Goals Habits

A Media Manifesto

December 14, 2023

I am writing this from my car as I wait for A at dance (jazz).

I am feeling really content right now and excited about the weeks (and year) ahead. As a wise commenter pointed out, people are worth it, so I did book an overpriced flight* and we (the kids + me – Josh is on call!) will get to spend 3 days in Philadelphia around Christmas. I am particularly excited about A/C/G finally getting some quality time with my niece who is almost FOUR!

*Slightly less overpriced because we are flying back Christmas morning. Which is actually perfect, I’ll be back home for our annual ritual of Chinese takeout and relaxing movie night.

Okay, here comes the aforementioned manifesto.

(I do love a good manifesto!)

I wanted to write more about media. And consumption in general. We have so much information flying at us, day and night. There are so many options to choose from every moment of every day.

Some of it is highly polished and edited. Some of it is raw and uncut. Some of it is trying to sell us something. Some of it is just trying to keep our eyeballs glued to a screen. Some of it makes us feel inadequate. Some of it is art. Most of it is decidedly not.

I left Facebook in 2016 because it had an incredibly addictive and magnetic quality for me, and also it tended to make me feel like garbage. Then, Instagram in 2021 because same.

I have been overall so much happier without these sources of media in my life. I truly do not miss them at all. I enjoy reading blogs (I uses feedly which still works well for me), listening to podcasts, watching (occasional) YouTube, reading magazines and books (on paper, 95% of the time). I like movies and TV and wish I watched more of each of them!

Two sources of garbage screen time do remain in my life. If I printed out all of the media I read in this format, it would make a sizable stack. Neither approach the problematic scale of IG or FB. But I am decidedly better off without them on my phone.

#1: REDDIT. I almost never post on Reddit. But — over the past year or so — I have at times started to become a bit of a lurker. I mostly read: r/advancedrunning, r/hobonichi, and sometimes (ugh): r/blogsnark. Seriously, it’s all bad. Well, maybe except for r/hobonichi. But I don’t trust myself to get on and NOT check out other subs. SO I am logging out for good. And I’m starting now — waiting until January 1st seems silly. (I was about to give myself a loophole but I cannot think of one truly useful thing I learned form reddit so no. No loopholes. Not needed.)

#2: EMAIL. This is trickier. There are absolutely times that it’s helpful to have email on one’s phone. I don’t really want to delete it entirely. I actually don’t use the “MAIL” app, but I have gmail as an installed app. But I absolutely have a slot machine-like relationship with my email. I check it for a POSSIBLE mood boost. And I will do this incessantly when I am in certain moods. I always think the answer is to only have specific “check times” so I think this is what I will work on over the next few weeks with the idea of installing official times as habit in 2024. I also need to check WhatsApp periodically (school threads, sports team threads, BLP-related groups). I don’t find WhatsApp addicting but for me it makes sense to bundle it with email checks.

Thinking: once early AM / once around lunchtime / once mid-afternoon / once in evening (and none after 8 pm). Would I miss much?

What is the point of this?

I have put so much thought into my digital life (I curated the Digital Detox! Which was great, but all of us – myself included – agreed that it was really challenging to figure out where to place these kinds of boundaries and what ‘dose’ of tech served us). The reason I care is that . . . well, I am acutely aware that every single minute spent lazily looking at others’ race reports is a minute I am: a) comparing myself to someone else, usually unfavorably and b) not doing something else that could potentially be more worthwhile. I also just feel like there’s so CHATTER, but just because it’s there doesn’t mean I have to listen to it.

Finally, I think there is something to be said for the idea of fast-paced and emotionally charged media making our brains less able to handle the slower more complex stuff. This saddens me!

What would I rather do instead?

Text with someone (yes, on the phone, but I find this a much better use of the screen time) or talk to someone. Read a book. Watch a TV show. Research stuff for upcoming travel or to do around town. Declutter an area (wishful thinking but . . . you never know). File my nails. Be aware of my surroundings. Just freaking SIT THERE for a second.

This was also my motivation to start tracking media consumption. What did I spend my hours listening to? What did I decide was worthy of time and attention? What do I want to share with others (via a blog post etc)? I think being more mindful of what I read / watch / listen to will be interesting and helpful.


  • Reply Lori C December 14, 2023 at 8:11 pm

    Yes. Yes. And yes. I listened to Cal’s episode on how to think like an intellectual this morning and came to a similar conclusion. (You took the academic approach and actually tied it your thoughts in a well organized way, which is pretty anti-hyperactive hive mind of you). I have different sources of time suck but the phone remains a slot machine. I’m going to adopt a foyer phone policy and really try to physically distance myself from it. At least while at home!

