Social Media/News Holiday Diet: Week 3 Results

Week 3: Going for quality by making proactively healthy social media and news choices…

duolingo-results-week-3                                         My Duolingo XP Results for Week 3…

Last week, I said I wanted to focus on how to make good quality “dietary” choices in my social media/news intake, and learning (more about) how to do that was my biggest takeaway of the week (more on that below). Here’s how Week 3 went:

The urge keeps shrinking as shown by my running tally of views and resisted urges:

T 12/6 = 3/3 (= 3 looks, 3 ‘resisted urges’)
W 12/7 = 6/2
Th 12/8 = 4/2
F 12/9 = 4/3
Sa 12/10 = 0/6
Su 12/11 = 4/1
M 12/12 = 2/5

The total number of views dropped another 20 percent this week, and the total number of times I resisted the urge to look dropped another 30 percent; there were 29 looks, 32 ‘resisted urges’ in week 2, and 23 looks, 22 ‘resisted urges’ in week 3. The total number of urges (both filled and resisted) dropped from around nine per day to around six and a half per day. I may have undercounted the number of resisted urges, but that’s mainly because they have become weaker to the point where I almost don’t notice them, which is good. I’m now wondering what would be a good number of total urges. Six-and-a-half per day still sounds a little high to me, but it’s also not entirely in my control, and I don’t have a strong basis for comparison since I haven’t kept comparable track of, say, the number of times a day I want to eat something.

The weekend numbers were good but not that different from the weekday ones. I did not spend a lot of time during the weekend doing engaging activities which took me away from my computer and other devices. Instead, my weekend days didn’t look that different from my weekday days, which is probably why the numbers don’t look that different.

The triggers keep weakening — Interestingly, I did not identify any new triggers in Week 3. Not that I lack for triggers, as I identified over 20 triggers (21 to be exact) in the first two weeks. This makes sense, I suppose; one could expect that just about every possible trigger would show itself over a two-week period, especially when some triggers were being consciously ignored, which presumably would bring the lesser-used ones out into the open.

As the triggers also continued being weaker in week 3, I started to notice what I think is a different mental layer in the habit process: triggering the thought of social media or news versus triggering the urge to look at social media or news. For instance, one morning I saw the looking at the Facebook icon on my iPhone screen triggered the thought of social media, but the mental message seemed different: ‘there’s social media’ instead of ‘there’s social media; go look at it!’ The difference may be subtle, but it seems important to me because it implies another level of clearing that could be useful: extinguishing not just the urge to look at social media or news, but extinguishing the thought itself. Could I get to the point where I ignore my Facebook icon as often as I ignore most of the other icons on my iPhone screen? Would it make sense (duh) to move the Facebook icon off the main screen so that it would require a proactive move on my part to look at it? (Duh….) So I did that, and it seems to be helping so far.

This morning it occurred to me that the key distinction might be whether or not I have to make a mental decision about a trigger, as distinct from simply observing the impulse and letting it float by without any additional regard. I’ll play with that idea some more and see how it works for me.

Putting the “diet” in social media/news diet — This week, my social media/news diet actually looked more like a food diet: three “meals” one day, three meals and a snack on three days, a skipped meal on one day, and a fast on one day. I think the main reason for this was that there was more planning involved. More on that in a moment.

How’s the food diet going? And the language learning?

Food diet is doing better. I got plenty of exercise, returned to a more balanced food intake level, and dropped a pound and a half. Still not yet back to where I was in August.

Language learning, quite well also.  I amassed 1,780 “experience points” (XPs) on Duolingo in the past week, almost double the number of last week. Progress continues — level 11 in Spanish (52% “fluent”) and level 9 in French (40% “fluent”).  The Spanish felt comfortable enough that I went to a conversation class and did fine. I have next to no experience conversing in French, though, so I’m still gathering the gumption to try a conversational event in French, maybe after the holidays.

Biggest takeaway of the week: learning to make healthy choices. I started paying attention to my reasons for looking at social media and news, trying to identify good choices and bad choices and how to distinguish between the two. At first, I tried to keep track of when I made a healthy choice and when I didn’t. That soon stopped working, though, because sometimes it usually was a mix of the two, and there were also things that were hard to distinguish as good or bad.  I did succeed in identifying mumerous examples of both healthy and less healthy social media/news choices.

Examples of healthy social media/news choices:

– Proactively deciding to do a brief news scan via FB news feed
– Proactively deciding to do a brief FB friends update via FB news feed
– Checking the business news briefly to see how key indicators are doing
– Reading another business-related article or two to keep up a bit with business news
– Posting beautiful, interesting, elucidating, humorous, or otherwise uplifting posts on my FB feed
– Reading other people’s beautiful, interesting, elucidating, humorous, or otherwise uplifting posts on my FB feed
– Engaging in worthwhile, elucidating, civil conversations online
– Researching related to client, collaborative, creative, or citizen activism
– Supporting other causes on their FB pages
– Client or cause-related FB Live show
– Promoting or engaging with my audiences via FB pages, Twitter feeds, and other social media means

Examples of less healthy social media/news choices:

– Looking for/at articles that I read mainly to feed my sense of outrage and righteous indignation
– Looking passively or aimlessly through my FB feed
– Looking passively or aimlessly through news web sites
– Using social media or news surfing as a passive form of taking a break
– Engaging in arguments with friends or strangers in FB conversation threads, Twitter feeds, or other social media means

The other big takeaway for me was building the habit of proactively choosing healthy social media. As the lists above imply, being passive about my choices usually does not serve me well.  Instead, I found it helpful to plan what I was going to do before I went on social media or looked at news. One time I wrote down a list of about a half dozen things I wanted to do. Other times I simply thought of one or two things I wanted to do, and also thought ahead of time whether or not I would indulge in more ‘junk food’-like activities like reading news articles or feeds (which these days, let’s face it, is unavoidably laced with junk).

These lists help me understand why going ‘cold turkey’ was not for me. There are too many good reasons for being on social media or looking at news for me to give it up altogether.  Both of these lists are probably longer, and maybe I’ll add to them in the coming week(s). My other focus for this week will be on consolidating these new habits and starting to write up a summary of what I’ve learned — not just about changing this habit, but about changing other habits as well…

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