This article was a real-time experiment to track my unfollowing of everyone on Twitter and report back with results.
I’ve decided I’m unfollowing everyone on Twitter for 60 days. I’ll be using this post as a semi-updated journal to track my thoughts, feelings, and discoveries. If you want to chat with me about it, send me a tweet: @jasondoesstuff.
*It should be known ahead of time that I quit Facebook in 2016. Hence why I’m not mentioning quitting Facebook.
Since 2007, I’ve greatly enjoyed Twitter. It’s a wonderful platform that gives you access to people and lets people have access to you. I can’t deny the fact that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without sending 73,000 short messages out into the world (that’s an average of 20 tweets per day over the course of 10 years). I believe that 3/4 of those messages have been direct replies to other people: conversations I’ve enjoyed having that wouldn’t have happened anywhere else online.
I no longer want to share as many updates about my life. And I no longer need to know what everyone else is doing and thinking all day, either. Maybe I’m becoming a grumpy old man (get off my virtual lawn!), or maybe I’ve simply started to recognize that social media is the next great addiction. Either way, these are the two main reasons why I’m unfollowing everyone on Twitter:
Can we all agree that social media sites are the FIRST places we, as humans, go to share our displeasures? Have a bad experience with your cable provider? Angry tweet! You don’t like the current state of political affairs? Angry Facebook post! If something negative happens in your life, you share it.
Remember when that used to be a new, empowering, even positive thing? Social media was the place an individual could publicly confront a corporation and get action taken faster than would have been possible with a private email or phone call. I can’t discount that people who deserve an answer or a solution have often found it a lot faster by leveraging the power of social media.
However, when EVERYONE is sharing their grievances all the time, there’s a cumulative effect happening that I’m not comfortable being aware of all day, every day. While it may feel good to air frustrations and blow off steam, it can/does have a negative effect on the people reading.
I’m not here to convince anyone how they should or shouldn’t use their own social media accounts, but I do want to control the messaging that I consume on a daily basis.
For the past decade, I’ve done what most people do on Twitter: I’ve haphazardly unfollowed and followed people. There was no rhyme or reason to it.
Then, in 2014, I spent an entire day organizing the people I followed into Twitter Lists. Painstakingly, I went through hundreds of Twitter accounts I followed. I moved them into carefully curated Lists. I ended up with a main Twitter feed of only 100ish people. For about 48 hours, I felt great about myself and these new Twitter Lists. Then, I never looked at those Lists ever again, ever.
Since that time, Twitter has changed. One huge change that has led to “the great unfollowing of 2017” is that they now show tweets liked by people you follow (whether you follow the person they liked the tweet from or not). I may really enjoy the tweets of @person, but absolutely not enjoy or care about the tweets @person likes. I have to unfollow that person if I don’t want to see tweets they’ve liked. Which led to the big question:
That’s the answer I’m going to find by unfollowing everyone for 60 days. I feel like my life (online and off) has gotten better with 30-day social media detoxes. Could this be the next step?
This journal-of-sorts won’t be updated on a daily basis, but I’ll try to update it weekly (if meaningful-to-me thoughts occur). A few parameters I’ve set for myself:
So, without further ado, let’s dive in…
Well, technically, it’s 9:15pm PDT on July 31, but who’s counting?? If I’m being 100% honest, I chose to do all the unfollowing later in the evening because of a main concern I have about unfollowing people on Twitter (in general): People will be offended.
I could use the “it’s not you, it’s me” line until I’m blue in the face, but feelings will still get hurt. I’ve wanted to do this unfollow-all experiment for quite some time and hurt feelings has been the reason I haven’t done it… Until now.
Please let it be known that I adore Matthew Inman (aka @Oatmeal). That was a tough unfollow. But truly, none were tougher than…
Yep. That’s my Mom. She’ll understand though. She knows I like doing these weird experiments (and that my love for her goes well beyond a Twitter following). Hopefully the same goes for my wife. (Update: checked with my wife, she was cool with it.)
Unfollowing 116 people felt like I was doing something wrong. It felt like I was breaking some unwritten Twitter rule.
There was definitely a twisting in my gut, the same twisting when you know you’ve made a mistake or screwed something up. Let’s hope that feeling was merely an initial reaction. Time will tell.
There’s a weird mix of emotions as I wrap up this first journal entry for this experiment. On one hand, I’m intrigued and excited to see how it goes for the next 60 days. On the other hand, there are a lot of unknowns and unknowns are scary.
I’m no stranger to 30-day detoxes from social media, but this experiment has a unique feel to it already. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens!
One of my biggest concerns when I decided to embark on this unfollowing experiment was that everyone would notice I unfollowed them and send me angry messages. That didn’t happen.
Now… My assumption is that those angry messages didn’t happen because I didn’t selectively unfollow a handful of people (as I’ve done in past years). By unfollowing 100% of the people I followed, it put everyone on the same unfollowing spectrum. I can’t prove this assumption, but it’s clear to me that the end result (no angry messages) is a victory over my biggest concern.
TIP: Want to unfollow some folks on Twitter but you’re worried about backlash/angry messages of some sort? Unfollow everyone. Call it an “experiment.” And re-follow the folks you want to follow again (quietly) a few weeks later. You’re welcome.
Anyhoo, I had my first moment of I wonder what this does now? when I clicked the Home button on Twitter:
I expected to see a nice blank page. No tweets. Maybe a note from Twitter saying “Hey, you’re a weirdo, go follow some people!” I even thought Twitter might go one step further and offer up some random accounts they deemed popular. I’m honestly glad they didn’t do the latter. But nope, my Home (or feed) is now just my own tweets. The good news? If I want to get caught up on all things me, I know where to go! 😅
There were a couple tweets I received after announcing this experiment that I really liked:
Really interested to hear how this goes. I’ve been tempted to try it a few times, but like you the hurt feelings always kept me from it.
— Kory (@korymae) August 1, 2017
— Colin Rubbert (@ColinRubbert) August 1, 2017
I’m just jealous of the quiet. I’m addicted to refreshing as well.
— Halley (@evolvesucceed) August 1, 2017
A secret goal (that’s not a secret after you read this sentence) when I decided to do this 60-day unfollowing experiment is that it would inspire other people to do some Twitter housekeeping. That seems to be working! Yay for secret goals inspiring people to take control of how they use social media.
