Social Media/News Holiday Diet: Week 1 Results

One week into my social media/news diet, here’s how it’s gone so far: pretty well, and a bit eye-opening…

pattys-lemon-pie-tgiving-16A lemon pie my sister Patricia made for Thanksgiving —
one-and-a-half of the seven pieces I had this past weekend…

A week ago, I resolved to do a holiday diet — not a food and drink diet, but a social media/news diet — for reasons I explained here.  The main elements of the diet plan were these:

– Keep a running, daily tally of each time I look at social media or news;
– Keep a tally of each time I have the urge to look but resist that impulse;
Try to limit my number of social media/news “meals” to three per day, and no snacking if I can help it.
Keep a list of the social media/news triggers I encounter along the way.

Here’s how it went for the first week — first, the tally of views and resisted urges:

T 11/22 = 9/12 (= 9 looks, 12 ‘resisted urges’)
W 11/23 = 6/11
Th 11/24 = 4/1
F 11/25 = 8/2
Sa 11/26 = 4/3
Su 11/27 = 3/8
M 11/28 = 3/7 (as of mid-afternoon)

I didn’t try to limit myself too much the first day because I wanted to get a sense of what my everyday baseline had become. And that was an eye opener — the urge to look at social media and/or news struck me almost two dozen times in one day!  That is one ingrained habit. The first day’s number may be inflated a bit by my son’s arrival back in the States after 4 1/2 months abroad (which of course I had to report on Facebook, right?).  But even so: the second day was 17 times (six indulged, 11 resisted).  Thursday was probably artificially low because it was Thanksgiving Day; after that, the instances ranged from 7-11 times per day — a distinct improvement, but still a lot if you ask me.  Except for Friday, I was able to keep my views down to three or four per day, so that’s encouraging.

So what’s triggering this behavior in me? The list of my triggers is long, varied, and sobering. Here’s the list from the first day which I posted previously:

– Seeing a blank “New Tab” open in my browser window.
– Transition to a new task on my computer. (Task doesn’t matter, whether it’s work or creative or something else.)
– Reaching for the “F” key (hint: “F” doesn’t stand for “Ford Motor Company” anymore!) when opening a new browser window.
— Taking a break from a task (e.g., writing).
– Needing a break from a task (e.g., writing).
– Internal dialogue, e.g., some imaginary conversation with someone whom I disagree with (on Facebook or elsewhere).
– Seeing that red dot with a number in it on an app icon on my iPhone

Here are more triggers I’ve found during the first week:
•    While walking toward my home office
•    While doing yoga (I use my smartphone as a timer, but there’s that red dot again…)
•    While checking email
•    While on a Meetup web page
•    After leaving another web page
•    Seeing the web page thumbnails when I open a new tab in my web browser
•    Getting out of bed/waking up
•    As a ‘take a break’ signal (similar to transitioning to a new task, but not the same)
•    After having completed a task

There were also a couple of others I noticed but forgot (for now) before I could record them.

What patterns do there seem to be? Here’s what I saw during this first week:

The computer is a major trigger source. No real surprise there, but: I had no idea there were so many triggers embedded into my computer usage habits — changing pages, checking email, stopping or ending a task while on the computer. Deeply, deeply embedded triggers. An infestation of triggers. Some of them are downright unnerving in how deeply they are embedded.
Being around people and having things to do away from the computer helped.
Not taking my smartphone with me everywhere helped. I allowed myself to rely on other people’s phones for things like time, information, and the like.
Removing myself from trigger sources reduced the demand, but it didn’t completely eliminate it.

Now that I’m back home working in my home office, it’s harder to avoid the triggers because I spend so much of my time on the computer mostly out of necessity. Previous good habits like taking breaks and getting away from the computer only worked with conscious effort, rather than just taking a quick look at social media/news first (which, as you know, all too often “quick” becomes 10 minutes, or 20, or a half-hour or more).

Here was the big takeaway: what did I do instead?

I used the triggers to start a new habit: language learning on Duolingo. I’d started using their phone app a year ago to brush up on my Spanish, but I’d stopped doing it. So, using my computer instead (a useful and necessary strategy since so many of my triggers were computer-induced), I resumed the Spanish lessons and started French lessons as well. Whenever I was on my computer and felt the urge to check social media or news, I did Duolingo lessons instead. It helped that my sister Patricia also got involved in a little friendly competition to catch up with me in French. (She’s studied French in the past, so it didn’t take her long to catch up.)

I ended up doing a lot of lessons — so many that I’m now at Duolingo’s level 8 in Spanish (36% “fluent”) and level 7 in French (22% “fluent”). No, it’s not the best way to learn a language. But it’s a good way to develop some helpful language skills that could be integrated with other language learning activities. And it’s a great way to break the social media/news habit — or at least it’s a promising way so far, after one week. Imagine if I did this for a month, or six months, or even longer:  surely I would make some noticeable, tangible progress. Well, that’s what I’m imagining — and I actually think it could work if I use the trigger power of my social media/news viewing habits to fuel this new habit. But how well will it really work? I’ll keep you posted.

Oh yes, and I ate a lot of pie — eight pieces overall in four days (1 1/2 pieces of lemon; 2 1/2 pieces of pumpkin; 3 pieces of apple; one piece of shoo-fly).  I had two pieces for dessert Thanksgiving dinner; I had pie for breakfast Friday morning; I had pie for lunch Saturday afternoon. I did not hold back on the pie, in other words. I gained a pound and a half, but I’ll do my best to work it off this week; there’s no pie in the house, and fond memories remain of my Thanksgiving indulgence — that should tide me over through a week at least. It was well worth it to help support this new habit I’ve gained and resolve to sustain — call it an early New Year’s resolution.

One other curious thing started happening: when I did check Facebook, it seemed even more toxic than ever. Lots of wonderful stuff there too, but so much junk. I saw a posting from someone who’d I always appreciated and admired which insulted me — not directly or even intentionally, but it was unmistakably insulting. It used a word intended as a pejorative which is a word I use to self-identify. So I hid her postings. I also began to wonder if some of the postings from even my most trusted FB posters were from trolls. At the very least, I felt the urge to track them down to see if they were. What is that about? It started getting me thinking if I should leave Facebook altogether. All this after just one week of my social media/news diet; can’t wait to see what Week 2 brings!…

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One thought on “Social Media/News Holiday Diet: Week 1 Results

  1. Pingback: Social Media/News Holiday Diet: Week 2 Results | Ideaphoriana

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