Delete App/Remove from Home Screen/Cancel

In ridding ourselves of the courthouse and marketplace we do not rid ourselves of the principal worries of our life. Ambition, covetousness, indecisiveness, fear, and desires hardly abandon us just because we change address. They pursue us into the monasteries and schools of philosophy themselves. Neither deserts nor caves nor hair shirts nor penance can extricate us from them. That is why it is not enough to remove oneself from people, not enough to go somewhere else. We have to remove ourselves from the habits of the populace that are within us. We have to isolate our own self and return it to our possession. We carry our chains within us. We are not entirely free. We keep returning our gaze to the things we left behind.

Stephen Batchelor reading Michel de Montaigne for the Tricycle podcast

Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transferred or transformed from one form to another.

The first law of thermodynamics

Sometimes I’ll delete Instagram from my phone for a while. Or set up blockers to keep me from looking at the web version of Twitter (since Tweetbot does a pretty good job of keeping me from falling down rabbit holes).

The other day I put Instagram back on my phone for a moment to check a message someone had sent me there, and within a few taps I inadvertently opened a video with spoilers for the new season of The Owl House.

At which point my brain kicked over to “In for a penny, in for a pound” and I fell down a rabbit hole with the app for several minutes.

The little lifehacks and quick fixes don’t work for me. There are plenty of others who feel the same:

Because bad habits provide some type of benefit in your life, it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them. (This is why simplistic advice like “just stop doing it” rarely works.)

Instead, you need to replace a bad habit with a new habit that provides a similar benefit.

James Clear

I haven’t found the right replacement for some of the habits that don’t actually bring me any real joy (even if they bring me dopamine). Maybe that’s because I haven’t adequately figured out what need they’re trying to fulfill.

An app or a social network isn’t designed for an individual, but for a broad sense of what humans need and desire. When I let idle moments default to distraction, I lose definition.

I’m no longer here, in this space, doing and thinking and being. Instead I’m riding a current of other people’s decisions and thoughts. Surrendering to it.

And it’s not enough to try to run and hide from it.

Kicking With Intention

I saved one great image from The Bullet Journal Method that illustrates using tools intentionally:

It suggests without space between a stimulus and an action, we’re going to react with snap judgement based on instincts like fear or anxiety.

Inserting a pause allows the chance to come up with a more constructive action.

Responding rather than reacting. Choosing to kick rather than twitching your leg when the doctor’s hammer strikes.

I wrestle with the easy reactions allowed by social media; the buttons where one click signals you’ve seen something or want others to see it.

Or the mental math about a Quote Tweet where you decide if you have anything constructive to add, whether your framing is necessary, or if the thing that you’re sharing deserves more eyeballs (because sometimes you’re reacting negatively to something).

These features ask you “How should I react?” instead of “What should I do?” or “What do I have to say?”

Social media content gets called a feed, as if it were just another blog or a rapidly updating news site, but the tools provided to interact with it treat it like an inbox.

Reply. Reply All (with tagging). Forward (share). Flag.

The design and prompts are there to make it feel like it’s your responsibility to wade through it all.

But there’s too much, because it’s not actually intended just for you.

That’s a thing about social media that’s hard to deal with right now while many of us crave social contact: It’s not all about you.

Your feed isn’t just for you. It’s a bunch of people screaming into the void, and you’ve chosen to stand nearby.

That’s why your email inbox lets you clear things out and social media doesn’t. Email is (supposedly) intended for you. You can’t delete or sort other people’s social media posts because they’re not your job.

It’s never too late for resolutions, and right now seems like a good time to reevaluate how (and if) to use social media.

I don’t intend to chuck it all, but I do want to make sure I remember what is and isn’t my job, and what tools are best for the work I must do.

Hopefully I can spend more time kicking at things that need to be kicked instead of twitching into space.