The 30 Day Challenge

Originally published February 7th, 2014

The last 30 days have been a whirlwind.  Work.  Time with the kids.  Football.  I even went to a parade.  But something was different about the last 30 days than the 30 before them.   I did it all without Twitter, or Instagram, or Foursquare, or Yelp, or…  After over 17,500 tweets I decided to take a break from it all cold turkey, and you know what?  I lived to tell about it.   “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?”  Yes it does, and that was just one of the things I learned during my 30 day break.

At about 4am on Sunday January 5th, I woke up from a dream.   The dream didn’t have anything to do with Twitter, or social media, or work, or really anything at all.  It was just a random dream, the kind we’ve all had a thousand times before.   But somewhere, between waking up from the dream, and the thirty minutes I spent staring at the wall, I realized just how much time I’ve truly been wasting on Twitter.   I decided to take a break from it cold turkey, and I discovered something in the first 24hrs that was really kind of scary.  I was addicted.   Really and truly addicted.  It’s weird when you step back and look at it. My first 2-3 hours were eye opening:

  • Zero Hour:   Felt pretty good about the idea of taking a break from Twitter.   Thought about what I wanted to do.  Maybe read a book…  Yes, I’ll go home and read a book… and then I’ll tweet about what I – NO.   Maybe I’ll head home and read a book.   Yes.
  • Hour One:   Went to the bathroom, but left the phone on my desk.  Crisis averted.
  • Hour Two:   Left office to head to the store.   Stopped at the stoplight, picked up my phone and – WHOA.  NO!
  • Hour Three:   Met wife for lunch, first instinct was to check into Foursquare.   WAIT! 

It was crazy.  Every instinct I was having revolved around telling the “world” about it, or sharing the experience?   But why, because does anyone truly care?  I want you to try something.  Go online and tell your “Followers” that you’re thinking about taking a break from Twitter and see what happens.  You know what will likely happen?  Very little.

I made a series of moves when I took a break from Twitter.   The first was telling “everyone” that I was taking a break.  Well actually, the first thing I did was tell people I was thinking about taking a break, and it was met with virtual silence from all but one person.   An hour later I decided I was going to do it, so I posted another one that I was taking a break until Feb 6th, and it was met with… yes, silence.   It’s weird when you think about it, but who are we really even talking to?  Out of the 220-some people I follow, I have filters for who I really pay attention to.   We all do.  But why?  What’s the point?   I have 400+ people follow me on Twitter, which isn’t a ton, but is anyone really truly listening, or are we all just talking?  But to who?   At the end of the day, how many people do we really talk to, or trust, or share, or laugh with online?   I don’t know what I expected, but I guess I expected more.  I did, I expected more, and at the end of the day, no one really cared, and you know what?   It was the first step to realizing it was a good time to take a break.   But we’ll talk more about that later.

Telling the “world” I was taking a break was the first part of the “30 Day Challenge”.   I sent DMs to the people that at the end of the day I truly engage with online.  And really, it wasn’t many.   A few I dropped texts to, and after some back and forth on why I was doing it, Step One was nearly complete.   But there was one more step.   I decided that if I was going to cut one, I had to cut them all, or at least the best I could.  I deleted Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and the Vine apps from my phone and I deleted the shortcuts on my computer.  Done.  Piece of cake.   I can do this…  And then I looked at the calendar and sighed.  Maybe this won’t be as easy as I thought.   I took a break from Twitter during the NFL Playoffs, with the potentially Super Bowl bound (and ultimately winning) Seattle Seahawks, on the day of the College National Title game, and the day before the Baseball Hall Of Fame announcements were going to be made.   I picked what was undoubtedly the hardest point of the year for a sports fan to cut it cold turkey.

My first night, I dreamt that I logged onto Twitter.  And that’s sad.

I don’t think we realize how much time we’re truly wasting online, but I started to get a glimpse early on.   The house was a little cleaner.   I’d worked on my Spanish more in the first week than the last six months.   I read a book.   I just looked outside.  And I started to feel a little “better”.

What do I mean by “better”?  I think what I mean is kind of a combination of nicer and happier.   Twitter ramps up emotions.  It amplifies the euphoria of being a sports fan and it explodes the agony of defeat.  But it also makes us all a little more sarcastic… and bitter… and even jealous.   I realized that the more time I spent away from Twitter, the happier I felt in general, and the nice thing was I started to pick up on it pretty quickly.  As the weeks went on, my productivity increased too.   I don’t mean at work, I mean all over the place.  Projects were getting done faster and I found more time with my kids.   And work?   Well, it was busier than ever too, but in my business busy is good.  It couldn’t have all been a coincidence, could it?

It wasn’t easy.  Were there days I missed it?  Absolutely.  There were days when I found “extra” time and debated logging in, but I knew that if I broke that challenge to myself that I’d feel like I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to do, and that was to take control of my time.  At the heart of the 30 Day Challenge, that was my biggest goal:   I wanted to take back the time I’d been wasting, and see what I could do to refocus it towards something productive, fun, or even if I was lucky enough, profitable.   We all waste time, but it was the amount of time I’d wasted that really stood out from the last 30 days.  The 30 Day Challenge was a truly valuable experiment that I’d recommend everyone try.

So how does the 30 Day Challenge work for you?   I want you to go on today and tell your “Followers” that you’re thinking of taking the 30 Day Challenge.   How many people will really notice it when you’re gone?  You’ll realize really quickly that if it’s the 0.0229885% that it was for me, you’ll have an easier time leaving it behind for a while.  Next thing I want you to do is DM/Text the people you “really like” and tell them you’re taking a break.   You’re still friends, it’s OK to talk to them!  That’s the easy part.   The hard part is doing it.

Side effects to the 30 Day Challenge:

  • Irritation for the first few days.
  • Feeling better the next few days.
  • Reading.
  • Listening to others.
  • Talking to others.

I know this whole thing was preachy, and the next part is what will throw you for the curve.   I’m back on Twitter.   I’m breaking a cardinal rule of addiction.  I guess I think I can just do it “a little” and get by.   We’ll see if it works, or if I need to move away from it completely.   I’d laughed at the idea of internet addiction before, until you realize what addiction does – Costs people their relationships, or families, or jobs, or money… I guess it is a drug.   So choosing to try it in moderation is a risk.   But I feel like the 30 Day Challenge put me in a position where I’ll be able to control it.  But if not, then I’ll leave it behind knowing that I did it before and I can do it again.

Be sure to follow me, even ironically, @Millerdna on Twitter. Maybe I’ll stick around.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s