I almost titled this “The Social Media Diet.” It’s a good title but for most of us the word “diet” insinuates restriction and elimination. I’m more interested in my lifestyle and altering my habits.
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I’m redefining my relationship with social media by deleting all of it off of my phone. And this is why I balk at using the word “diet.” I’m not labeling twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as bad things, the way that we label carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods as bad. I’m not even quitting these platforms. I’m not deleted my accounts. I’m establishing new habits.
The problem I find with social media on my phone is that I end up dipping into the apps all throughout the day. I use them to fill tiny moments while I’m waiting or sitting in the toilet. But it’s precisely those moments that I want back. I want the little empty holes in my life to remain empty, because it is in those vacuums that creativity flourishes. It’s waiting for a table that gives me time to sketch my shoe or the snake-like plant next to the bench I’m siting in. It’s in line at the grocery store that I begin to watch people, wonder about their lives and end up with characters in need of a short story. I want to spend my in-between time filling notebooks and napkins with descriptions of hand gestures and the textures of old bricks. I want to live in my imagination.
Is this something that I’m suggesting for everyone? I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to finish the book that I’m working on, I want to write more books, I want to have ideas to paint and I want to think of silly songs that make me laugh. I can’t do those reading another angry political tweet, or reading another article about how marketing has changed since yesterday, or pinning awesome leather jackets that I can’t afford to a new board.
These things aren’t inherently bad. I still plan on using the platforms, but when I do, it will be on my laptop, in a browser, with a block of time dedicated to communicating with people. I just don’t want to be able to pop in every hour to see how many likes my doodle is getting. I don’t want to be laying on the couch, with my phone in my hand jumping from timeline to timeline while a movie plays in the background. But that’s exactly what I’ll do if those apps are sitting on my home screen.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2013, author Neil Gaiman talked about going on a “social media sabbatical.” He too understood that creativity was a reaction to a void and that without those voids nothing grows.
“People ask me where I get my ideas from, and the answer is that the best way to come up with new ideas is to get really bored.”
So that’s my plan. My plan is put down this phone and look out the window. My plan is to listen to the tick tick tick of the clock above my fireplace. My plan is to twirl a pencil in my fingers like a drumstick and hope for a hundred bad ideas, a hundred silly thoughts, and the will to hone one of them into a idea worth writing and eventually worth sharing. I’m getting minimal. “Social Media” is more words than I need. From now on, my emphasis is on “media.”