This article by Anne Helen Petersen definitely hits home. The erratic dysrhythmia she describes of incessant context switching while attempting to do actual work was eerily similar to what a lot of my sessions writing either code or prose look like. I really feel for people who are in the content-hustle business – constantly needing to react to whatever the hive-mind buzzing about at the moment. For them, actively using social media in all of its most toxic ways is tragically an occupational hazard that is an inevitable part of their jobs. They can try digital detoxes, but the extent to which they can apply Cal Newport and Jaron Lanier’s exhortations is fundamentally limited. I’m grateful that I have a career that is essentially indifferent to my online presence. And I’ve leveraged that freedom to my benefit – the only account I still maintain is a rarely-touched (i.e. once a month) Instagram that only exists because I’ve been too lazy to go through the process of exporting my data.
I’ll preach social media withdrawal from the mountaintop, but also issue another warning – the principalities and powers of anxiety and distraction are still out there, and are quite possibly an inescapable presence in digital life. To be sure, the “Isle of Blogging” and “Republic of Newsletters” are kinder, more curious, and generally healthier places, but they still offer a greater abundance of interestingness than a human can reasonably enjoy day to day. And the major media outlets (of all partisan stripes, from NYT to Breitbart) are still hell-bent on grabbing your attention, and have no qualms harming your wellbeing if it means access to your eyeballs, even for a skim.