So, how has it felt not having any tweets to scroll through for a couple days?
Honestly, not that weird. As I mentioned, I enjoy doing social media detoxes and I’d experienced not having a feed of other people’s tweets to mindlessly thumb through before.
I did, however, keep track of the four Twitter accounts I selectively chose to visit to catch up on some tweets:
And random/silly thing. It looks like Twitter still thinks I’m following people:
Holy moly, where did the past two weeks go!? Well, I can actually tell you: “work.”
One of the outcomes from my social media detoxes over the years has been all the extra time I have to focus on my projects. It’s amazing how many extra hours you find yourself with and how better you can spend those hours on things that actually matter. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy engaging in conversations on Twitter, Instagram, etc, but I also really like investing in myself, my businesses, and my customers.
The past two weeks have been incredibly productive for my wife and I. We’ve:
Where has that left me with my unfollowing experiment on Twitter?
Truthfully? Almost forgetting about it. And I think that’s a great thing.
I waste so much less time using my Twitter feed as a place to escape doing all the mundane work (you know, the unsexy part of running businesses).
I do want to bring up one thing I have noticeably missed which is the ability to easily discover new stuff. I recently had a convo with my friend Pat on Slack about this:
Discovering new people, new interesting projects, new opinions, is a lot more difficult without a Twitter feed. I’ve found myself visiting a handful of the same websites: Colossal, The Verge, and Site Inspire. Two of my favorite things I’ve discovered recently are:
Speaking of discovery, I can’t remember how I found it, but I came across this amazing tweet:
The tenth Fast and Furious movie should be called Fast 10: Your Seatbelts
— Cadaea #i61 (@sophiekeen) July 11, 2017
One other small update is that Twitter finally realized I stopped following people. It no longer says “You follow each other” on anyone’s profile. And, the Twitter home feed has been updated to this:
I guess that’s an improvement from just seeing all my own tweets?? I’ll take it.
Last but not least for this update: I’m loving all the replies from folks who are inspired by this experiment to clean up their Twitter following. Again, if that’s the main outcome from this little challenge, I’m a happy camper.
@jasondoesstuff so the mass unfollowing begins.
— David Sherry (@_brandswell) August 9, 2017
I didn’t quite go down to zero like @jasondoesstuff is trying to, but I’ve greatly reduced my follow list and I am happy about it.
— Erika Couto (@theerikacouto) August 9, 2017
Today’s update is less about how my Twitter unfollowing experience is going and more about social media in general. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna soapbox you about taking a social media detox.
It occurred to me the past few weeks, while my time spent using Twitter has plummeted to almost nothing, there’s a gigantic elephant in the room with social media. Well-to-do successful business people will tell you that using social media to build your “brand” and grow your audience is necessary. You need to build deeper connections (we’ll get to that in a moment) and you need to hang out where the people are. But there’s one HUGE missing piece to that advice:
When do you reevaluate and realize that spending time on social media isn’t helping your “brand” or your business?
I know for a fact those same well-to-do successful business people would tell you to shut down a brick and mortar business if no one is walking in the doors each day. If you’re doing marketing, promotion, creating a unique in-store experience, and no one is showing up, those business folks would tell you to close the doors and move on after a certain period of time. No way in hell they tell you to keep the doors open because it helps your brand and helps you build stronger customer-connections when zero people are paying attention to you.
But… Those same business folks who tell you that social media is important for your business don’t ever tell you how long you should be investing time into it. They don’t have a clear deciding factor (no one walking in the door) to tell you it may be time to stop using social media to promote your business.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating here: My previous businesses had social media at the forefront of my brand-building and promotional efforts. Every day I spent time and money trying to craft unique content (yes, you can craft tweets) to keep my social media audiences engaged and interested. Yet, with all that effort, my businesses failed. In 2013 when I decided to focus less on social media and focus more on actually building a business (and great products to go along with it) I started to have success. I realized the majority of the time I was spending on social media wasn’t getting people in my virtual doors.
If you want to waste time everyday scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, watching YouTube videos, etc, that’s your prerogative. But if at the same time you are trying to build a business or you are trying to chase a big dream, you’re never going to be successful. You’re going to stay in the rat-race of trying to keep up and throwing valuable time at something (social media) without a guaranteed return.
So what should you be doing with your time, if not promoting your business on social media?
1. Build a product people actually need. Is the product or service you are selling is actually helping the customers who buy it? Not just getting them to buy, but once they buy, having your product improve their lives in some way (spoiler alert: this is ongoing in business).
2. Build entry points that bring potential customers immediate value. You should be creating simple ways for people to learn more about your product and get to a purchasing decision: helpful articles, in-depth video walkthroughs, actionable workshops, free email courses, awesome free trials, etc. Not just free downloadable garbage. Actual life-changing stuff that solves problems (note: it may take you weeks or months to create this stuff).
3. Build your firehoses. When you have a product/service that people are happily paying for and sharing with their friends, create unique and different ways to attract more people. Sure, I’d advocate you could use Facebook Ads at this point in the process, but using Facebook Ads has nothing to do with creating a Facebook Page with a content strategy for posts, images, videos, etc. You want to create opportunities where you can turn on/off the flow of additional customers (because you know you nailed #1 and #2).
The last thing I want to touch on is the “deepening of connections” on social media. While I wholeheartedly agree that you can create meaningful connections, I don’t believe they are “deep” connections. When you’re just another avatar in a constant feed of swiped-through updates, how is it possible to create a deep connection? I’ll tell you: It’s 100% not.
You may start a new friendship or connection on Twitter. You may find someone interesting through a friend on Facebook. But rarely does that connection stay strong for more than a few months unless you move that connection elsewhere (email, slack, Skype, in-person, etc). And if you’re being totally honest with yourself: Do you actually believe you’ll be able to improve and grow your business by fighting to cut through the noise of social media?
My time away from Twitter these past 22 days has provided me the space to:
Maybe now’s the time to ask yourself: Is spending time on social media actually helping me grow my business and achieve my dreams? Or I am simply wasting valuable time?
Welp, it seems I got so focused with my work and extra time, I 100% forgot to update this article/challenge. HAH! Truthfully, I think that’s a good thing. That was the entire point, right? Get free time back and take control?
Sometime after the 60 days I did end up following 20 people again. I spend almost no time mindlessly scrolling through the Home feed because I have almost nothing to scroll through.
