Detoxing from the Digital Crack Pipe

Adicción a internet

A month ago, I closed down my social media profiles, removed all but a handful of blogs from my RSS reader, and generally took a break from the Internet, or at least as much a break as I could while continuing to update this blog. I also curbed my smartphone usage to the bare minimum necessary to keep my small business running and assure my friends/family that I hadn’t been brutally murdered on the way to the liquor store.

It was glorious.

If you’re wondering whether you should take a break from the Internet, you probably should. While the Internet was once a tool for learning and enlightenment, the entry of countless slack-jawed retards and the rise of websites to cater to them has perverted its core function. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the rest are designed to divide your attention and turn you into a crack-addled hamster, smacking the lever for little pellets of attention. A month away from the crack pipe and your brain will reset itself to normal.

If I Don’t Show It, If You Can’t See Me

I won’t deny that Roosh’s article on his detox from social media inspired me to take my own Internet sabbatical, but this was something I’d been thinking about already. I’ve written about how I’ve altered my writing style in the past in order to avoid dividing my readers’ attention, but I didn’t consider how my own Internet habits were hurting me in ways big and small.

I used to flatter myself by thinking that I wasn’t a social media addict like most of my generation. I haven’t had a “real” Facebook account in five years (the one I have now I started up solely to promote this blog, though I’ve incidentally become real life friends with many of the people I’ve met through it). I was an early adopter to Twitter through my old blog In Mala Fide, but I primarily used it to promote that site. I had an Instagram account briefly, mainly as a way of stashing pics I took during my hitchhiking trip two years ago, but closed it out of boredom. I’ve never once scrolled through my entire Twitter timeline or Facebook news feed, because I never had the time or interest to read status updates about what people were having for lunch or whatever stupid crap they were posting.

What I didn’t realize was how even my limited usage of social media was bad for me.

Two months ago, I noticed that when I wasn’t doing anything that was particularly intensive, I would click over to Twitter to see if anyone new had followed me or had responded to one of my witty japes. I did the same with my Facebook page. I also realized that I wasn’t reading anywhere from 90-95 percent of the blogs/sites in my RSS reader, yet I kept clicking on them once a day, like some kind of digital hoarder. Even worse, I was near-attached to my smartphone, constantly checking all the aforementioned sites whenever I had a bit of downtime when I was out. Not only was all of this adding up to huge blocks of wasted time, it was spreading my attention thin; by hopping between so many different apps/sites, I wasn’t spending enough time on any single one to learn anything meaningful.

Roosh and I aren’t the only people talking about the Internet is warping our minds. Scientific research has shown that Google, Twitter and the like are rewiring our brains, making us less able to recall specific bits of information. When was the last time you memorized someone else’s phone number, for example? Davis Aurini, Robert Koch, Mitch Sturges and others have written about how kicking their social media habits have helped them regain their focus and drive to learn. Even mainstream artists such as St. Vincent are taking on the Internet and how it’s not necessarily changing us for the better.

Going Cold Turkey

With this in mind, I decided to quit the Internet on March 25th. Here’s what I did:

  • I removed all but about 15-20 blogs from my RSS reader. The only ones that I kept were ones written by people I know in real life and/or those that were so insanely valuable that I couldn’t stop reading them (e.g. Roosh’s blog, Danger & Play). I usually regularly prune my RSS reader of boring/uninteresting blogs anyway, but this was by far the most extreme culling I’ve ever done.
  • I unfollowed everyone on Twitter and modified the hosts file on my computer to prevent me from accessing it entirely.
  • I unfollowed everyone and everything on Facebook. I couldn’t block the site altogether because I use the private messaging system to keep in contact with some people, so I installed a block on my Facebook page.
  • I uninstalled the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone. I replaced the latter with the Messenger app so I could read my private messages without being distracted by the Facebook news feed. I also retained the Pages Manager app so I could keep trolls from infesting my page. I couldn’t remove Gmail because I have an Android phone (and am not willing to void my warranty by rooting it), so I left it alone. I also retained my other email account for use with airplane boarding passes and the like.
  • I got rid of all the games on my smartphone (and by “all the games,” I mean Tetris).
  • I unsubscribed from all the mailing lists I was on.

From that point forward, I forced myself to do anything other than putz around on the Internet when I had spare time. If I was on the computer, I would do chess problems or write blog posts instead of checking social media. I would spend more time reading books. I would spend more time exercising or otherwise being on my feet. Whenever I went out, I would engage with the people around me instead of looking at my phone like a retard.