  • Reply Lori C December 14, 2023 at 8:12 pm

    Typed up (not tied it)

  • Reply Amy December 14, 2023 at 8:45 pm

    Yes!! I actually took the radical step of removing email and web browser from my phone (as much as one can — I disabled the apps on my iPhone). It has made a world of difference. I do all of my email, shopping, web browsing, etc on my iPad instead, which feels much more intentional and means I can only do those things when I’m at home. If I have to wait for a kid somewhere, I bring a book or some knitting. And it means I use my phone as a tool instead of a slot machine. Yes, it can absolutely be inconvenient (people can’t text me links to things anymore, for instance) — but the downsides of being addicted to email and compulsively checking the same websites over and over again are far greater than the occasional inconvenience of not having my email available everywhere I go.

  • Reply Eileen December 14, 2023 at 9:07 pm

    I don’t comment often, but I really appreciate this. I never got on the social media train. Sometimes I have FOMO, but for the most part, I think I have saved myself a lot of headache and stress. There are definitely other distractions on my phone as you mentioned, and I like the idea of tracking to create more awareness. Going to try and track my own consumption this coming year.
    Also, I meant to ask on Monday but for BLP, could you consider content on travel planning? There is a lot of content about it out there, but it is often overwhelming. I think some curated content would be fun.

  • Reply Coco December 15, 2023 at 12:44 am

    fully agreed! the more I read and listen to good podcast and books, the more I realize how costly is to waste time otherwise. I even feel waste of time when watching not great movies. Next year goal will include being picky what I consume. 🙂

  • Reply Chelsea December 15, 2023 at 4:39 am

    So glad you are going to be with your family over the winter break :). Makes me think of the Nick Lowe song Christmas at the Airport: https://youtu.be/oiSf083QM_U?si=Li3Y3XkKgtUu9YG1. Though, of course, in your case I hope no planes are grounded!

    My phone media consumption has gone way down because I suspect I need bifocals ;). I ended up migrating all of my browsing and limited Facebook and Insta activity to my laptop because I find it too difficult to type and read on my phone anymore. Unfortunately, it’s I think it’s part of the reason my physical book reading has gone down a lot in recent years, so getting that checked out is on my 24 for 24 list. The joys of aging!

  • Reply Grateful Kae December 15, 2023 at 7:33 am

    Ahh, I have so many thoughts on this. First, I commend you on realizing when things aren’t working for you and taking action to change them. I would agree that browsing r/blogsnark is probably not going to be super uplifting. 😜

    BUT, on a personal level, I have many mixed feelings about social media. I do not use Reddit or any of the other newer ones. Facebook has long been my main drug of choice (lol) since my college days. I tried Instagram when I started my blog, and still have it, but I have essentially stopped using it. I just never really open it anymore. Have never dabbled in any others, and am ok with that!

    Facebook is harder for me, because while it CAN be a mind-numbing time suck, I really, honestly feel like there are pieces of solid value for me. I’ve talked about this before, I know. But locally, most everyone I know is on Facebook. (We don’t seem to have the Whats App group thing around here.) FB allows me to see updates from real, live people I know, from my community (and beyond, of course). Yes, it would be “better” to connect with these people face to face. But I really enjoy seeing updates from the high school swim team, or learning that a local kid committed to a college team for next year. It makes me happy to see pics of friends (or even acquaintances) enjoying family vacations. I get local outing ideas (actually went to dinner this week based on a FB friend restaurant rec!). I’ve started joining Facebook groups for destinations we travel to- which has been SOOOO helpful! I ask questions, get tips, read things… It’s been truly invaluable. Also, after our Costa Rica trip, I was able to give back and help answer several other people’s questions (strangers, yes, but I had the insight they needed and they were grateful for my help, and I truly enjoyed being able to do that). I’ve joined a New Puppy Owners FB group and have searched dozens of questions there and have learned so much. Etc. Etc.