I’m glad I took the plunge to do this. I hope you’ll at least think about going through who you follow on Twitter and unfollow a few people who constantly share things that get under your skin (or that you simply don’t want to see). I feel like I’m in complete control of how I spend time on Twitter and I loooove that.
It’s time we took a break.
We’ve been together for over 12 years. Kind of hard to believe, right?
I remember when it was just you, me, “the wall,” a few silly pokes, and a couple friends sharing tidbits about our lives. It was innocent. You were trying to figure yourself out, and I was in my 20s trying to do the same.
One thing I’ve learned about our relationship over the years is that you’re kind of demanding, Facebook. Actually, that’s not true. You’re extremely demanding. I know that won’t offend you because that’s who you are and who you’ve always been. And anyway, that worked for me in the beginning because I was young and trying to learn about myself and what mattered to me.
But you see, I’ve changed.
I didn’t realize it up until a few years ago, but I’m actually kind of introverted. Which is why I think I felt so comfortable being in a relationship with you and using you as a conduit to reach so many other interesting people. And you did a great job of that. You helped open up doors for my life (and business) that may have never existed. I really do appreciate and thank you for that.
But I’ve had one big realization about our relationship, and it’s probably due to my growing older and having more life experience: I don’t enjoy sharing every detail of my life with you anymore. I don’t like the way you make me feel like I have to scream for attention every time I have something to say.
You’ve probably noticed I’ve been acting differently. I’m not signed in to you on a daily basis. I don’t have your chat turned on, nor do I check your messages. I deleted your app from my phone a couple years ago. And recently, I installed a plugin on my browser that blocked your News Feed altogether. I’ve slowly been pulling away from you and limiting how much you can grasp my attention.
But there’s another thing…
You see, we’ve taken a couple short breaks from each other over the past couple years. Four of them, in fact. If I reflect on those times apart, they’re the times when I’ve felt the most creative and most unencumbered to make things and experience the life I’ve tried to build for myself. Notice I didn’t say “share the life…”
Sharing my life with you has been a rollercoaster ride, Facebook. My biggest accomplishments receive praise and cheers from people all around the world. My failures, mistakes, and normal life experiences get swept under the timeline rug, leaving me feeling empty.
Without you, I wouldn’t know what dopamine was or how interacting with you gives my brain the same chemical response as doing cocaine*. To be honest, that fucking scares me, Facebook. And the worst part? Since 2005, you’ve done everything in your power to increase my dopamine responses while using you. You’ve introduced more ways to Like something, to peer in on others. And you’re so damn intelligent these days that I’ll catch myself sucked into viewing the cascading timeline of other people’s lives, not realizing how much time I’ve wasted scrolling through moments that you convinced other people to share. Before my first self-imposed social media detox, for example, I would scroll through your News Feed for hours and leave you open in a browser tab all day long. I could never stop being with you.
I used to really enjoy being with you and all my other friends in one place. There was a time when there were no agendas to being with you. It was fun to see where friends would travel to and reconnect with people I’d lost touch with over the years.
No one cared about the “right” time to drop a little update about their lives.
No one took 14 different versions of a photo just to try to find “the one” that would get the most Likes/shares/comments (dopamine responses).
No one was trying to milk every ounce of you to feel as good about themselves or their businesses as possible.
No one was sharing their opinions just to join in the cycle of everyone sharing their opinions.
I know that being on you is a game, Facebook—a game I could win if I wanted to. I could write posts with words of reflection and inspiration, accompanied by a share-worthy photo. I could jump on every intriguing world topic and weigh in with my thoughts, perspective, and wit. Heck, I could even outsource my use of you to someone more well-equipped to handle your demands.
But all those things things would keep me hooked on you. Hooked on you, Facebook, like a junkie hooked on a drug.
I’m one of the fortunate ones. I feel my deep emotional attachment to you and know we’ve been on a slippery slope together. An uncharted slope, without decades of research and studies to prove what I feel in my heart. Somehow, you’ve wooed 58% of the US population into hanging out with you every day, and I just don’t want to be one of your guinea pigs anymore.
This is me, closing the door on our relationship. I’m not slamming it shut, locking it, and throwing away the key. I’m simple shutting the door gently and walking away. Maybe I’ll be back if I realize my life was better off with you in it. But I’m going to put this feeling of a necessary separation to the test.
I know you won’t miss me as I’m but one small twinkling star in your vast solar system of galaxies, planets, and much brighter stars. Tomorrow, you and everyone reading this will have moved on to some other moment in someone else’s timeline.
Thank you for everything you’ve done for me since 2005.
One morning in August 2012, I woke to a very weird email. The email was from Twitter, and it was alerting me that my account had been granted “verified” status. I knew what verified Twitter accounts on Twitter were, but I hadn’t applied for one. It just simply appeared one random day.
(Yeah, I kept the email. Thanks, Gmail.)
At first I felt confused: who was I to get the same elite verification status as celebrities, athletes, and other noteworthy people? In our weird modern world, Twitter verification signals success of some kind, and I didn’t necessarily feel on par with others who’d been verified. But then I felt extremely proud. I had taken a wild idea (IWearYourShirt), turned it into a business, and made people take notice of it. Twitter noticed!
For years, I would visit my own Twitter account and look at the blue verification badge with pride. I earned that. Yeah, it was just a silly blue icon, but it was a silly blue icon that validated my hard work and my unique idea.
In 2013, when I officially pulled the plug on IWearYourShirt (after it dragged me $100,000 in debt), I remember wondering what I would do with my @iwearyourshirt username on Twitter. At the time, I didn’t have another online identity or brand to switch it to. I was in my first year of living with a crazy last name (Jason Headsetsdotcom), and because that was only a one-year deal, I knew it didn’t make sense to change my Twitter username to that. Then in 2014, I had another new last name (Jason Surfrapp) and had just begun to focus on building JasonDoesStuff.com into my new virtual home. For a few years I was in a kind of virtual limbo, with nothing to change my username to and no longer relating to the one I had.
Now, granted, this wasn’t my first Twitter handle. I actually joined Twitter in the beginning of 2007 with the username @thejasonsadler. I created the second username @iwearyourshirt because I figured it made sense to keep my personal name account separate from the account I made for my business. But now here I was with no business attached to my username and no idea what to do next.
