The Joy of Missing Out

Thirty plus days without social media was good, but as I joked to friends: it turns out social media wasn’t my only problem. I’d hoped that the Digital Declutter would help me become a more saintly and productive version of myself, but I found plenty of other good ways to procrastinate. I tended our sad garden– it’s been a cool, wet summer. I tidied my home studio and worked in it for the first time since my daughter was born. I drew and painted. I read magazines. I drank gin and tonics and watched bats swoop through the evening sky.

The distance from my tech habits gave me some good perspective on my use: how I imagine a social media audience that cares about and wants my posts, despite no real evidence of that; how pleasant it is to feel connected to peers across the country, especially when you’re home with a very young child; and how the physical and visible presence of my phone, even when it’s off, invites me to find reasons I need to look at it.

One of the more interesting revelations about going without “non-essential technology” for a month was how often I reach for my phone to answer impulsive and non-essential questions. Which clematis grow well in Wisconsin? What was the final sale price on our neighbor’s house? Who was that actor we can’t quite remember? It felt good to recognize that curiosity and to decide whether or not a question was worth writing down to pursue later, when I sat down at the computer to work. For the most part, the urgency faded and I didn’t spend my precious screen time looking up those answers.

I’m not quite ready to return to all of it. Facebook least of all with its incessant nudges to participate. I got on there earlier today and scrolled through the dozens of red-circled notices: nothing essential there. Didn’t miss it and wan’t excited to see it now. In his book, Newport encourages us digital detoxers to add technology back in slowly and after vetting it with these questions:

  1. Does this technology support an important value in my life?
  2. Is this technology the best tool for that?
  3. If so, what are the parameters of my future use? For example, only checking a site on the web version or only on Sundays.

Honestly, I’m not eager to suss it out. I’d rather cut things out entirely or add them back in without restrictions, but that seems a waste of the whole month away. For the time being, I’m posting this and going on vacation where I can think about it some more and enjoy things without the eerie impulse to immediately post my experiences to the social ether.

Author: Katie

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