Initially, I went through minor withdrawal symptoms. After I had blocked Twitter from my computer, for example, for a couple days afterwards I kept clicking on my Twitter bookmark out of habit, until my brain realized that it wasn’t going to get the dopamine hit and stopped. Whenever I went to a bar or show, I would keep pulling my phone out of my pocket, only to be dismayed when I realized there was nothing to do with it but text my friends.

Drug crashes are no fun.

After a few days, however, my brain retrained itself to accept the new reality. When I was working on the computer, I would stay focused on my objective, completing my work faster without the distraction of social media. I stepped up my reading habits: during my trip to Buffalo a month ago, I finished four print books (Down Where the Devil Don’t GoConfessions of a Failed Egoist and Other EssaysA Reader’s Manifesto and Tool.) in the span of a day. I started taking concrete steps for my July relocation out of the U.S. I gradually wound down my phone usage to just texting and instant messaging people.

By the time I returned to social media on April 25th, I didn’t miss it in the slightest.

I’ve Seen the Greatest Minds of My Generation Destroyed by Twitter

Detoxing from the online hamster wheel taught me a number of lessons.

For starters, I realized that I didn’t miss most of the blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages I had been subscribed to. While the human instinct is to hoover up as much information on a topic as possible (game, fitness, philosophy etc.), I realized that I wasn’t using most of the content I was reading. Political/sociological blogs weren’t teaching me anything that I didn’t already know, and most of the self-improvement articles I was reading weren’t adding to my knowledge of the topic. There’s only so much you need to read on a topic to grasp how to apply it to your life.

Secondly, I realized that engaging people on social media was a waste of time. Constantly updating a Facebook page is a waste because Zuckerberg has redesigned pages to keep the vast majority of your followers from seeing what you post on them (unless you pay him a ransom), but Twitter is equally useless. The 140-character limit of Tweets prevents you from sharing intelligent thoughts or having good discussions by its very nature, and even when you break longer thoughts into multiple Tweets, the payoff for doing so is nonexistent. Because of Twitter’s transient nature, even really good comments you make there will get buried within a day, ensuring that no one will truly benefit from them.

Sharing ideas on Twitter is a grand way to ensure that you’ll never be able to develop them.

At the same time, my withdrawal from social media caused me to lose a lot of respect for people who use it constantly. People who Tweet exclusively, for example (i.e. they don’t have blogs or write articles), are almost all losers and fags. Attempting to become popular on Twitter or Facebook is useless in and of itself because posting on them doesn’t make you a smarter or more cultured person. The only people who truly benefit are the people who run the sites themselves, as they get to shove ads in your face constantly.

Finally, going cold turkey made me realize just how socially retarded Americans have become. Much like how abstaining from alcohol makes being around drunk people intolerable, abstaining from Internet use makes being around smartphone users intolerable. Bars, lounges and rock shows are seas of self-absorbed twits hunched over their phones Tweeting blurry pics and counting up their Facebook Likes. Attempting to make small talk—or even just asking for directions if you’re lost—with people my age will get you a deer-in-the-headlights stare (or a curt “No”) half the time you do it, even more so depending on where you are (people in New Orleans are more social than those in New York City, for example). As for the teenagers and kids growing up today, who can’t remember life before the iPhone, they’re just fucked.

Since returning from my sabbatical, I’ve found it a lot easier to maintain the good habits I built. I now use Twitter solely to promote my blog and share the occasional interesting article or observation. I don’t engage with my followers much, and if someone starts Tweeting at me trying to start a fight, I just block them without thinking. Same goes with Facebook. I rarely add new sites or blogs to my RSS reader, and I use a Chrome extension to block ads on most sites (save for those run by people I know/respect). If someone needs to get a hold of me, I talk to them via email, text or phone.

If they can’t reach me via one of those methods, they’re probably not important enough to talk to anyway.

If you have interesting ideas or skills to share with the world, doing so via social media is one of the worst ways to do it, both for them and you. If you really want to improve as a man or get recognition for your ideas, start a blog instead. Write books. Use social media as tools and nothing else. And if you’ve learned all you need to know about a particular topic, there’s no reason for you to keep reading blogs and articles about it. Past a certain point, all you’re doing is feeding your brain intellectual junk food. Cut the crap out of your life and you’ll be astounded at what you can accomplish.

Read Next: Practicing Online Hygiene

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  • dingtwist

    Completely agree man. Almost 2 weeks ago I deactivated my fb account because I was spending an hour or more each day just browsing my news feed. The information is worse than useless. And I’m a bit ashamed to admit that the withdrawal symptoms were worse than quitting alcohol for 30 days.

  • http://blog.illusionofsanity.com Dr. Illusion

    I find it amazing that anyone could get this strung out on social media. Do you people have nothing to do?

