I’m 17 And I Deleted All My Social Media. Here’s What Happened.

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Let me tell you this, social media is a whole different monster for a 17-year-old. Everyone my age is spending hours every day snapchatting, instagraming, facebooking — and whatever else.

If you’re not involved — you’re an outsider. You’re looked at as weird and stupid. A loser. You’ll struggle to get invited to events and people won’t want to be friends with you. Sad, but unfortunately that’s just the way things are.

Remember that one kid who was always chosen last to play games? That’s essentially how kids who don’t use social media are looked at.

 

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What happened when I made my students turn off their phones

<em>Photo Dick Thomas Johnson</em>

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Initially, 37 per cent of my 30 students – undergraduates at Boston University – were angry or annoyed about this experiment. While my previous policy leveraged public humiliation, it didn’t dictate what they did with their phones in class. For some, putting their phones into cases seemed akin to caging a pet, a clear denial of freedom. Yet by the end of the semester, only 14 per cent felt negatively about the pouches; 11 per cent were ‘pleasantly surprised’; 7 per cent were ‘relieved’; and 21 per cent felt ‘fine’ about them.

Workarounds emerged immediately. Students slid their phones into the pouches without locking them, but because they still couldn’t use their phones in class, this became a quiet act of rebellion, rather than a demonstration of defiance. Some of them used their computers, on which we often search databases and complete in-class exercises, to text or access social media. I’m not comfortable policing students’ computer screens – if they really want to use class time to access what YONDR denies them, that’s their choice. The pouches did stop students from going to the bathroom to use their phones. In previous semesters, some students would leave the room for 10 to 15 minutes and take their phones with them. With phones pouched, there were very few bathroom trips.

 

‘I felt relieved’ – What happens when you ditch social media

Instagram likes

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They both had negative experiences online and a new survey has found that they are not alone.

Charity Ditch the Label asked 12-20 year olds about cyber-bulling and anxiety from using the networks.

The survey of 10,000 people suggests Instagram and Facebook were the worst for bullying.

The survey suggested nearly 70% of people admitting they had been abusive to another person online and 17% saying they had been bullied themselves.

One in three said they lived in fear of being bullied online, and most thought they’d get abuse for how they looked.

Want More Time? Get Rid of The Easiest Way to Spend It

Post image for Want More Time? Get Rid of The Easiest Way to Spend It

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What I learned

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was nothing difficult about not using these services once they were off my phone. I didn’t miss them, but I did find myself, many times a day, taking my phone out and absently swiping through it. This impulse usually came at moments when there was some waiting to do: when food was heating in the microwave, when a friend had departed to the bathroom, or even when a website was loading slowly on my laptop.

By Day 6 my phone had become a much less interesting object. I took it out much less often, and spent little time on it whenever I did. The absent-minded swiping impulse, whenever it still happened, became a reminder to either get to whatever responsibility I was avoiding, to wait mindfully, or to read a book or an article. (I made good use of an app called Pocket, which stores online articles for later reading offline.)

Whenever I did log on to Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit, I found them quite boring, and even kind of repulsive. This is how I put it in my log:

…after taking even a little time away from these platforms, whenever I check in I can’t help but see them as repositories for stray feelings, and energy that we don’t want to spend on anything consequential. They seem like places to go when you’re bored, or when you’re actively avoiding the thing you know you should be doing. I know a lot of this feeling is pure projection—I have certainly used these platforms that way.

My social media fast

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Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week… Many people have given up social media and written about it — the digital equivalent of the “Why I’m Leaving New York” essay — but since I didn’t write about leaving New York, I’m going to do this instead.

I used to be very good about using my phone and social media appropriately. More than a decade of working on kottke.org taught me how to not be online when I wasn’t working (for the most part). I tried super hard not to use my phone at all around my kids and if I was out with friends, my phone stayed in my pocket.

Almost a year ago, after 13+ years in the city, I moved from lower Manhattan to rural Vermont… Social media, mostly through my phone, has been an important way for me to stay connected with friends and goings on in the wider world. But lately I’d noticed an obsessiveness, an addiction really, that I didn’t like once I became fully aware of it.

 

…Not a single person noticed that I had stopped using social media. (Not enough to tell me anyway.) Perhaps if it had been two weeks? For me, this reinforced that social media is actually not a good way to “stay connected with friends”. Social media aggregates interactions between loved ones so that you get industrialized communication rather than personal connection. No one really notices if a particular person goes missing because they’re just one interchangeable node in a network.

 

 

Be Bored, I Dare You…

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Today, in our cult of productivity, boredom is often viewed as utterly inexcusable — a sin — only committed by the lazy or unsuccessful. Yet it is a vital emotion that helps you cultivate creativity, contemplation, and stillness. It is essential for the mind to be bored.

A couple of weeks back I deleted several apps from my phone: Twitter, Instagram, Gmail, Facebook, among others, in an attempt to force myself to be bored. I’m trying to let go of the things that I would usually use to ‘fill the space.’ I want to learn to be okay with just being.

Here is the list of things I let go of to find more boredom in the everyday

How I Got My Attention Back

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For twenty-eight days this winter I lived on the grounds of an old estate down in central Virginia, next to a town called — terrifyingly — Lynchburg, making good on a residency I had been offered by the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. I had done other residencies before, and knew in order to eke out maximum productivity, internet disconnection was nonnegotiable. And so it began, the day after the election: my month without the internet.

It felt like a cop-out—like I wasn’t allowed to escape the “real world” so easily. But the quieter my mind became, and the deeper I went into my own work, the more I realized how my always-on, always-connected state had rendered me largely useless.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” wrote Blaise Pascal. Did any of us remember how to sit quietly, alone, without a phone in hand? I certainly didn’t. By the time the curtain closed on act one of our political tragedy, if there was action to be taken, I was in no state to take it. I had long since lost control of my attention.