THIRTY DAYS WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA
Hello. I just thought would share the results of my Thirty Day Productivity Challenge with all of you out there on the Internet. I originally found the challenge in a book I was reading at the time (April 9th, 2014) on how to work for yourself.
I am allegedly a professional writer, which is to say that I have been published by a legitimate publishing house, have sold content to various websites, and have self-published on Kindle. I say allegedly because at the start of the Thirty Days I had not actually done any real writing for over three months. Talk about Writer’s Block. I did some editing, some formatting, some crosswords, and played a lot of Scrabble but mostly I surfed the various social media sites I belonged to endlessly.
I watched ladies tango, people have accidents, read “articles” with numbers in the titles, read cartoons, looked at pictures of peoples’ kids with Legos shoved up their noses, listened to music clips, and focused on absolutely nothing at all.
I existed to eat, sleep, pee and then lose myself in the vicarious experiences offered to me on a screen. I was nothing more than a stream of consciousness mingling with other people’s streams. Sort of like a Ganges river of the mind – many points of origin, lots of flotsam and jetsam, perceived as sacred, and as polluted as they come.
I mean even in my depressed and addled state I realized that I was seeing the same six videos or stories or inspirational quotes pop up about every three weeks. Something I shared a few weeks ago was popping up on my feed as “new” shared by some friend I did not even know.
It was boring, and repetitive, but it was also addictive. It required zero effort and I felt that I had nothing to give.
I mean I was not writing, or sleeping well, or going out, or contributing anything to the Universe so why not just “relax” and surf.
What I now know was that this “relaxation” was illusory and fatiguing. After all the mind needs challenges, new experiences, and actual sleep in order to grow or thrive.
But enough of the apparent moralizing.
Let me cut to the chase.
First, here is a list of stuff I quit checking. I did not even log in save when I received a friend request from someone by email – which happened about six times. So for the last thirty days I have not checked my…
or forum accounts.
I did check my regular email and the two forums where I had research surveys for my book running. I also exempted my blogs from the challenge as I am a writer and one of my goals was to write more and I needed to really as I do not currently hold a straight job.
Here is a short summary and a list of things that have changed for me during my challenge.
In the first five days (April 10th -April 15th)…
I was sleeping better. I was no longer up til 4-5 am surfing the social sites. I’ll admit the first night, I was so bored I went to bed early, but after that I discovered that I was sleeping – and dreaming more, and I was feeling more rested as well. I personally feel that this was because I was going to bed when I was tired rather than when I was so exhausted I could not stay awake. So I was sleeping longer and going through more complete sleep cycles.
I was actually reading again. I’ll confess that at first I was reading bit lit and YA stuff but by Day 5 I was reading actual books again, classics and adult people novels. I was still only reading fiction but I was reading.
I started listening to music again…and I do mean listening. It was not just thirty second distractions to go along with crash videos. I was actually sitting down with come of my MP3s and really hearing them again.
I began to feel some emotions I had lost touch with – with included some of the anger and depression I had been so carefully forgetting but I was no longer “Comfortably Numb” and leading an unfeeling life.
I also wrote more in that five days than in the previous three months.
I wrote five blogs, and solved the iOS issue I was having with WordPress by simply creating another blog on a different website.
I reconfigured my WordPress blog.
I wrote three poems, one of which was even pretty good.
And I added six edited chapters and two new chapters to me book.
I also went to the park twice to take pictures, made six new friends (Rebecca, Page, Megan, Ted, Aubry, and “Chicago”) and worked on cementing another new friendship (slightly older) with an awesome person named page.
I went out to “dinner” twice.
I spent one weekend doing my taxes and sorting out all my actual papers and throwing away all sorts of weird stuff; flyers, magazine ads, handouts, bookmarks, old lists, bad drawings, worse poems, and essays from when I was in high school.
All in the first 5 days!
In the next five days, April 16th – April 21st, I made further progress.
I worked on my garden and trellised my pea plants. I planted potatoes and onions which are both doing well.
I added nonfiction and three of my eleven journal subscriptions back to my daily reading list. I also added back books with French or Spanish in them.
I cleaned up my room, and got around to dozens of nagging house chores like repairing the trim moulding in the living room and bathroom, repairing the railing on the back deck, replacing dead light bulbs and missing curtain ties, cleaning fan blades, and dealing with the mice in the pantry.
I also took to sorting, trading, or selling a lot of my old books and CDs and DVDs and upgrading or digitizing those collections, with the result that I now have better stuff in a smaller space.
I visited a music store and the library and an art gallery. I walked and biked as weather allowed. I got sunburned twice.
I watched three movies with my family. (Gravity, Ender’s Game, And the Marx Brothers’ Night in Casablanca.)
One day, I put the finishing touches on my EDC and Go bag, went shopping, stitched all the holes in all of my clothing and in the canvas seats of my car, installed new seat covers in the same car, and did a few dozen other small nagging chores I’d been avoiding or neglecting.
Another day, I sorted out all the non-internet content on my computer purging, organizing, and actually looking through all the files I’d accumulated in the last several inactive months. I must have deleted a few gigs of useless data and pointless files. I also ran the cleaners, cleared the registry, and got rid of several programs I had never actually used. And then I added apps that were useful and refined everything. One of the results of that was that I found several files and photos I needed for my book, and got rid of a lot of things that I did not need like 50 years of New Yorker cartoons and other weird cartoons and poems and jokes I’d saved for god knows what reason.