    I work 12 hours, drive home, spend 2 hours feeding animals, watering the garden, reading books on physics or learning another language, then eat and go to sleep. It’s rare that I check my Twitter feed more than once a week.

    The real moral of this story is “idle hands/minds are the devils workshop.” You, and anyone stuck in the trap you describe, need to get a life.

  • http://joselromero.com Jose

    Facebook, twitter and the rest of the social media is a big waste of time! I been in twitter since the beginning and never found a reason to use it so it just sat there for years. I mainly use it for promoting my blog and even that its iffy at best!

    Facebook is garbage as there is never anything useful to read! Just pictures and shit!

    I never understood why people become so attached to social media.

    It’s good to see that people like yourself have started to realize the brain drain it is causing.

    I don’t at times even carry my mobile around with me which pisses my wife off to no end.

    Keep spreading the news matt

  • slenkar

    As a nerd I dont enjoy socializing, so i never enjoyed facebook or twitter.

  • http://zpatriarchy.blogspot.com/ Zodak

    This is part of the reason I never got a smartphone. I write my 2 blogs & unfollow “friends” whenever they post nonsense. I tweet maybe once a month. I just don’t have time for most of it.

  • http://thenewcenturyman.com paxtonrask

    I did an experiment along the same lines April 1st. I stopped tweeting for 30 days on my professional accnt. I had, on two occasions, to fight the tweeting urge about something I can’t even remember now but it passed. It was kind of the same feeling when quitting cigarettes-wait long enough and the urge will pass.
    When I returned, I missed nothing and actually get physically sick when I see other people’s timelines that show them tweeting ALL fucking day. SM is for promoting products and business. If one sees a measurable up tick in INCOME from using it, continue using it. If you don’t close it down and learn to cook…or something actually fun & useful.

  • http://tempesttcup.wordpress.com TempestTcup

    When I went to the Vegas meetup, I was off the internet for 10 days, hardly tweeted, and didn’t read any tweets. My internet usage and interests changed completely during those 10 days. When I went to NO with you all, it happened again. I’m not on much because I really have little interest and right now I am absolutely slammed at work and have been working 6 days a week. No time for goofing off!

  • http://gravatar.com/babyrasputin Roosh

    “my withdrawal from social media caused me to lose a lot of respect for people who use it constantly”

    I noticed this too. You won’t be able to help feel a little smug at people waiting in lines or for the subway who are compelled to play with their phone while you don’t need to. I can’t help but think that this will only cause us to lose respect for most humans.

  • Will S.
  • http://parkerbensen.wordpress.com parkerbensen

    I once went for a period of about a year where I only used the internet about five times – no bullshitting.
    I was working a full time fast food job, and I just didn’t bother to get the internet hooked up. Was during the early adoption phase of smartphones so I simply had a Nokia, which I used to text and talk to friends. I got my entertainment from seeing movies, watching TV show box sets, and reading Empire magazine (they sure love to spruik some lousy films, but they had some entertaining writers), also going to the gym, being outdoors, sitting on my ass a lot less.
    Although reading a few more books wouldn’t have killed me, it may have been one of the best years of my life, being free from a lot of useless information.
    But, unfortunately, that time of innocence is over. These days I need the internet for some things. Guess it’s sort of like alcohol, in that if you need to start the day with a drink (checking facebook/twitter/blogs) and carry a hip flask (smartphone), you’re up shit creek, but it’s good to be able to enjoy a drink in the right company without it getting out of control (work only, everything else super rare).

  • http://cigarsandlegs.com Adam Lawson

    Matt,

    I’m taking this idea and intend to run with it a bit. I’m staying away from feedly entirely and skipping out on Twitter. I’d have to request my facebook password to login so I’m not worried about that one. But I’m also going to try and kill my news feeding frenzy. I love me some news. I started trying this yesterday.

    Every time I have an itch to look at any of that crap, I instead start taking some notes on writing or edit some of my writing; we’ll see how this improves my productivity… I mostly got on Twitter to try and promote the books, and I don’t think it’s having much of an impact — trying to sell stuff on Twitter is kind of like spitting into a hurricane… it’s just a flood already.

    Blogs have sort of been the same — seeking news or outlets for self promotion, and then my interest in what was the manosphere (there are so few sites I was still reading in the first place). Instead of reading in the RSS reader the few sites I want to check… I can do manually. Which will mean I have to actually go to the site to read it — which should reduce what I’m reading.

    Okay, that was long winded. I have a lot of time now that I’m not goofing off on Twitter.

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  • http://www.englishteacherx.com English Teacher X

    I went the first 30 years of my life or so without a cell phone and the first 35 without the internet. I don’t recall feeling more focused, intelligent, or productive. There’s always some stupid thing to waste time on …

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