· 1 min read

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Two years ago I significantly reduced my use of news and social media. I reflected on this experience in "The Easy Way to Quit Instagram". The key to successfully quitting Instagram was a slow process of eliminating subscriptions that didn't matter. Some social interactions became more difficult: "Did you hear what ___ said about ___!? Outrageous!!". I often had no opinion because it was the first time I had heard of it. Some friends suggested it's irresponsible to disconnect from the news completely. For a while, I tried engineering my news feed using the All Sides app: every major topic was accompanied by left, right, and center-biased articles for a full unbiased 360-degree view. It turned out that, unlike social media, the real news is incredibly boring.

Since then I've adopted this approach in other areas of my digital life. I practice Inbox Zero, actively unfollow "friends" on Facebook, mute and archive chats on Telegram, and disable notifications in most apps. Every platform resisted me in subtle ways. None of them have our best interests in mind. Every bit of information we didn't actively choose will be chosen for us to monetize our attention.

I wish I could tell you this will solve all of your problems. For me eliminating noise was the first step. Soon I discovered boredom and the feeling of disconnecting from the world as I learned to think of it. This uncertainty is the flip side of the newfound ability to choose. My main challenge now is deciding who I want to listen to, and what topics are important to me.

To explore more, watch The Social Dilemma (2020) on Netflix, read Digital Minimalism (2019) by Cal Newport, or check out r/digitalminimalism.

Cover image created by DALL·E 3, an AI system designed by OpenAI.