Downgrading my social media presence wasn't the only thing on my mind. In the past months I've re-evaluated my reliance on digital services and products. Of course, when you do so things become real scary, real quick. Your agenda is most likely being maintained by a third party, not yourself. Likewise Facebook is most likely your Rolodex and birthday calendar in one. Your newspaper might be an RSS-reader or some sort of aggregating website.
Basically, most online companies can plot my day, interests, and social network pretty accurately. Even then they still make mistakes (Facebook was for some reason convinced I wanted to see advertisements regarding tailored suits. That's off the mark by a royal amount of degrees.)
In order to reclaim some data (knowing full well that it's merely a drop in the bucket), I've been slowly making some changes in my digital life:
- I got a paper planner. A small Moleskine one. I like Moleskine enough to use their (overpriced) notebooks, so I got one of their planners as well. I've transferred the first week's appointments, and then started porting over appointments as I encountered them throughout the day or in my digital planner. One benefit of having a physically small planner, is that there is naturally less space to write in, leading to making me think carefully about how I'll block my day. It kind of works as a natural filter. The planner in question is a weekly one with a note-page opposite in the spread, so I'll use that space to track to-dos Bullet Journal style. This also helps checking off to-dos within the week as items might otherwise be "left in the past" as you continue.
- I cut down on everything with a feed: Facebook, Twitter, RSS. I turned off every feed. It returned precious time to me, normally spent in keeping up to date with every feed, and also broke down my filter bubble a bit. Now I just ask someone (no, really) or search specifically using DuckDuckGo. (It's OK to switch from Google. I only miss out on personalised results which are usually not what I use a search engine for.)
- I moved all my bookmarks to a friction heavy location. Mostly that means putting them under a button and several folders deep. My bookmarks/favourites bar remains closed in my browser. This way I open only websites that are needed at that moment, rather than aimlessly browsing from site to site, hoping for the dopamine kick of finding something new. I open up websites based on what I type, not on the icons I see. My homepage is set to my own blog now: it neatly provides me with a reminder to create rather than consume.
- I turned off notifications on my smartphone. Only setting some to badges (mostly email and messaging). I've also reinstated my ringtone. Being called on the phone is such a rarity that it usually means it's important anyway. The rest can wait.
- I've removed the majority of apps from my smartphone, only reinstalling those I truly need. I'm left with a rather basic bunch of apps, mostly communication, music and travel:
They're just the first few steps on this path as I'm looking into reconfiguring more elements. Who knows. I might even give up my Kindle (read: "it's probably the last thing to go"). For now, it at least feels a lot more tranquil.