After reading Digital Minimalism, I set out to do a 30-day digital detox. The social media network that felt the least satisfying to me at that time was Facebook, so I disabled my account. I put my phone on silent, removed all social media and other time-sucking apps from my phone, and got to focus on my work. In total, I got one very productive day – until my phone rang and my husband told me that I had to talk to my sister: because I disabled my Facebook, it looked as if I had blocked her on Facebook, and since I had switched off my phone, I wasn’t responsive on Whatsapp. Lesson learned: I need to keep some access to myself open so that my family can reach me.
From that perspective, my digital detox following the rules of the book only lasted a week. After that, however, I did some major cleaning up. I brought my friends list on Facebook down to less than 150, unliked a number of pages, and clicked away content I do not want to see anymore. I’m tired of politics on Facebook and I’m tired to anti-science content, so I let the Facebook algorithm know that I don’t want to see such content. I want to see baby pictures and cat pictures and read people’s status updates, but that’s not what my timeline looked like. I’m now only checking a few days a week to respond to questions, to see if there’s anything on the PhD Talk page, and I’ve also given presentations that were streamed through Facebook Live.
I had already cut down my Instagram feed to people I know. While it’s nice escapism to scroll through a timeline with content curated by influencers, at the end of the day, I prefer to read a glossy magazine for better quality of that type of content. Again, I want the baby pictures of my friends, not somebody trying to sell me something.
For Twitter, I must say that I deeply value the academic conversation on Twitter. Since my timeline consists mostly of academics, the anti-science and anti-vaxx movement is not as prominent on Twitter as it is on (what I see on my) Facebook. Phew. I don’t want to be picking up fights to defend science every single day. But at the same time, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and then the discussion on racial justice, I didn’t feel as if my voice had to be heard. So I’ve been staying a bit more quiet.
I have barely checked any news websites. I try not to read political discussion on the listserv of my university. Instead, I’m playing the cello suites of Bach and am reading War and Peace, and trying to imagine what the world will look like when all of this is over.