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Uploaded:2017-03-21
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In which John discusses the dumbing of his phone and his new information diet, all designed to protect him from the self he becomes when twittering.

I'm not sure if the social media anxiety/malaise I feel is something others will be able to relate to, or if it's specific to my life, but I am trying to sort through whether the architecture of the social internet makes it an inherently unfun/unhealthy place for me to hang out, or whether this is just a phase, like that time in ninth grade when I wore a trench coat for six months even though I lived in Florida and it was hot all the time. But for now, I've decided to experiment with a low-information diet.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

So I was talking to a friend at VidCon, actually I wasn't talking to him, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed trying to make sure that everyone was having a good time at VidCon, you know and looking to see if there were any problems, and my friend said "You seem stressed" and I said "Twitter".  Which is both the name of a social network and my personal word for that kind of buzzing misery that the social internet lately fills me with.

I call this strange brew of outrage and worry and exhaustion and not being able to look away "twittering", but presumably you can get the same unpleasant, and yet still somehow desirable, feeling from other social media outlets. And also possibly elsewhere, but I get it mostly from Twitter.  By the way I'm happy you don't get this feeling and that the internet brings you nothing but joy and fulfillment.  I think Twitter and Facebook and et. cetera are useful and important, and in pockets quite beautiful, and obviously I've benefited from them a lot, but I'm just gonna level with you and acknowledge that the majority of time these days my general feeling when on the social internet is like "Uuuggghh".

Right so anyway, I explained this to my friend and he said "You should make your phone into a dumb phone" and I said "What?" and then he explained that among the may things you can do with a smartphone is turn it into a device that closely resembles a cellphone from 2005, except with a much better camera.  This had literally never occurred to me, and about a month later, after a particularly egregious episode of twittering, I did it. 

My phone no longer has Twitter or Facebook or email or Reddit, I even broke my son's heart by deleting Pokemon GO.  I do still have an internet browser which allows me to fall down various rabbit holes if I'm highly motivated, but in general I just use my phone for calls and texting and pictures.  Well also I've got my Delta app so I can check into flights and Yelp and Google maps and of course the Chipotle app and this app that tells me whether there are soccer games on TV right now, it's not really that dumb of a phone.  But the point is I have no way of twittering.

Theres just one problem with my dumb phone, which is that it hasn't worked. Like I suppose in the last seven months my background level of stress had decreased somewhat, but mostly I just spend more time with my computer. 

This is partly because I feel some vague but nagging obligation to be informed about the events of the day.  Although in the end I'm not convinced that twittering actually makes me better informed. Like I know quite a lot about Donald Trump's handshakes with foreign leaders, but I don't know much about South Korea's ousted president, or the ongoing corruption scandals in Brazil, or even the U.S. federal reserve's monetary policy.  Plus I feel like when I'm inside the feed I kind of become a person I dislike. Like I find myself skimming instead of engaging and valuing cleverness over compassion and also clicking on click bait, which just creates a world with more click bait.  And sometimes I'll be like, "Sorry my actual real life family, but someone is wrong about something on the internet, and I need to explain to them exactly why they are wrong".  God help me, I've even re-tweeted fake news.

Point being, it is time for a drastic intervention.  So in the last couple weeks I've decided to scale way back on the social internet, and put my self on an information diet.  Rather than trying to drink from the fire hose of Twitter, I'm spending and hour or two each morning reading these, mostly The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and my hometown Indianapolis Star.

How do I explain newspapers and magazines to young people, basically it's like a very carefully curated internet that someone prints on paper and then mails to your house.  It's an extremely inefficient process, and too expensive, but I am desperate for a change.

So is it working, well I'll echo many a click bait science headline and say that early results are positive but it's too soon to know for sure.  

Nerdfighters, I'm curious if you're having similar problems with the social internet or if my experience is more of an outlier.  Let me know in the comments below.

On that subject I will say that YouTube still feels different to me from the rest of the internet. In general I just find YouTube less stressful, but that might be because I get to live in this relatively friendly and peaceful corner of it. So thank you for that.

Hank, I'll see you on Friday.