Cutting Back on Social Media Distractions – Experiment Results

Lake Louise

I recently wrote about an experiment to claim control of my tech and social media life. Some tweaks worked, some didn’t. After 1.5 months of testing, here’s a quick update on the success (or failure) of those four goals.

As a good stress test of this, we spent October living in (and loving) Bend, followed by a week in Portland. We also tacked on fun days in 93-degrees-in-November Los Angeles for Farm Sanctuary’s anniversary gala, a fabulous event. (“Not traveling” is relative for us, I suppose.)

This challenge wasn’t about perfection. I knew there would be some modification to my initial plan, though I didn’t end up changing much. I’m surprised how passionately people respond when this challenge comes up. “Oh, I really want to do something like that!” It seems many of us realize the time drain or addiction that our devices can create.

A splendid day outside.

A splendid day in Yoho National Park.

With the election behind us (and piles of uncertainty ahead!), I’d wager social media time skyrocketed for most of us. Chelsea and I are inspired by the activism and positive energy we’ve seen pour forth – it’s awesome to see friends who never post about politics adding their voice to the mix.

Now is an important time to come together and let our voices be heard. I also think it’s necessary to compartmentalize the noise and only take in news and social media in chunks, which has only reinforced my commitment to this experiment.

The famously-high first bolts at Smith Rock always keep me focused...

The famously-high first bolts at Smith Rock always keep me focused…

Here’s how my four goals played out…

A weekly digital Sabbatical: Phone off and computer off on Saturday.

I’ll start off with the fail. Frankly, the digital Sabbatical I attempted to do every Saturday did NOT work for me.

There’s just too much communication in my life on weekends, ranging from coordination of outdoor activities, plans with friends, texts to Chelsea (“hey, I’m gonna be 2.5 hours late getting back from a bike ride”), or answering calls from tenants. Turns out my phone is an integral part of my daily life.

Luckily, in combination with the three items below, a digital Sabbatical turned out to be less necessary. Without the distracting pull from my phone, I’m far more present on Saturday. To keep boundaries on social media, I’ve opted to not post on Instagram or Facebook on the weekends.

All in all, an interesting experiment in being completely disconnected with too many potential headaches or trouble relative to the gain. I’m fine with that.

Saluting the Canadian Rockies! Pretty sure it was Saturday.

Saluting the Canadian Rockies in Banff! Pretty sure it was Saturday.

A no-phone rule during meals and in the bedroom

This rule is GREAT. I feel far more connected to people when I’m sitting down for a meal. Beyond that, there have been zero times when any texts or phone calls were so time sensitive that they couldn’t wait 1-2 hours.

Not having my phone by the bedside first thing in the morning is fantastic. On top of my usual reading, I’ve made a habit of firing up my Kindle in the morning and wound up reading over a dozen books in October.

Rather than reading on my phone, I bought a used Kindle that I am enjoying vs my phone. It’s also nice to signal “no interruptions please, I’m reading,” rather than the mixed signals looking at my phone. (Which used to mean I was just screwing around on social media!)

Morning sunrise in Yoho National Park, no cell signal allowed.

Morning sunrise in Yoho National Park, no cell signal allowed.

Deleting social media from my phone

This. Is. AWESOME. In the past, I’d grab my phone to flip through various feeds juuuust to check in. Now, my phone only has functional apps or (boring) work email on it, so I spend that time doing something else. (Even if it’s just standing in line talking to the person next to me.)

Gramblr has worked well for Instagram. Even though I’ve been riding, running or climbing almost every day since we got to Bend, I haven’t felt a daily pull to share. I haven’t posted a photo of the van in almost two months! *gasp*

I’ve definitely experienced moments where I wish I had social media to pull my attention away from boredom or as a distraction. Instead, I’m forced to face whatever I don’t REALLY want to be doing and just take care of it, which I think is a positive change.

Hanging with new friends at Lake Louise.

Hanging with new friends at Lake Louise. (First photo in this post is of Lake Louise also.)

Deleting personal email access my phone

Ahhh, silence. My phone is no longer a source of to-dos. By time blocking and only responding to personal email on my computer, I no longer stand frozen in grocery stores tip-tapping out a (slow, misspelled) response.

As a side effect to this, I’ve also backed off on responding to work email on my phone. If I’m away from my laptop, I’ll scan through email here and there, but unless it’s time sensitive, I just handle it later.

I highly recommend this tweak for anyone who separates their work and personal emails. Less time thinking about email is better time spent, if you ask me!

Smith Rock: My new backyard climbing playground and all-around beautiful location. Sunset turns the Crooked River into a perfect mirror of the red rock walls.

Smith Rock: My new backyard climbing playground and all-around beautiful location. Sunset turns the Crooked River into a perfect mirror of the red rock walls.

***

All in all, I’m calling this experiment a success. I feel more focused, better connected to people when I’m with them, and I’m reading a lot. Other than the digital Sabbatical, which didn’t work with my lifestyle, I’m planning to incorporate all the tweaks as permanent changes.

Here’s to finding some space to shut down devices and spend quality time with friends and family this coming week. Happy Thanksgiving!

If you’ve tried any social media or technology diets, what has stuck and what didn’t work for you?

You thought I'd go an entire post without a mountain biking shot? HAAAAA. Here's my buddy Paul enjoying a perfect day on Cline Butte in Central Oregon.

You thought I’d go an entire post without a mountain biking shot? HAAAAA. Here’s my buddy Paul enjoying a perfect day on Cline Butte in Central Oregon.

4 replies
  1. Ray Rivera
    Ray Rivera says:

    Great post…seems we’re slaves to our gadgets. Thich Nhat Hanh has said it’s an addiction and we should use reminder bells to stop momentarily to just breathe. Our home rule is to not answer the phone or have it at the table during dinner. Whatever it is let it wait…

    Reply
  2. Jen Sotolongo
    Jen Sotolongo says:

    Fascinating results! I never used to have my phone with me in bed until I started reading on it. It’s so easy to get distracted by other things while I’m reading and it’s the first thing I pick up in the morning, just because it’s there. I’ve also never been one to bring my phone to meals. I. Hate. That. It’s so rude and I don’t understand why I’m dining with someone if we’re not enjoying the meal together!

    Nice work on this diet!
    Jen Sotolongo recently posted…Cajas Hiking Tour – Cuenca, EcuadorMy Profile

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      Having a Kindle to read on has been key for reducing my attachment to my phone. But now I’m reading at dinner and ignoring my friends… 😉

      Reply

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