“…in which our hero struggles with symptoms of withdrawal.”
I experienced a lot of what I expected: twitchy, itchy grabbing for my iPad. Fingers poised to click on the FB logo and launch the app. The frequency at which I broke focus, diverting to something other than my main task, confirmed my problem.
Addiction to Facebook is a repeat distraction, destroying my train of thought and experience of “flow.” I have never believed in the idea of “multi-tasking,” and each break to check Facebook sets me back; forces another ramp up, to get back to speed on whatever I abandoned in favor of the quest for distraction.
My first discovery: Absence of diversion is not equal to presence of planning and action. Great! I successfully avoided Facebook. What went into the time I freed up? Other distractions? Without a set of planned activities, I can fill that time with an equally useless diversionary crutch.
When I wasn’t working, I filled blank space with housework and hobbies, wrapped in a warm podcast. AJ Jacobs, a guest on one podcast, suggested self-blackmail as a technique for avoiding relapse: If a habit is hard to break, set a punishment for yourself that is even more gruesome than giving up the activity. In his example, he decided that if he allowed himself to lose will power he would donate $100 to the American Nazi Party. AJ is Jewish.
Brett Weinstein, on another podcast, suggested that it is important not to throw the bad out with the good. For him, the value of social media is that, in spite of all the lame, vitriolic, conspiratorial idiots available, it has allowed him to connect with 10-15 intellectual behemoths with whom he plans to work to build our way forward out of this brave new world of algorithmic attention theft. The value of Facebook haunts me.
So much so that I found myself bargaining. Maybe I don’t need to leave Facebook totally? What if I only use it while exercising? Negative blackmail for a win/win. Giving in to that tempting bargain on Day 1 of a 40 day experiment would feel like a total failure. Like “I know I shouldn’t eat the whole bag of cookies, so I ‘ll have just one,” or “Surely I can drink socially… I’ll only drink in groups, and then only in small quantities.”
Said every addict ever. No, I’m going to ride this out and learn from the pain: what is truly useful, and what must I remove from, or change about, my social media practices.