    Back in the old days, people read local newspapers and chatted with neighbors on the street corner. And while that might be preferable, in reality, I’m not going to do either of those things. I feel like FB is my equivalent of sitting at the main town plaza back in the day, overhearing what’s happening around town or getting new ideas. I realize this may sound silly, and I agree none of it is probably “necessary” (and sure, CN would argue there are other ways to get this “info”.) And I also agree LESS is more- I am certain I don’t need to access it as often as I do in order to get these benefits. I do not like the reactive checking, or compulsive checking that can come with it. But I think using it in moderation- like Cal suggests scheduled checks in the week, for example- would really be my ideal. Just like I don’t want to completely give up sugar or any complete food group, I guess I feel like learning to moderate my tech use is more what I’m after.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 15, 2023 at 12:38 pm

      This is *so* individual (and why when I did digital detox we all created our own manifestos -I definitely didn’t suggest any specific limitations to anyone). It sounds like your FB use is overwhelmingly positive for you – so no reason to get rid of it!! For example, for some people group text threads feel problematic – for me they don’t. I enjoy them 🙂

      HOWEVER for me personally there is something about a bulletin board style thing that pulls me into a scrolling trance. So – I avoid 🙂

  • Reply omdg December 15, 2023 at 10:03 am

    I never really got into Instagram, and currently only use Facebook for groups (Physician Anesthesiologist Mom Group, Academic Research Moms, and Mama Docs Who Travel), which has been a source of enjoyment and information rather than angst. Generally I hide the feed of actual people I know to prevent myself from feeling bad for not having four kids or being skinnier or richer or whatever. Facebook recently had the unexpected perc of when I friended some nurses at work, they started being nicer to me… so. TikTok is my main vice, heh. But… I’ve been getting more out of it than it sucks from me (book recs, recipes, exercise motivation) so I’m not quitting it yet.

    For email, a little while back I turned off banner alerts, which causes me to check it less often on my phone. That in and of itself helped a lot! I am reluctant to remove it from my phone entirely because when I’m working in the hospital it’s really nice to be able to give a quick reply to my mentees and staff who ask me questions. Otherwise I’d have to wait until I get home when I’m totally wiped out and can’t think clearly anymore and I worry that forward momentum on my projects would stall even more than it already does. I’m surprised you turn to email for a dopamine boost. Most email for me just means more work to do. Emails that make me happy come about once ever 2-3 months at best.

  • Reply Evi December 15, 2023 at 4:17 pm

    I am so glad to read that you booked! Enjoy!

  • Reply San December 16, 2023 at 2:52 am

    I’ve been thinking a lot about media consumption and you make some good points here. I am still on Facebook and IG, but try to use it more “selectively”… (doesn’t always work but I am trying). On FB, I am basically only active in groups where I actually interact with people. I try to use IG the same, placing more value on photos + text instead of Reels/Stories (which I find overwhelming).

    Strangely, I’ve never gotten the appeal of Reddit. The platform is not “pleasing” to look at and cumbersome to actually find information (or am I doing it wrong?), but I know tons of people who use it. Can you explain?

    • Reply Florence December 16, 2023 at 6:51 pm

      I use Reddit on occasion. It’s a huge semi-anonymous platform where you can discuss various topics with people worldwide. Lots of entertaining drama (people asking for relationship advice), questions answered by hundreds of people from varied backgrounds (e.g
      ask women: how do you recharge on the weekend), commentary on other media sources that don’t really allow for discussion (e.g. parenting snark where you get to say what you really think about the latest parenting guru that you have to smile and nod politely about when your real life friends bring them up), an anonymous place to bond and discuss personal topics with like minded strangers that you don’t feel comfortable discussing with friends in real life (e.g. beyond the bump to talk about non glamorous pregnancy and postpartum challenges).

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 17, 2023 at 6:27 am

        Great description. On the one hand I like that people are honest and that there’s no real influencer culture. On the other … there’s a lot of negativity and I just find it too addicting!!

  • Reply Daria December 19, 2023 at 3:26 pm

    I quit FB in 2018 and IG in 2019. Like you, I am much, much happier. Most of Reddit was ugh… Some of it was quite vile. And honestly, addictive. Pinterest? Not really a problem so I’ll keep that.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger December 20, 2023 at 11:47 am

      it IS vile!!! that is the right word!!!

  • Reply Jessica December 22, 2023 at 9:39 am

    Yes to all of this! One night early this week I spent almost 2 hours just scrolling between FB and IG. When I went to bed I felt so crabby. Probably a combination of feeling I wasted my evening and all the comparison. I deleted both apps off my phone and I’m on day 2 of no social media. I don’t have a goal in mind to see how long I can go but I’m just going to see how it goes and how I feel with no social media.

    This is my main connection with some close friends who live far away so I’m a little worried how I will stay connected, more texts, emails etc. So time will tell but I am so here for less social media in my life!

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