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Social Media Blackout Day 11

On March first, I committed to a month-long social media blackout. Last year, I deleted the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone, leaving only Instagram. It worked at first, decreasing my screen time and granting me increased focus. Then, as Instagram became more Facebook-like, its algorithm suggested more and more intriguing posts, and I fell down a new rabbit hole, becoming as distracted as ever.

While writing at my desk or on my laptop, I use an app called Self Control to block distracting websites. But there was my phone, calling out to me. So Instagram had to go, too.

I’ve toyed with the idea of deleting my profiles and just going offline completely. I haven’t — because of fear. I’m afraid I’ll disappear, becoming invisible and irrelevant in the book world. I’d essentially be deplatforming myself, and I’d have no channel through which to interact with fellow writers and readers, or to promote my books. But the facts are clear: I have little to no evidence that my participation in social media has any impact on my book sales — whereas I have plenty of experiential and empirical evidence to show that it DOES impact my writing, in a very negative way.

Spending time on social media is a drain on my mental health, too. At least once a week I’d read a post that sent me into a spiral of outrage, affecting my work, my family time, my sleep. I’m already towing around a bipolar brain; I don’t need help being angry or distracted. So, just as I had eliminated caffeine after 3pm and alcohol after 8, it was time to cut myself off.

I have noticed signifiant symptoms of withdrawal. I reach for my phone, or for that new tab, at least ten times a day. I experience moderate to intense periods of anxiety and FOMO. Hopefully, these will decrease with time. Right now, they’re frustrating af.

The positive effects are many. My thoughts are clearer and more self-directed, more relevant to my work and my family. I’m more present. My phone screen time is down 25%. The boredom imposed by my social media blackout has induced me to write more. Also, I’m sharing links and thoughts in a more targeted way, through texts and IMs with close friends and family. I’m engaging with them online instead of strangers. And here I am, blogging again, sharing my feelings publicly, but in a targeted way.

Maybe I’ll keep this up, or maybe I’ll fall off the wagon. I seem incapable of doing social media in a healthy way. I’m an addict trying to manage my addiction. Maybe I’ll shut down for long periods. I don’t know yet. My only commitment for now is to stay off until April 1st. The day of the fool. Fitting, perhaps?

See you on the other side.

bipolar, social media

Jeff Garvin

Author of SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN and THE LIGHTNESS OF HANDS. Cohost of THE HERO'S JOURNEY podcast. Rock musician, D&D geek, aspiring revolutionary.