I Quit Social Media

This week is unsettling for me. The fear of the COVID-19 pandemics spreads around the globe, and the financial market’s volatile tumbles soon followed.

I was startled at first on this Monday, then I went to news outlets, watching how things unfold. On Wednesday, things got worse, the market crashed spectacularly. At night, I went to Twitter to take a look at how people reacted to the situation. The atmosphere was intense, everyone seemed worried. But under the hashtag search results, things are more noxious than I thought. People are full of hatred, blaming the government and the people, dispersing the already distressing mood.

I had a sleepless night. This week is screwed up.

Yesterday I read Cal Newport’s recent article On Digital Minimalism and Pandemics, which provides an insightful explanation for my predicament:

In this current situation, for most people, the constant monitoring of online news about the virus is providing pure fuel to the ignoble steed, dragging the allegorical chariot away from what’s good and awe-inspiring about life — even during turmoil — and toward bottom-less anxiety and pseudo-paralysis. The ignoble steed always craves more of this attention-catching information. What if something extra terrible just happened? What if I find a link that makes me feel better? But in this feverish pursuit, the charioteer loses control.

This precisely summarizes my mental state this week.

The main social media I had been using was Twitter. I have long The 280-character limit imposed on Tweets discourages the long, meaningful content. Instead, the recommending algorithms fill the timeline with sensational click baits (or “like baits”), which are designed to be addictive, to maximize the exploitation of the user’s time. Having been using Twitter for almost four years, I’ve seldomly found any useful information on it. As Grant Winney well articulates – it’s a black hole for your free time.”

Social media like the WeChat Moments (a Facebook doppelganger) had been another significant distraction to me. People like posting their gorgeous photos, of course artificially beautified, and showing off their “incredible” life experiences, so others could tap the like buttons and send their insincere compliments. It is an echo chamber enclosed in a harmonious aura. But underneath the spotlights are the pervading anxiety deep-rooted in peer pressure, or even worse, vanity.

Not long ago, I read Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. After reading the book, I immediately disabled the WeChat Moments. I began implementing simple GTD task management. Then I found my life more productive than ever. But I couldn’t quit Twitter. I like following people, especially famous developers on Twitter. I also like tweeting my random thoughts on it.

Now I say “enough is enough,” I quit for good. I will only read news from hand-curated subscriptions in my news reader, like Feedly and Inoreader. Well-prosed blogs are still pervasive on the Internet. Institutional media outlets featuring long reports and articles appeal to me. Forums with unique interests, like Hacker News, promote meaningful discussions instead of unsubstantial gibberish. For my impromptu ideas and thoughts, I will keep them in private journals.

Cal Newport’s TED Talk: Why you should quit social media elaborates on the harmful impacts and common misunderstandings of the issue.

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