While my IWearYourShirt business was done and over with, it was still the thing that most people knew me for. It was what defined me as a person (I thought). So I hung on to the @iwearyourshirt username on Twitter and continued to allow a small blue icon to play mind games with me.
The past year was the first year I felt really confident about JasonDoesStuff as a business. Not that I didn’t believe in the other businesses I had started since 2013, but I didn’t feel like any of them defined me or fully encapsulated what I was doing with my life.
A few people began asking me about my @iwearyourshirt username and if I had thought about changing it. I gave them the honest answer: I hadn’t changed it because I’d lose my verified status, and I felt like that was some small advantage I had as a completely online-based business owner. Reading that back now, I can see how silly it sounds. But it’s amazing the lies we’ll tell ourselves to avoid difficult decisions.
Then I got a message from my good friend Jeff Sheldon:
After reading his message, I opened up my Twitter profile and looked at it for a minute. I just stared at this page on my laptop. Then, I made a decision and wrote Jeff back. (Sorry in advance for the language.)
I clicked over to my Twitter settings and could feel my heart racing. It feels so dumb to write that, but it’s the honest truth. I was absolutely a nervous wreck while changing my username. It was the last remaining relic of my previous life, and it meant letting go of something that gave me validation.
I hit the delete key a bunch of times. I typed in “jasondoesstuff” as my new username. And I clicked the save button on my Twitter settings. My new and more appropriate identity now replaced the one that gave me my entrepreneurial start. And my blue verification symbol was gone.
I’ve written about letting go of other parts of IWearYourShirt before. I definitely carried the weight of imposter syndrome every day I looked at my Twitter username as @iwearyourshirt. I knew that if someone had a similar situation and asked for my advice, I would tell them to change their name and leave the tiny blue verified badge behind. But it was way easier said than done.
So I made the change. I finally ripped off the bandaid. And a few moments after clicking the save button, my wife, Caroline, walked into the room. I told her that I’d finally changed from @iwearyourshirt to @jasondoesstuff, and she said something to the effect of, “In a week, you won’t even care. It’s a lot like when we started with minimalism and it was hard to let go of our physical stuff.”
And Caroline was totally right. When we started embracing minimalism as a lifestyle (our flavor of it), it was an emotional rollercoaster to get rid of the dumbest stuff. Old shorts I wore in college. Electronic gadgets that I never used. And of course, boxes of things related to my IWearYourShirt business. It was, and is, hard to let go of stuff because you immediately think to yourself, What if I need that thing? What if I miss it? What if it’s gone forever and I regret my decision?
Then you just have to remind yourself, It’s just stuff. And a stupid small blue icon next to my name on Twitter? Am I really going to let that define who I am and dictate how I feel about myself? No. I’m not. Not anymore.
@jasondoesstuff gasp!!! great scott man, you've gone mad! Na, I agree, it means nothing but totally would have felt the same way about it
— Mike Stephen (@essentiallymike) April 21, 2016
In a week, I won’t care. A completely made-up digital status on a social network does not fully describe who I am as a person and what I’m capable of. It was difficult to finally muster the mental strength to let go, but now I can completely move on and close that chapter of my life.
Some physical or digital relic that you grant some form of control over you? Something you need to let go of so you can fully move on?
It probably won’t be easy to let go, but I’m 100% sure you’ll be glad you did. Because I’m glad I finally did.
Been almost two weeks since giving up verified status. Believe it or not, the world continued to turn. You guys are still here 😎
— Jason Zook (@jasondoesstuff) May 2, 2016
Most people won’t admit how much social media means, or has meant, to them. For me, social media has been my life since 2008. I’ve built multiple businesses using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms to garner attention, build community and generate revenue.
After six years of heavy social media use (read: nearly every waking hour of every single day) it was time for a break. I was fed up with losing control of my feeds. I was upset with my diminishing social reach due to networks bursting at the seams with users. I also started to become cynical and jealous of people. So for 30 days, I quit social media cold turkey and implemented a self-imposed detox.
The following is a daily journal I kept on the notes app on my iPhone during the 30-day social media detox. If you want to skip the journal, click here to read my final thoughts (and newly added detox tools!).
My morning ritual had changed in previous months from waking up and checking all social networks and email, to only checking Instagram. But on this day, I didn’t even touch my phone and went straight to making coffee. Normally I’d stand in the kitchen, scrolling through feeds and clicking notifications, but on this day I thumbed through The Essential Calvin and Hobbes (my form of meditation). I felt the boyish smile on my own face as I flipped the pages of one of my favorite books. From there, it was time to go to my upstairs office and pull the plug.
As I sat down on my giant blue yoga ball and flipped open my Macbook, I placed my coffee on my desk and grabbed my iPhone. I swiped it open, stared at the social media icons littered across the Home screen and pressed my finger on one of them. The icons started to shake and the little “x” bubbles appeared. With a confident ferocity I removed Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vine, Pinterest, Google+ (although never used) and finally Instagram from my iPhone. None of the apps were opened before deleting, they were simply removed (thus also removing any lingering push notifications I’d get on my phone). This would be the first time since 2008 that I wouldn’t have the Twitter and FB apps on my iPhone.
From there, I closed my phone and moved to my laptop. I moved my mouse to my Bookmark Bar in Google Chrome and deleted the shortcuts to FB and Twitter (the only social sites in my toolbar). I typed my Facebook URL into the address bar and quickly navigated to my Settings, while opening another tab to Google “How to turn off all Facebook notifications.” Ten seconds later I had turned off email notifications. I closed those tabs and moved to Twitter. One click to Settings and another click later, email notifications were turned off for Twitter as well.
It was as though I’d lifted a 900-pound silverback gorilla from my back. I could feel myself wanting to go to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, especially on this day because I had just relaunched my personal website the day before (the timing was not only impeccable, it was planned).
After what felt like a few grueling hours, I had spent 30 minutes answering emails. One of my first realizations was just how much time can be wasted browsing social networks without knowing it. I could feel myself wanting to sneak a peek at Facebook, so I decided to get up from my desk and run an errand.
