Taking back our calm, focus, and attention spans.
There is no shortage of articles or people that talk about the effect social media has had—or currently having—on our minds and mental health. Colin Devroe’s latest article is a brilliant synopsis of this pervasive problem, along with his detailed steps to correct it (emphasis mine):
I get an awful lot of value from Twitter. I painstakingly curate my experience there to engineer a positive outcome. But I also spend an inordinate amount of time scrolling tweets, clicking links, reading threads, and darting between subjects like a kitten chasing a laser.
When this is what’s required to have a tolerable experience with a platform, then “Houston, we have a problem." Ignoring that entirely, I applaud Colin for his discrete and bold action to evaluate his incoming information density, and taking steps to create more calm and focus in his life. It’s something I’ve already done myself as far as podcasts and RSS are concerned, and YouTube is next on the chopping block (perhaps even entirely). Even Mastodon I’ve found myself just “checking in” as Colin does, and not feeling remorse about missing out on anything. It’s humanly impossible to catch every tidbit of interest all the time, so why pressure ourselves when there will still be plenty of opportunities in the future?
Taking this further, I’m also going to treat my digital media consumption like my physical bookshelf. If I want to add a new source to one of my feeds, I must first evaluate what I’m currently consuming and see if something can, or should, be removed first. Perhaps I’ll end up adding it anyway, but at least I’ve made a conscious effort to curate what I allow into my attention bubble. Like ever-growing reading lists and bookmarks, it never takes long for that single snowball rolling down the hillside to become a runaway problem. Fear of missing out is always a concern, as Colin mentions, but is dwarfed by the concerns we should all have about the chipping away of our sanity.
Well over a decade ago you would have found me urging friends and family to get online and get onto social media so that we could share photos, tweets, links, etc. there. I regret ever doing that. I believe that social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok) has been a net negative for the world. It was a boon at its beginning but it spiraled out of control – and pushed towards lunacy by greed.
We’ve seen the result of both the lunacy and greed firsthand, and it’s not pretty. Facebook in particular has defended its use of an aggressively forced algorithm that not only promotes the content it wants you to see, but ultimately makes you feel the way it wants you to feel; addicted to the dopamine hits. YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, et. al. sure as hell aren’t far behind. No doubt you’d also hear the same defence from them; that operation without these algorithms and sensationalist content would put their business in jeopardy, which is nothing but an excuse and very steaming pile of bullshit. Their incessant drive for user engagement and click revenue is having an irreparable cost to our overall mental health, across the board.
I’m already feeling better having made this decision. I know I’ll experience some FOMO. I realize I may not hear every bit of news or lose my finger on the pulse of the web (which I’ve maintained since getting online in 1994).
But I’m OK with that. I’d much rather have my mind back. I can’t wait to see what I do with it.
This couldn’t resonate with me more. Through having my own plans and ambitions going forward to better both myself and my writing, the strive to regain control of what I let into my own mind—and draw from my focus—will be under vast scrutiny.
And just like Colin, I can’t wait to find out what happens when the gloves come off.