal-ish, except for the pandemic. But I'm going to stop worry about the pandemic because we actually have some competent leaders now handling it (don't worry, I'm not going to do anything dumb to risk my life or my family).
Lastly, I'm going to get back into blogging this 100 days to offload. I was off to a good start, but I fell off the bandwagon. I'm also going to get back to reading and journaling. Journaling has always been helpful for me to organize my thoughts.
I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100DaysToOffload.com.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.