You’d think getting in a car would be an escape from social media and technology, but most of us don’t even realize how much we’re checking things while driving. I probably glanced down at my phone 20 times during the course of an eight minute drive. Then I hit a stoplight. Like a drug addict reaching for his/her fix, I scooped my phone up from the cupholder and swiped it open. It wasn’t until I was staring at a barren Home screen, devoid of red notification icons, that I realized what I was doing. I closed the phone and put it back in the cupholder. As I moved my gaze from the center console to the front windshield I took notice of how beautiful of a day it was. Not a single cloud in the sky and the trees on the sides of the road slowing swaying back and forth in a cool Florida breeze. I rolled down the windows and took the moment of beauty in, completely understanding how often I take for granted amazing weather and a moment of stillness.
Making my way back home I decided to swing through Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee. After placing my order in the drive-thru lane, I happened to look in the sideview mirror and take notice of the lady behind me. From the time I pulled forward from the drive thru speaker, I barely saw her eyes come up from her phone one time. Not while she placed her order. Not while she pulled around a tight corner. Not even while waiting in line. It was at that moment I decided to pay for her drink. Selfishly it wasn’t even because I wanted to make her day better, but I did it in hopes that she’d look up from her phone and acknowledge the gesture (or heck, just something else in the world). I paid for the drinks, pulled up, watched her take her [free] drink and was shocked. Not once did her demeanor change or her laser-vision locked on her phone. I shrugged my shoulders and drove home.
The remainder of the day was filled with answering emails, writing a few articles and little fixes with my new website. Typically I close my email inbox at multiple times throughout the day to focus. On this day I caught myself checking email on my phone more often than normal.
The first day of my detox ended with a feeling of relief and freedom. I was relieved that I hadn’t caved and secretly checked one of my social accounts. And I had a sense of freedom from the shackles of notifications and rabbit holes of links, photos and feeds.
Random fun note: My iPhone battery was at 52% at the end of the day. Prior to that day, I hadn’t come close to going even half a day without needing to plug my phone in and charge it.
I woke up in the morning and reached for my phone. Again, my ritual had been to scroll through my Instagram feed upon waking up. I swiped my phone open only to remember Instagram was no longer there. I don’t recall how long it was, but I stared at my home screen in bewilderment for quite awhile. What else can I do on my phone? I thought to myself. I checked ESPN.com on Safari and snuck a quick peek at my emails. I felt dirty for looking at my emails.
I got up and started my day like the previous one; making coffee and reading Calvin and Hobbes. When my coffee was done I headed to my desk and opened up my email (now with less guilt). I had quite a few emails from people who were interested in my social media detox. Funny enough, multiple people sent me the “Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?” YouTube video:
I was about 20 seconds in before realizing I had gone to YouTube, a site I was going to stay off for the month. Crap! I felt dirty again.
This brought up a conversation with my wife about YouTube being part of the detox. I decided I would finish watching that video because it was outstanding. But after that, I would abstain from YouTube, mostly due to the time-suck of it.
Throughout the day it felt like things had slowed down considerably. It just seemed like I had much more time than normal. This would become a recurring theme of the 30 days.
This day brought about the first big takeaway from my detox:
We all do it. We’ll take a photo of something, look at it, not like it and take another (or 10 others). We want to capture the perfect moment or share the wittiest update. All because we want the most positive response possible. It’s simply human nature and what social media has done to amplify the feelings of acceptance. I could already feel the freedom from worrying about posting something and hoping it would get Likes or Retweets.
Today was the first day I was acutely aware of just how many email notifications I get from social media. One of my email inboxes, which usually has 50-100 messages in it per day was dead quiet. Not a single email came to that inbox. It was shocking when I realized how much of my attention and mental energy probably got sucked away every day just because of that inbox.
I was also noticeably happier today too. Not that I’m normally unhappy, but I often feel stressed or strained. I could sense myself feeling happier (if that makes sense).
This day was a Saturday, one I spent the majority of cleaning and organizing my house. On most Saturdays I try to stay off the Internet, but it rarely happens. This day I was fairly busy, so my phone and laptop were mostly left untouched.
There was a moment later in the day when I finally made the decision to get rid of my entire DVD collection (over 350 DVDs). I took a before and after photo of my DVD shelf. I wanted to share my big decision to let go, only to think to myself: Who cares? I mean, I guess I could inspire someone else who’s holding onto to something that doesn’t have much value anymore. But instead, I kept the photos for my own memories and moved on.
As a quick aside, 350 DVDs being sold to MovieStop are only worth $490 in store credit or $225 in cash. I chose the cash. Also, the process of selling this many DVDs took about four hours, which was about three hours and 58 minutes longer than I wanted to be standing in a MovieStop store without anything to distract me on my phone.
This was the first day my iPhone felt more like a brick in my pocket than a time-wasting device. I honestly couldn’t even think of anything else to do on my phone but keep refreshing my email. It’s kind of silly in retrospect since I had the entire Internet at my fingertips, but all I could think about was wasting time on social media sites.
Sundays are the days I sit on the couch for 90% of the day. I’m a huge NFL fan, especially NFL RedZone. Normally I’d tweet something to show my support for the ailing Jacksonville Jaguars, but on this day I simply kept it to myself.
I did get an email from a longtime IWearYourShirt community member named Joby. He’s a Pittsburgh native and emailed me a tweet he posted talking trash to me (since the Steelers were playing the Jaguars). I loved his commitment to talking trash and emailed him back some emojis or something silly.
I miss Instagram. It’s the only social media site that I keep wishing I could check. I think that’s because there’s almost zero negativity, complaining or criticism in my photo feed. Instead, it’s just beautiful landscapes, cars, people doing cool stuff and random food and art I love. I will definitely be back on Instagram immediately after this detox is over.
A Monday, typically my most active day on social media, was interesting.
I crafted my weekly newsletter to my email list (an explanation of my 30-day social media detox). Normally my email gets posted on my blog and I share it via Twitter and Facebook. On this day, my email was published on my blog and that was it.
I usually receive 5-10 replies to my weekly emails. This email received 72 replies. Many people had no clue I was doing a 30-day social media detox. Even though I’d posted it on all my social accounts the previous week, this goes to show the limited reach of a single update on Twitter or Facebook.
I spent quite a bit of time replying to emails, almost all of them encouraging. Multiple people said they were going to start a detox of their own (though only one person was willing to commit to 30 days).
