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 Go, Confessions of a Failed Egoist and Other Essays, A 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.
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