On Digital Minimalism
I've received some inquiries about why I decided to start sharing my creative work on Instagram again; especially after I disabled all my social media accounts in 2018. The questions along with a timely book I recently finished reading—Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport—prompted me to write an updated essay about how I use social in my daily life.
On March 23, 2018, I finally quit social media because I wanted my time and attention back. Then I disabled or deleted the following accounts: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Slack, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google Plus, Fitbit, and Flickr.
I wasn't actively sharing my creative work on all the accounts listed above. However, the sites I regularly used—like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—fragmented my attention. I felt like I was wasting my time, and I was tired of picking up my phone. Plus, I wasn't actively using Flickr, Pinterest, Google Plus, etc. In short, it was time to downsize my digital life and revamp my habits.
The first few weeks without social media in my daily life felt strange. I kept reaching for my phone to check services like Instagram, and then I remembered that I no longer had access to the app. As time moved on, I reached for my phone less often, felt less anxious, more focused, and slightly embarrassed by how much time and mental energy I devoted to social media sites. To be clear, I didn't leave the Internet. I was still sharing words and photos on my blog and with newsletter subscribers.
By the end of April 2018, my twitch to continually check social media sites was gone. Stepping away from the social media rat race felt incredible! Also, the extra time and increased focus enabled me to prepare for a month-long creative writing workshop in Paris, France. Before leaving for Paris, I did a lot of reading and writing to get ready for the course/experience.
Using Facebook in Paris
When I received the welcome email for the writing workshop, my heart sank a little. Part of the email stated that fellow students and instructors would use a private Facebook group to share information about social events during our time in the city. I’d already deleted my Facebook account and wasn’t keen on rejoining the service.
However, I didn’t want to miss out on social gatherings in Paris, so I asked the program director for his advice. The director encouraged me to set-up a "burner" Facebook account for the class under a nom de plume (a pen name). So, that's what I did. I used the group to stay updated on social activities while in Pairs, and when I got home in August 2018, I deleted my account (again).
Looking back, I probably didn't need to join the Paris Facebook group. For example, one of my classmates—a fantastic writer in her early twenties—had never opened a Facebook account, and wasn't planning on creating one for the workshop. She also didn’t miss out on social activities.
Overall, the Facebook group was a helpful logistical tool that led to offline conversations and gatherings that were meaningful. Also, I only used the site for 5 to 10 minutes a day, and then logged off — my fear of wasting time on Facebook while in Paris didn’t happen. I also knew that I would not continue using the service when I returned to the states.
In September 2018—five months after I quit social media—I reactivated my Instagram account. Out of all the social media sites I deleted/deactivated, Instagram was the only app that I missed because it fostered my interest in photography and art. I was cautious about reactivating my account though. If I was going to use Instagram, I wanted to figure out how I could best use the app for personal and professional purposes.
At the time of this writing, I’ve been sharing photos and some stories on Instagram for roughly four months.
Here’s how I share my work on Instagram:
Posting schedule: I don’t put pressure on myself to post daily. I did that for years, and if I continue to use Instagram, the experience must be fun, not annoying or stressful. Typically, I post a photo three times a week, and I don't follow very many folks on Instagram either. Unless I'm documenting travel-based adventures, I’m not inclined to share images or videos on Instagram Stories.
How I post: I don’t have the Instagram app on my phone because it’s distracting and addicting. Instead, I use an app on my laptop called Flume to manage my Instagram account. Weirdly, I don’t feel the need to check Flume all the time on my computer. However, when the Instagram app is on my phone, I want to check it all the time! As an aside, I upgraded to the pro version of Flume because it’s a great tool.
Time spent on Instagram: When I write a caption and post a photo, the process takes 5 to 15 minutes. If I’m logging on to see what my artist friends are doing, I spend less time on the app. On the high end, I spend less than an hour on Instagram each week.
On Happily Missing Out
Cal Newport defines digital minimalism as:
“A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time to a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”
When I began sharing my creative work online, I thought that I had to be everywhere to find readers, and that’s part of the reason I had so many social media accounts. I definitely wasn’t a digital minimalist. In retrospective, it would have been better to sign up for one or two social networking sites, instead of many.
Today, I’m happy to miss out, and I certainly don’t miss using Facebook or Twitter, or the other sites I mentioned above. I’d also be fine without Instagram in my life. I’m wary of putting a lot of energy into Instagram because I don’t own the app. Plus, Instagram’s parent company is Facebook (a company that’s engaged in concerning data collection practices).
Currently, Instagram is the only social media account I use, and I don’t know if I’ll continue sharing my work on the app or not. I will continue to put time and energy into my digital home—RowdyKittens.com—and other fun writing projects like my newsletter.
If you’re thinking about revamping your digital life, check out the books and articles below. I hope you find them useful.
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport is excellent! I devoured the book in three days. I'm still processing what I learned from Newport, and I'll probably blog about it soon. I will say this: If you want to declutter your digital life, Digital Minimalism is full of useful tips and tools.
In the Moment: 365 Creative Ways to Connect with Your World by Jocelyn De Kwant and Sanny Van Loon isn't about digital minimalism in the traditional sense. It is an interactive journal that fosters mindfulness. The book includes "365 different prompts that encourage you to observe, draw, write, imagine, meditate, and play."
Jocelyn sent me a gratis copy, and I’m incorporating the journal and prompts into my morning routine.
How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You: This is an incredibly long and instructive article. It’s worth reading!
Why newsletters beat social media: Loved this one!