One thing I did notice myself doing way more than normal on this day was checking my website’s traffic and my MailChimp analytics. Truthfully, I rarely ever checked either of those things. I could feel these becoming the new vanity metrics, replacing likes, comments, favorites, etc. I did my best to catch myself refreshing these accounts and moving my attention elsewhere.
Most Mondays end with the feeling of hoping for more. Hoping more people would have enjoyed my weekly newsletter. Hoping more people would have liked it on Facebook. Hoping more people would have tweeted at me about the content. I was actually perfectly happy with the response and enjoyed not worrying (as much) about what people thought.
One week into my detox, an experience on this day would lead to one of my biggest takeaways about my current disdain with social media.
While driving to get coffee, my wife checked her Instagram account and asked me if I knew the name of someone who had followed her. The name wasn’t familiar, but upon further investigation it was some Internet Marketer that had reached out to me in the past. While looking at this person’s Instagram profile we noticed he followed over 6,000 people but only had 800 followers. I completely realize that’s a stupid thing to be upset about, but it really irks me when people do that on social media.
It didn’t stop there though; the bio this person wrote was awful. He was a self-proclaimed “social media maven, chief defier of gravity…” and some other nonsense. I felt myself getting angry reading his bio and seeing his overly self-promotional and braggadocios photo updates.
Then it hit me: Before the advent of social media, people like this couldn’t weasel their way into our personal space and lives.
Social media has allowed people to push their agendas and put their messages in front of us, with barely any way to avoid it.
This was, without a doubt, one of my biggest problems with social media. I may not create projects or ideas that everyone agrees with, but I certainly do my best to not spam other people with them or to be overly pushy. The people who do spam, who do brag, who are sleazy, can get their messages in front of us, whether we like it or not.
I consider myself a bit of a human guinea pig. I like trying difficult challenges (like quitting social media for 30 days). If you want to get more of my challenges sent directly to your inbox, get my weekly emails here…
I woke up with a massive headache. I don’t ever get headaches, and fun fact, have never once had a fever in my life. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the detox, but the timing was certainly noteworthy.
There was a task on my to-do list that’s been bumped for months (writing an e-book). I just kept dreading doing it. Today I sat down and was able to knock 2/3’s of the task out without taking a break. There wasn’t a moment I felt I needed to stop to check FB or Twitter. I was able to focus completely on that task and get the majority of it done in one sitting (which took about two hours of writing).
Proud of myself for making progress on that task, I decided not to overdue it and shut my laptop. One of my goals during this 30-day detox was to read two books a week. I cracked open my first book since the detox started and began reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.
Interestingly enough, I realized I had purchased The War of Art a year prior and hadn’t once looked at it. I read about 100 pages, enjoying Mr. Pressfield’s commentary on resistance. It felt fitting and timely with what I was doing. And I felt great that I had overcome my resistance to taking a break from social media. So meta!
Random thought of the day: Could I sell my Facebook account? Would it be worth something? Is that stupid? Answer: Yes, stupid idea.
No more headache. Phew.
Each week I write an article for Inc.com. This was the first week I think I’ve ever looked at the amount of shares the article received. Normally I write the article, share it on social and go about my day. Without social sharing and the conversation that ensues, I felt a little void. I guess I tried to fill that void by seeing how many shares the article received throughout the day.
Today was another day I looked at my website analytics more times than I’d like to admit.
With six Skype calls on my calendar, this day flew by fairly quickly. It was fun to get asked over and over again about the detox and how I was “surviving without social media.” Kind of funny to think that was a serious question from more than one person.
On one call I did have someone say, “I don’t think I could give up Facebook for even a week.” My immediate thought was: “Then you need to give up Facebook more than you know!” I didn’t actually say that, although I wanted to.
Normally I write my weekly newsletter for my list on Sunday or Monday. Instead, I found myself motivated to write it on this day (Friday). I was also able to write the first draft of the article distraction-free, meaning I didn’t stop writing to check any website, email or even my phone.
Random aside: Jacksonville got its first Trader Joe’s and I took a trip to check it out. Normally I would have shared a photo on Instagram or Facebook holding some random vegetable or something. I didn’t even think about taking a photo, even when a UPS guy came through the door with multiple large Amazon.com boxes (odd??).
Spent most of the day dealing with Craigslist buyers. So while I was on my phone a bunch, it was almost exclusively to answer questions about the random crap I was selling.
Toward the end of the day I reflected on my social media break. At first I felt grateful that I could create the opportunity to do this, but then I wondered a few things:
I thought about those questions a lot before realizing that social media had taken some control from me. Not just in algorithm changes, although those suck, but in that I felt like I was a slave to them and the conversation or feedback that ensued. I want to be in control of how I feel using something or doing something, not the other way around.
This day ended in a swirl of thoughts and questions, if you couldn’t tell.
Another Sunday. Another day for lounging on the couch watching football. GO JAGS!
I mentioned it on Day Three, but I am absolutely much happier and less stressed. I didn’t land any big business or launch a successful project. I simply removed stuff from my daily routine that negatively affected my thoughts and feelings.
Monday email newsletter went out and I immediately checked the MailChimp report. I probably checked it 3-4 more times throughout the day, again, way more than normal (most times I don’t check it at all).
A random LinkedIn invite email wound up in my inbox. I laughed to myself, realizing LinkedIn wasn’t even on my radar as something to take a break from (due to never, ever, ever using it).
I did miss an opportunity to share an overheard comment (OH): “He’s dressed like a lesbian from the waist down.”
This day was probably one of the most productive days I’ve had in an incredibly long time. The things I accomplished:
It’s safe to say I had more will power and motivation on this day than any I can remember in a very long time. Not once throughout the day did I feel stressed or like I had too many things to do. Everything just kind of clicked into place and got done.
I’d noticed it a few times before, but on this day I realized that because I deleted the FB app from my phone and it was connected to my Contacts, it removed a ton of contacts from my list. Some of which were in my phone before the FB app was ever installed (like my Mom, my GF, and some other friends I text message with often). Not only did this suck because it seemed like a weird security flaw, but I also had to say “sorry, this # isn’t in my phone, who dis?” on a few occasions. (I later found out this was an iOS 8 setting in Contacts Group settings).
Also today I went to someone’s personal website and they had not one, not two, not three, but four separate pop up boxes on their website to try to get me to sign up for their email list. Seriously, I get it, email marketing is important, but if you need to ask 4 times (abrasively), I’m not interested in whatever emails you’re going to spam me with. Ugh, sorry, had to rant about this somewhere.
