Freedom, sort of.

I’ve been battling an internal war for the last couple weeks.

It’s not anything life or death, just a decision over whether or not to continue using social media. I’d fully intended to quit for the semester (or at least 90% quit) because I have a huge research paper looming by the end of the term, and a thesis to write next semester (…which I’m also working on at the same time). Confession: I’m failing, and badly. This post serves as confession, inspiration, and maybe a little accountability.

Despite feeling like I really wanted to ditch all social media after reading Cal Newport’s book Deep Work (highly recommend it, by the way), I decided to keep Facebook for the time being mainly because it’s my only way of reliable contact with my grad school friends and classmates (other than Moodle and email) and my only contact with a few friends I don’t want to lose contact with. And I decided to hang on to my Twitter account because I can do things there that I can’t with Facebook. It’s a better forum for networking with people I find interesting in the literary world, and for political commentary (even though it’s much harder on the nerves and the blood pressure to read through). I had an Instagram account for a few weeks, but quickly tired of it –so that’s gone now, and I don’t miss it. Snapchat? Had that for two days to get to know it well enough to monitor my kids’ accounts, and ditched it.

Still, the problem remains: when I’m already struggling with a season of feeling socially isolated, social media becomes a really tempting time-waster. And I don’t have time to waste. Yesterday I frittered away far more of my day than I could afford following the Kavanaugh debacle on Twitter. Somehow, I’ve configured my Facebook feed so that my friends who post mainly political stuff (usually memes or “share this post if…” type stuff) all the time don’t show up any more (for which I’m honestly kind of grateful).

For a lot of people, Facebook is the rusty old pickup that you slap tons of bumper stickers onto, Twitter, possibly more so.

And I tire of that quickly. I miss good old fashioned discussion. But I don’t want to ditch my account entirely. So, now what?

…Enter the Freedom app. It’s an app (paid, unfortunately, but not expensive and well worth it –the link is to my affiliate account, which was super easy to set up and available to any user) you install on your computer that blocks websites –any that you choose, but there are presets for social media, shopping, email…– for a time which the user sets, up to 24 hours at a time. And (my favorite feature), you can set it to automatically block social media out every day for a set period of time. I’ve set mine to block out social media and Amazon from 8am to 12pm every weekday –my prime writing hours.

It used to be available in the app store for iPhones, but unfortunately, Apple removed it. …Something about the app contradicting the main point of a smartphone, which is to keep you glued to it 24/7*. Freedom might be still available for Android phones, I’m not sure. One account can cover multiple devices signed in on the same account, also. This is a huge plus for my kids doing online school –I’ve installed the app on their computers and can block out Youtube and Roblox during their school hours (cue the evil mom laughter).

Basically, it’d be a perfect solution, …if only I hadn’t figured out how to disable it with three clicks on my tool bar. Sigh. Every solution has its weak points, I suppose. There’s still nothing that replaces good old self-control.

*I use the Moment app to track my phone time and removed the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone entirely, which has helped with the reflex of checking my phone every time quiet or boredom descends and I’m away from my computer. I can still access them from Safari or Chrome on my phone, but it’s a lot clunkier and more annoying, which discourages me from a quick check in every half-hour. The biggest benefit to removing the apps was removing the constant notifications from them.

One thought on “Freedom, sort of.

  1. The latest system update for the iPhone lets you set total screen time limits and specific limits for social media. It also gives you reports on what you were doing with your screen time, I.e., productivity vs creativity vs social media. It’s only been a few days but I like it, it definitely keeps me in check.

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