A little while ago I explained some of my rationale for leaving Facebook:
…putting so much of your life out there, almost gossiping about yourself. It encourages a sense of voyeurism and ownership..
In truth, this is just one aspect of why I left. Living without need of external validation, the never ending pursuit of likes, is something I derive great peace from. But the biggest impetus for exile is the feed – the stream of posts, pictures and advertisements that is Facebook.
I find the feed to be a masterful creation. Perfectly calibrated to suck you in, emotionally wrestle you down endless rabbit holes of baby pictures, listicles and other pablum. But the key word is pablum. The Facebook feed is an infinite morass. With an algorithm so effective it captures every spare moment – in queues, walking, on the train, “talking” to friends, everywhere. We compulsively check our phones, a Pavlovian response to the dopamine kick we get every time we open up to something new.
So I left. I wanted my spare minutes back. I wanted free of the itch to peer into the facade my friends construct on social media, the crap we all share.
I stayed on Twitter though. Despite Twitter being a purer form of the feed, I convinced myself that it was different. I told myself that I needed it for work – to be fair, it is an amazing tool for journalists (not so much publicising as sourcing stories). I curated my experience to give it an aura of respectability and seriousness – the 400 people I follow are mostly finance geeks and those that cover them. I continued to check it compulsively in my spare moments.
But really, from an information diet perspective, Twitter’s feed is worse than Facebook’s. Sure, if you do it right, Twitter is less about emotional blackmail. But the barriers are far lower. Thoughts are less curated. The firehose effect is worse. No matter how curated your feed, sheer volume leads to a whole bunch of crap. So, about a week ago, I decided to take a break.
Ok. Taking a break from Twitter for a while. Wanna see how much more reading I get done without it.
— Josh Nicholas (@joshcnicholas) February 28, 2016
The last week has been instructive. Countless times I’ve found myself opening my phone, automatically, chasing a quick hit. Only to run into a roadblock – I don’t have the feed installed. It’s a rather surreal experience, staring at your unlocked phone, realising that you have no reason to be doing so. Not remembering deciding to do so. Your brain has scrambled at the first hint of boredom.
I don’t know if abandoning Twitter has made me so much more productive. Although, I have plowed through a lot of my reading backlog. It has, however, made me aware of an addiction. A crutch. I had been conditioned to run away from even a hint of mental silence. Reclaiming those in-between minutes has been glorious. I’m free now.