That brings up an interesting thought about not really having an outlet to rant or share frustrations when not using social media. Maybe I should start a diary? Or just keep writing things in my notes app on my iPhone?
It was bound to happen: I had to login to FB today.
But wait! It was for business reasons, not my own desires…
I needed to give someone access to my FB Ads account and didn’t feel comfortable just giving them my login info. With the stealth of a leopard stalking it’s prey in the jungle, I logged into FB via the ads URL. In a matter of seconds and just a few clicks, my task was done. Unfortunately, the red notification numbers caught my eye. I didn’t click them, but I felt like I had cheated myself.
Also, I wanted to upvote something on Product Hunt and realized I couldn’t do it without being logged into Twitter (or having the Twitter app installed on my phone). Having already felt like a “cheater” today, I decided not to login and the upvote wouldn’t happen on this day.
From my Monday email, one of the replies was someone who started doing their own 30-day social media detox. I enjoyed this line from their email:
It made me happy to see someone else being positively impacted by taking a break from social media. Then I thought about how happy I was that they were happy. So much happiness!
Attention span increasing noticeably and not feeling like I need to check other things while working. I actually didn’t remember to add an entry about this day in my notes until the morning after Day Seventeen. That’s how focused I was on getting work done and being present in other things I was doing.
Lots of football and relaxing over the weekend. Jaguars finally got a win!!! Peyton Manning broke the TD record in the NFL. Both things I would have shared on social media, but instead, I just enjoyed them happening and went on with my life.
Wrote an update post about this social media detox for my newsletter and blog.
Also, I downloaded the Angry Birds Transformers app. That was a bad idea as it was super addictive, hah. After a few hours of non-stop play I deleted the app.
Decided to have a relaxing Monday. So often Monday’s are packed with work and are exhausting. Finished up my weekly email, posted it as a blog post, answered a handful of emails and spent the other parts of the day reading The Circle by Dave Eggers (a book that was sent to me by my buddy DJ).
Actually started reading The Circle over the weekend, but read almost 200 pages on Monday. Amazingly well-timed read, but that’s also because DJ knew I was on this detox. I really really enjoyed it and couldn’t stop reading, which never ever happens for me.
Fun fact: This is the first fiction book I’ve read since James and the Giant Peach when I was a little kid (not kidding).
Recorded an interview with Dave Delaney for his podcast. We talked about my book, but more timely, my social media detox. One big question that popped up, and one that’s been asked by many people via email: What will I do on social media after the detox is up?
I don’t want to get sucked back into social expectations and notification addiction.
Yesterday’s email update talked about my big problem with social media (which I mentioned in my Day Seven update). The first clear thought I had about what to do was a weekly update on FB. Maybe it’s Friday morning and references my week and anything I want to highlight or share? This won’t work for twitter, so I still am on the fence there. I will, however, use Instagram again (as mentioned a few times).
As of right now, I’m 98% certain I won’t put the FB or Twitter apps back on my phone again. I don’t want to feel tied to them or get back into old habits.
Fun aside: Got a new Kindle in the mail today. While I love reading paperback books, I’m also trying to be more of a minimalist. My first Kindle book? Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull.
Had an idea strike!
I was thinking about the second season of the podcast I co-host and how we could generate more revenue from it. The go-to (and we did this with our first season) is to get episode sponsors. While this is all well and good, it’s not great or passive income. In a matter of a few hours I outlined the idea I had in a Google Doc, mocked it up in Photoshop and shared it with my co-host Paul Jarvis. We’re both really excited about the idea.
Didn’t even really think about social media at all. Was focused on working and my big idea.
I think James Clear would be proud of me. This thought and realization came after reading his weekly email he sends (typically about forming habits).
Thought about this a few times before, but it became more clear today: I was (and many of us are) addicted to social media in the same ways people are addicted to alcohol, drugs, and other vices.
It may sound silly to compare social media abuse to drug or alcohol abuse, but I firmly believe it’s very similar at this point. Some recent emails and conversations I’ve had with people about them doing their own social media detox often had things said like this:
Those are real responses from multiple people I’d emailed with or talked to during the month. It’s kind of scary how much those same statements reflect the telltale signs of people who have addiction to other things (that we’ve had years of experience dealing with).
Addiction is a scary thing. It’s definitely not something any of us want to admit to. Taking this break from social media has more than proven to me that I was addicted to Facebook and Twitter. Was it an unhealthy addiction? I feel happier, of clearer thought and less stressed out. So yeah, I’d say it was unhealthy.
Had coffee with a friend. Facetimed with my brother-from-another-mother Ben. Spent the evening eating dinner with friends.
I felt really grateful for all of these interactions. They felt more meaningful to me. None of them needed to be shared on a social network or documented outside of these notes. These were just moments in life I really enjoyed.
I finished the book The Circle. Wow. What a great book. And for me to finish a 500-page book in less than a week? That’s almost a miracle.
I have a ton of thoughts about Dave Eggers’ book. I don’t think they necessarily fit here, but it does bring up the discussion of privacy and are we too connected in life? For me, I’m not too concerned about my digital privacy. But I’m not sure I want to get any more connected than I already am.
Was excited that I’d be able to use Instagram again in less than a week.
Sent out my weekly newsletter. Finished up some odds and ends.
Realized it had been two full days since plugging my iPhone in to charge it. That’s unheard for me. I can’t ever remember going one full day without plugging my phone in for a charge.
Tomorrow starts a two week vacation with my wife and my dog Plaxico.
Drove to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. It couldn’t have been more perfect weather for the trip. The trees along the highway were beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red and green. I can’t remember an 8+ hour drive feeling so short.
Had a conversation with my wife that was important. I don’t want to make people feel like I’m judging them for using social media. I also don’t want people to think I think social media is all bad.
Like anything else, I think social media is great in moderation. It’s helped me do some amazing things and meet some awesome people. But, I do hope people reflect on their usage of social media and think about taking a break, if nothing else just to see how it makes them feel.
We arrived at our beautiful cabin in the woods right at sunset. I wrote these notes realizing I hadn’t taken a single picture of the journey or the place we were staying. Previously I would have probably taken 20 or more.
