Don’t beat them, don’t join them

I’ve heard a couple of times from friends that they’re trying to stop using social networks. The keyword is try. It’s been difficult, to say the least. The thumb seems to have a mind of its own.

Social networks are not only incredibly exciting to experience, they’re also literally how many people keep in touch. 

I don’t spend as much time on social networks anymore as I used to, and I prefer to use them sparingly. At best, it feels like an indulgence, the digital equivalent to a drink or a slice of cake.

While I couldn’t tell you exactly what I do with my time—I’d wager I’m more productive, though that’s not the point—it just feels like I have more time, and that I don’t have to struggle with Twitter brain throughout the day. I experience much less FOMO and envy than I would have if I was on these social networks every day. In other words, the rest of my life feels just a little bit calmer.

The most painful tradeoff is, I miss out on many gifts from friends. I’m not just talking about funny memes. I mean, big life announcements. Group invitations. Sometimes even opportunities and direct correspondences. 

It feels bad—sometimes awful!—to miss out on these experiences, though it feels worse to live life like I don’t have a choice. I accept that I don’t deserve special treatment from anyone else who pays the psychological and attention tax to be in the social media group; in return I get a slightly greater peace of mind, which feels more and more scarce these days.

To me, the key to stop using social networks is to not try to beat them. I know I’ll experience whatever I experience when I’m on one; I also use plugins like LeechBlock as a guardrail when I inevitably cave. I don’t try to outsmart social networks, I don’t try to join them. When I promote my book on them, or try to get back in touch with friends, I’m trading off my peace of mind.

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