What I learned Fasting from Social Media

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Last spring, I decided to ignore social media until Easter. Lent traditionally is a period of fasting from food, but modern ways of fasting include anything TV to alcohol. The idea is to grow in discipline, break with looming addictions and spend more time with those you care about, which may or may not include God.

4 months later… still fasting!

Easter is already 4 months ago and I’m still going strong without social media. I haven’t missed it at all and found little reason to return to them. I’ve even started to slowly untangle websites where I used them login. I’ll probably keep the accounts around to protect my username (fokkezb everywhere), for history-sake, testing Zaps and what not. I may even reply to a comment every now and then as I get notified of it via email (thanks to Zapier), but don’t expect me to come back to follow your doings online. You’re welcome to come over for coffee though!

Don’t expect me to come back to follow your doings online. You’re welcome to come over for coffee though!

What I already did

I’ve always been a bit of a lifehacker and over the course of the past year I’ve been tweaking my smartphone usage and notifications in particular. Notifications are designed to be addictive and the only way to win is to disable them.

So even before this lent I already:

  • Defaulted to disabling push data and notifications on both iOS and Mac OS.
  • Muted and disabled vibration on my iPhone.
  • Began wearing a muted Apple Watch as the least intrusive way to receive urgent notifications, including calls.
  • Set WhatsApp to badge notifications only and started using a dedicated messaging app with my wife with full notifications so that she can always reach me.
  • Used Buffer to send updates to all my social media in one go, and without the risk of getting caught up in reading what other had posted.
  • Used Filter and Digest heavy Zaps to read up on what I care about at a frequency that I control.
  • Applied most of my colleague Matthew’s 12 Ways to Stay Productive in Slack, including muting most channels and hiding all channels except favorites and those with unreads.

What I changed

With the above in place, I still found myself spending a lot of time checking my Twitter timeline and following how my updates to Facebook and LinkedIn were received.

So for lent I:

  • Removed the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn apps from my smartphone and laptop.
  • Enabled email notifications for mentions and DMs only so that I can reply to those via their web clients.

I did continue to post to these networks, both automatic (like Zapier blog posts) and an occasional update via Buffer.

What I learned

Having a new baby around and construction work going on at our new house definitly made it easier, but I was really surprised how little I missed social.

After 40 days and a stable follower count I found that:

  • You don’t miss what you don’t see.
  • Followers don’t seem to care much if you follow back or not.

Although lent is over, I don’t feel much urge to get back on Twitter and all. For now, I’ll keep it this way.

Three Steps to Control Notifications

If you’d like to cut down notifications from social media and other apps, here’s what you should do the next time an app says pretty-please to allow notifications:

  1. Say no.
  2. After a while, when you find yourself checking the app often in FoMO… get help. 😉 If you must, enable notifications but turn off every thing but Badge App Icon and select None for Alert Style When Unlocked. Move the app to (a folder on) your first homescreen so that you actually notice it. If you want to read up on all notifications from your priviliged apps at once, enable Show in Notification Centre.
  3. Only if you find the app has notifications you really — really! — need to act on ASAP, then set the alert style to Banners and enable Show on Lock Screen.

Instead of just doing this for new apps, you may of course also go cold turkey and disable notifications for all existing apps. You can always re-enable later.

I’m a shameless Apple fanboy, but you’ll find there are similar settings on Android.

Alternative Social “Media”

What I did find myself using a lot more since moving away from social media is iCloud. I follow a bunch of iCloud albums shared by my family and we have a iCloud album our family follow that we frequently add photos to. I like that it’s visual, small and you the comments allow for just enough communication.

I can see a growing need for smaller social media, more directly linked to offline social groups we’re part of. iCloud and WhatsApp are great examples, as well as Slack (colleagues). I guess the big downside is having to deal with a more diverse set of apps depending on what fits the group’s needs and preferences.

See you IRL!


Originally published at fokkezb.nl on August 22, 2017.