Spent most of the day writing, reading Creativity, Inc and thinking about what my decision would be about returning to social media and my usage schedule. The more I think about returning to social media the less I want to think about it. Does that make sense? I have no idea.
Wrote over 5,000 words on this day. These were spread across my weekly Inc article, my next newsletter and a random paid article. Not once did I feel distracted or wanting to stop writing to check emails, my phone, etc.
I also made some white bean chili in a slow cooker. I tried to make it “healthy” by not adding too many ingredients to it. It tasted like dog food. You’re welcome for that bonus info.
It’s amazing how much clearer I’m thinking. Along with a bunch of writing and emails, I outlined an entirely new business idea and sent it off to a developer friend for feedback.
Whenever I sit down to write, I can do it without the feeling of distraction or procrastination. Whenever I answer emails I can tear through them without breaks. Even during Skype and phone calls I don’t have any urges to do other things (even during less than exciting calls).
Again I’m thinking about what I’ll do when the detox is over. I don’t want to regress back to into old addictive habits.
Still on vacation, I started to work on this very post. The more I thought about writing it, the more I thought about the response it would get on social media. How would that affect me? Would I be able to fight the urge to constantly check responses, likes, comments, etc?
I decided to stop writing this post for a week. I didn’t want to force myself to write it and share it just because that’s what I thought everyone would want. Instead, I worked on it here and there, finishing it at my own pace.
I really value taking control of my time.
I’m not going to completely quit using social media, but I’m going to take control of my use of social media. Not being on social media for a month really opened my eyes to the feelings and motivations I have using Twitter, Facebook, etc. Immediately I felt a sense of freedom. To me, that’s a huge takeaway. It literally felt like ripping shackles off my mind and body.
Before social media, there wasn’t an opportunity for someone I had no interest in to invade my personal space. Even with filtering and segmenting on social media, you can’t avoid the modern day telemarketer. If you have a profile on any network you’re incredibly likely to have people push their messages in your face. I know I want less of those situations to happen in my life.
We all care what people think of us. We all want to feel accepted. We all want to feel liked. Social media multiplies those thoughts and feelings without us even realizing it. It’s not healthy to always be under the knife of criticism. In a digital world we need a break from having our lives judged and commented on (often times by complete strangers who we don’t align with).
I won’t be completely quitting social media and I’m not suggesting anyone do that. But I do hope if you’re reading this you’ll think about taking a break from social media to see how you feel. Start with a weekend or a week, but aim for 30 days. Give yourself a chance to feel how I felt after just one month.
Since writing this article, I’ve found a few free helpful tools (and had a few recommended) to keep you off social media if you embark on a detox of your own:
If you haven’t figured out by now, Facebook and Google (Google owns YouTube) are not best friends. So, when you create an amazing video, upload it to YouTube, and are ready to share it with the network you’ve painstakingly built on Facebook… be prepared for a lackluster response. No, it’s not because Facebook limits who sees your newsfeed now (although they do, kind of), it’s because of the way YouTube videos are displayed on Facebook.
Let’s take a look at an example of a video uploaded directly to Facebook and shared versus a YouTube video link shared.
Completely ignore the content of these two videos and look at them from an aesthetic point of view only. 99 out of 100 human beings would absolutely click the large video thumbnail on the left way before the tiny thumbnail on the right. If you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, you’d see the large thumbnail way before the smaller one. For the record, the Facebook thumbnail is about six times larger than the thumbnail provided for YouTube. And let’s not even get started on the fact that half the time Facebook doesn’t even want to show a thumbnail for a YouTube video altogether.
(Thanks for the example Sean!)
So, obviously Facebook wants to display content uploaded to their platform in a more attractive way. But what’s even worse, is this comparison:
You’re looking at two items in the Facebook Newsfeed. The item on the left is a company I don’t currently “Like” (nothing against 20Jeans), and is a “Sponsored” post that Facebook placed in my Newsfeed. On the right is a YouTube video my friend Sam shared. Honestly, Sam’s post looks more like an advertisement than the actual advertisement does! The thumbnail is about 2.5 larger in the advertisement and the white space around the thumbnail makes it stand out a bit more in the Newsfeed. *Just FYI, whether it’s a personal profile or a business page, a shared YouTube video formats the same way in the Newsfeed.
Kind of like what Facebook does in the right column with standard Facebook ads. However, it’s blatantly obvious that Facebook wants you to see their ads and doesn’t want you to see YouTube videos. Another thing to note, where’s the play button on the YouTube video? In the Newsfeed Facebook strips the play button from the thumbnail, but on your page they leave it. Odd.
What can you do about making your YouTube videos actually get viewed on Facebook? Well, besides pressing the dreaded “Boost” (or is it “Promote”) button on all of your posts, you can use interesting screenshots for you YouTube videos with a link in the status description. Here’s an example:
The inherent design of Facebook is geared towards the sharing of photos. Just look at the screenshot above comparing the same exact content shared as a photo with a link and just the YouTube video itself. Not only is the photo about eight times bigger, you can show a lot more visual information which will hopefully attract people to watch.
What’s the worst thing that happens by only posting the photo? Someone clicks on it and realizes it’s not an actual video. Hopefully if they’ve invested a click and are interested they click to the link you’ve included in the photo post description. Another bonus to sharing the photo is you get to pick what photo you share! With just sharing the YouTube link, your only thumbnail option is whatever comes with the video through YouTube. You can make the photo whatever you want and hope to attract more eyeballs and interaction.
As Brian Solis mentions in this article:
Facebook has it’s own SEO game, just like Google does. You need interaction and engagement for more of your posts to be seen by your friends/fans on Facebook.
In my mind, captivating and interesting photos with well written descriptions are the way to do that. Unless it’s of extreme importance, I wouldn’t waste money on the Boost/Promote button. Yes, you can pay for more people to see that post, but if the post isn’t any good, it’s not going to help your cause.
You aren’t going to get organic traffic to your video if it’s uploaded to Facebook. This goes back to the Facebook vs Google battle. Google has no interest in showing Facebook videos in its search results. A well titled, tagged, and description on a YouTube video has much better SEO implications.
Food for thought the next time you want to share a YouTube video on Facebook.
*Cool thing alert!* A JasonDoesStuff reader created a FREE tool that let’s you “trick” Facebook into showing a YouTube video less like an advertisement. Check out the full width YouTube video tool for Facebook here. (Thanks Ruben!)