"When it comes to the overwhelm; the easiest way to solve that is to turn it off. Really just turn it off" - Patrick Rhone in Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things
Since around a month ago on the 5th of October I've had myself locked out of Twitter. I achieved this by ensuring that two-factor authentication was turned on, and by asking my friend S to change my password (I actually did the same for her). This way I couldn't log in because I didn't know the password, and if she proved untrustworthy she couldn't log in without access to my phone or email.
I thought my motivations for this were pretty straightforward; less distractions. I'd developed a bit of a Twitter 'twitch', and endlessly scrolling the site or flicking between it and Mastodon was dramatically affecting how much I'd been able to achieve in recent months. I did the same thing when I staged my withdrawal of Facebook I didn't think it was too much of an issue; since I don't have any social media apps on my phone, I can't receive the summons of notifications. Turns out it had permeated my life in a few other ways.
I thought I had a pretty good handle on curating my input. I only subscribe to a few YouTube channels and Podcasts at a time, which I've arrived at from years of striving to understand the form and topics of media that I like to consume. What I hadn't quite landed on was the connection between Twitter / microblogging's rapid-fire, consumable, format and its ability to increase my overall desire for just… input. It's like how my stomach expands whenever I often have too-large portions. The pace and overall serving size of reading Twitter or other microblogging sites just increases my appetite for mindlessly consuming more entertainment.
Really, that's what concerns me the most. I do believe that humans deserve to have a good time, and relish the playfulness that comes with our existence on this planet. Not everything has to be work. I just think that there exists a semantic difference between enjoyment of a playful activity and entertainment. As a phenomenologist at heart, I think that there just might be a difference between an activity being entertaining and the phenomena of entertainment. One is an attribute, that tells us and others that this activity, work, or interaction holds our attention and brings something into our lives. One is its own phenomena; that says we've extrapolated the attribute of being entertaining into its own noun and created this Thing which we seek out instead of thinking about the material thing that we're actually doing or watching or reading. For me, entertainment amounts to what I do in order to distract myself from what matters. I'm fine with something being entertaining, or sitting there being entertained while doing or experiencing something, but I'm very cautious about something that exists almost purely in my mind to distract me or hold my attention. This is not to say that Twitter or Mastodon are products of pure entertainment; they're very valuable communications tools. For me, the phenomena was that they were entertainment and they served that purpose of distraction.
I'm not sure about you, but I don't want to turn around in a few years, reflect on what I did with my time and come up with the answer of "Oh, I consumed entertainment".
Linked to the above, I spend a lot more of my time in quiet these days. Previously I used to consume podcasts in the evening, and have a selection of YouTube channells I would enjoy checking up on. I still do, but now my actual hunger for these things has decreased significantly. I don't feel the urge to consume content as I get the opportunity these days, and while I definitely still enjoy listening to podcasts about various topics or watching YouTube videos or reading satire on the web; these things have fallen into a "natural" rhythm rather than being a relatively constant demand or hunger in my mind.
Since locking myself out of Twitter, I've not logged into Mastodon either (sorry fediverse! You're still my favourite), only visited YouTube once a day and usually to retrieve some specific information (usually around propagating a plant cutting), and barely read any web articles during the work day. It's almost like what happened when I started fasting in the mornings, and my body just started telling me what its actual needs and desires were rather than the holding pattern firing constantly.
I've still got a way to go with curating my input and determining what I'm doing purely to entertain myself rather than fulfill myself. But I'm a lot happier in the quiet now.
I… I don't think I'll go back. One thing Twitter was useful for was keeping up with world events because of the trending hashtag system. I'm pretty sure I can find a workaround for that somewhere. I will maintain my Twitter account but treat it as a bot (I may actually rename it to Marshallbot) which just posts my content from Brimstone.
I was using the direct messaging feature in Twitter somewhat at the end, so I think I'll use the api to wire them into Brimstone's inbox (which I promise I will finish at some point!) and outbox so that people can actually get in touch with me if they need to.
Anyway, catch you later Twitter. Maybe. Probably not.
As it turns out, I'm way too impatient to wait a week for my next journal prompt. Today's prompt is Via Negativa. According to AoM this term originally comes from Christianity where one explains their god by focusing on what they are not. This term, then, can apply to personal growth by a focus on not doing things. Ie avoiding bad habits. Today's journal will thus be discussing a habit that I want to get rid of, a habit that's holding me back, and how I plan to eliminate it from my life.
My habit, funnily enough, is idleness. Those closer to me may sound shocked by this, as I'm always dipping into personal projects; and I'm famed in particular for my early rises in order to undergo my morning strength training ritual. I'm generally thought of as being in quite early to the Lab, which is how I justify extending my personal evening time by leaving at 1600. However, as my training schedule has developed over 2016 I've begun training literally half as often as I used to. I now train two very heavy days (Monday and Thursday) whereas I used to include the Tuesday and Friday as well. This means I've not had motivation to wake up early on those days, and have used the time to "get myself some extra rest" as part of the catabolic phase of my weekly training/life. Don't get me wrong, this has had some very good impacts on my training and I've continued to improve steadily. My problem stems from the empty space that has been left behind. I resort to laying in bed, watching YouTube or Netflix to "chill out" before work and inevitably wind up spending way longer than I want to and have thus developed an unfortunate habit of arriving into the lab a bit later than what I'd normally be comfortable with. This has been consistent since September at least, but I think it was creeping up on me beforehand.
On top of this, the non-habit of empty space means that I feel frustrated that I've resorted to consuming entertainment instead of working on my goals or projects. It's not that I feel that I can't enjoy entertainment at all, it's just that I want a particular balance of production and consumption in my personal sphere that's been thrown off-balance. One of my goals is also to read more philosophy and more fiction, instead of video. Provided that I go to bed early enough, I can still give myself extra rest by sleeping in until 0630 and then working passively and at peace that I'm actually doing something that has purpose for me (purpose being a key element in happiness).
Sorry again for another Guardian link. Of all the broadsheets that review things they're often the first in my searches, and are at least not explicitly right-wing
I think the main steps to producing a blueprint of eliminating my bad habit is to replace it with a good one. I mentioned that I'm sleepy when I haven't trained, so until I'm already in the habit of meditating then I'm not comfortable jumping in there. This also provides space for a greater variety of activities in my life, by using my mornings better. The goals that spring to mind at the time of writing are:
Since I'm a creature of schedule and habit, it's probably best for me to produce a weekly schedule of these morning activities. They have to be completeble by about 0730 so that I can get into the lab nice and early to begin my day there; giving me more time in the evening (We'll deal with idelness in my evening routines later...). Having a few weeks, or a month, of performing each of these activities on a daily rotation will give me a good overview of where my priorities are and what is sustainable (as well as which activities can be performed concurrently). Here's my proposed schedule:
I've deliberately left of my Saturday and Sunday schedules, as they're often dependant on a work schedule or how late my partner returned from work the night before. I've also deliberately left out certain goals, in order to really focus on the low barrier to access ones. All of them are really low barrier to be honest, but in terms of the physical or cognitive grinding; I've chosen the easiest.
What I need now, is accountability for these. I could check in with a close friend / colleague each morning; just by sending a message telling them what I was up to and what time I woke up? That's the positive aspect of accountability. I need a consquence as well, and that's the tough part. Conversations with colleagues before have resulted in them being uncomfortable with the idea of donating my money to a nasty cause, and there's nothing else really they could do. I could ask them to walk over to my desk and yell "Shame!" at me?
I will need to reflect on this further.