The first week of my digital re-tox (off social media) has been surprising. The first 24 hours, I constantly had my mind wander to people I don’t know, and wonder what they’re up to. I have quotes and jokes floating through my head from Instagram. I see things in real life, and think ‘oh, could I post about that? Should I take a picture?’ It was unsettling, but also exciting to confirm that I needed the time off. My last week off was in July, and resulted in a podcast episode.
[This post is part of a month-long Digital Re-Tox challenge to stay off social media, and write 50 000 words with NaNoWriMo. For challenge details, click here]
Week 1: I Studied Social Media
But then, day three, I started prepping for a speech I needed to make with Toastmasters. If you don’t know about Toastmasters, it’s an international group of people who want to improve at public speaking. Basically, exposure therapy: with weekly meetings, everyone in the room ends up having to stand up and speak at some point. It could be to tell a joke, to chair the meeting, to make a speech, evaluate a speech or deliver the timer’s report. Slowly, you get used to going up, and you also learn how to give feedback, be funny, introduce yourself, greet a room. Some big thinkers that I admire like Tim Ferris and Susan Cain both did Toastmasters while moving towards careers that include viral Ted Talks.
My task for this week was to put together a speech that was research based, and I decided to write it about social media addiction.
That was a turning point: I became aware of how many times a day we’re drawn to our phones. I was watching videos with Tristan Harris in them, a visionary for what ethical internet would look like. I learned that with one distraction (i.e. instagram break 10 times a day in my case), even if it’s a minute long, it takes 23 minutes to get back to the same level of focus.
This research project was so, so helpful as I would re-commit every day to hitting my word goal and have more and more confidence that this break was the right thing for me.
Week 1: NaNoWriMo Word Goal Results
- I want to read 1 book each week, and succeeded- read Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less
- Stayed off the internet until 12:00 pm 3.5 out of 5 weekdays in Week One.
- As soon as the challenge started, I fixed up my office significantly. It’s a nicer place to be with a heater, bookshelf, and photos!
- Short Stories: Probably the most exciting experience so far: I discovered that I AM writing a fiction novel! I worked on separate short stories daily, but then on day 4 started intertwining the characters. So, all of a sudden, I have 7184/20 000 words in Short Stories, so I am way ahead and hope to exceed this word goal by at least 10 000-15 000.
- Total writing goal: 13 336 words out of 13333 (goal). And that’s without using the bonus point system – in which I gained another 2150 word credit for publishing posts.
- I’d love to have people to write with. Week two is going to be the hardest, since I’m not halfway there yet, and the excitement of week one is over.
- Since the fiction writing goal is to be unedited and create a first draft only, it’s really hard not to go back and edit. It’s easier if I work on the fiction words first, then work on polishing up a blog post or working on a pitch afterwards.
- When I write non-fiction, I usually have an outline, or at least a real-life story to draw from. Since I have no plan with this fiction novel, it’s refreshing to sit down and see where my imagination goes.
- Short sentences will help my editing process. I’ll focus on that this week.
Other changes with the digital re-tox:
- I’m less drawn to screens in general (much less Netflix, cell phone is away for much of the day).
- For the first time in months, I was ahead of schedule on my freelancing, my toastmaster’s speech and reading goals.
- I’ve turned the settings on my iPad to black and white, which makes it VERY unattractive – I hardly use it at all!
- I’ve picked up a few books about how to write, including:
- No Plot? No Problem.
- The Art of War for Writers
- Short sentences
Big picture, I’m thinking less about the people on Instagram, and thinking more about the big picture of social media: how I will use it after my digital re-tox. More on that once I re-focus on it in the coming weeks.