What did I learn from the 30-day social media detox?

What did I really learn from not using social media for 30 days?

My Twitter numbers went down. Naturally. However, I got a record month of new followers!? Maybe not tweeting is an effective way to lure people into following? ;-)

Now that some time has passed since my 30 days away from social media I think it is time to reflect on the whole experience. It is clear to me that by removing my focus towards the outside world, and especially the chess world, that I then turned my focus inwards instead.

After about two weeks I started to notice that my ability to focus began to increase, and I used many evenings on the ‘100 Headachingly Hard Mate in Two Chess Puzzles Composed by Sam Loyd’ book. I had to edit/format/set up 100 puzzles in word and the Kindle software. To say it honestly it was a dull task, but I was somehow able to do it for hours when everyone else in the house had gone to bed. I kept going because I wanted to create something.

If I had been on social media, I would have gotten distracted after 15 minutes, gone to Twitter, then tricked over to Facebook… and in the end, I would be watching some video with squirrels jumping around.

In 1848 long before the iPhone-age the American writer Henry D. Thoreau decided to move from the city to live a simple life in the forest.

We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I didn’t achieve the ability to paint the atmosphere of the day. But the days were different. Social media breaks up time into smaller pieces. It interrupts your thoughts and distracts you from low rewarding tasks or long-term goals. To make it all worse the social media companies design their apps to make you check them as often as possible, so to allow oneself a break to reevaluate their value is hard to commit to.

“The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they’re friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product to children. Because, let’s face it, checking your “likes” is the new smoking.”

— Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism

The fear of missing out was real for me throughout the whole candidates tournament, I imagined that I was missing out. I, however, now know that it is mostly an imagined fear and I enjoyed following the tournament anyways.

Now that I have reemerged myself into the world of likes and retweets I see that I’m quickly falling back into my old habits.

Moving forward I will take more timeouts throughout the year since I liked the nostalgic feeling of being disconnected. That does not mean that I don’t see any benefits of social media anymore. Just that I need to remember to prioritize time away from social media too.