And I wrote another three blogs and created a form that allows me to make sense out of all my remaining added interview notes.
I did lose two days that week to severe illness but I had my laptop with me even then and was able to do some more writing (mostly actual letters – remember those? Envelopes? Stamps?) and to edit the recipes I’ve been posting to my blogs and mail them to non-internet friends.
I also used that down time to design plans for two bookcases and a cooking island that I intended to build.
So by Day 10, I had a cleaner, less cluttered living space, a healthier garden and I was starting to regain some muscle tone.
I was also starting to have some emotionally good days, although I still had to deal with some depression and frustration issues.
But best of all, I was curious about thing again. I was looking stuff up in the dictionary again, I was translating things, and I was learning again. My mind was definitely waking up.
And after that things continued to improve.
Here is a brief list of all the things I did by the thirtieth day. I am doing the list so it can be numbered as I am curious, too.
- I wrote a total of 23 (counting this one) blog posts – that was more than in the previous four months combined
- I wrote 11 physical letters
- I wrote 6 book chapters and edited five more
- I created an iOS friendly blog and kept it up to date
- I created an webpage to track my Kindle stuff
- I wrote, formatted, illustrated, and posted 2 new stories to the Amazon Kindle Store
- I made nine trips to the park
- I hosted two successful dinner parties.
- I made 3 trips to Asheville
- I got all of my medical records – 2 years worth in order
- I got all of my business paperwork in order and filed
- I sorted out a 15 year digital art collection and made it usable and browsable
- I explored my city and went to libraries, music stores, and museums
- I cleaned my room and repaired my house finishing up minor repairs that had been sitting undone since November
- I worked in my garden – and will soon have tomatoes, peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes to prove it
- I exercised more regularly
- I sorted out all my CDs, DVDs, and even VHS tapes (!)
- I digitized most of my audio and paper libraries and sold the originals
- I updated my EDC and go bags
- I cleaned and repaired my car and got it tuned up
- I planned and made myself new bookshelves
- I got all of my knick knacks out of boxes and all my original art out of the closet and sorted those for display or donation
- I mowed the backyard twice
- I mowed my neighbor’s yard twice – as good deeds
- I planted, bermed and mulched two new fruit trees and a grape vine
- I upgraded my cookware and sold the old stuff
- I learned four new recipes and refined two others
- I purged my computer, cleaned and repaired it – getting rid of several gigs of worthless files in the process, removing unused programs and apps, and adding useful ones.
- I decimated my wardrobe, donating about two thirds of it to charity, and then purchased five items that I actually needed. Did the same with shoes
- I got rid of all the luggage, bags, crates, and furniture I was not using.
- And when I finished my spaces, I did the rest of the house. I made several Goodwill runs, made $350 in online sales, hit two food banks, and got everything out of the storage boxes and back into circulation either with me or with charities in my area
- I spent a day with my brother every weekend
- I read 36 books
- I watched 15 movies
- I caught up on my emails
- I caught up on several of my journal subscriptions
- I made 6 new friends
- I caught up on a lot of sleep
- I went back to drawing and sketching – still crap but fun
- I took a lot of photographs – and got some really good shots
- I spent more time real time petting and playing with Endolyn, the cat
- I found dozens of items I thought were lost forever and kept or donated them as appropriate
- I hung a cloths line
- I repaired a fence
- I replanted the front yard
- I mixed and edited 2 CDs for local bands and got paid for one of those jobs
- I designed promo material for my newest book
- I wrote a total of 7 poems
- I spent more real time with my partner, Steve – at least when he was not on Facebook!
There is also the little fact that when I had my first monthly doctor’s appointment after this challenge, my doctor was amazed to discover how much more relaxed and healthier I was. My inflammation, cortisol, and other stress markers were all notably lower. In fact about two thirds of what they had been.
My allergen reactivity was lower. My neuro-response time and reflexes were both better. I had gained some muscle mass and some skin tone.
I was sleeping better and my pulse oxygen was better.
My Lyme was in remission.
I was cleared to start challenge tests again for the first time in four months.
So all in all I’d call this a raving success and while I do not intend to give up Facebook entirely I also do not intend to spend a lot of time on it either. In fact, am now reluctant to do so. I’d actually rather go without at this point.
However, I do have friends and clients that do not encounter anywhere else so I believe that what I am going to do is allow myself an hour a week of social networks on Friday nights (Facebook prime time) to catch up and keep in the loop at least until my obligations are all met.
Then I may delete the lot of them!
Would I recommend this challenge to others? Yes. Absolutely. It was amazing how much I got done and how much of it actually meant something in the long term both to me and to my family and friends.
Not being a Luddite I do not consider social networking evil – for some people it is very useful and fulfilling or even essential – but f you feel yourself caught in a mire or stuck in place as I did then this is definitely something you should try.
And there is also the fact, that I am an addictive personality, and am fully aware of that fact. So my needs may be different from yours, but what the heck, over all I still recommend giving this a fair shot. You, too, might be surprised by the results.