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Join Analog Social Media

A phenomenon I noticed when researching Digital Minimalism is that many people are confused by the creeping unease they feel about their digital lives. This confusion is caused in part by problems of scope.

When you take an activity like social media, for example, and zoom in close, you isolate behaviors like commenting on a friend’s picture, or encountering an interesting link, that seem mildly positive. What harm could there possibly be in clicking a heart icon?

When you zoom out, however, the cumulative effect of all this swiping and tapping seems to add up to something distinctly negative. Few are happy, for example, after allowing yet another movie night to devolve into side-by-side iPad idling.

The dynamic at play here is that digital activities that are mildly positive in isolation, combine to crowd out other real world activities that are potentially much more satisfying. This is what allows you to love Twitter in the moment when you discover a hilarious tweet, but at the end of the day fear that the app is degrading your soul.

Understanding this dynamic is critical because it tells you that you cannot improve your life by focusing exclusively on digital tools. Triaging your apps, or cutting back phone time, will not by itself make you happier. You must also aggressively fill in the space this pruning creates with the type of massively satisfying, real world activities that these tools have been increasingly pushing out of your life.

It is with this in mind, and in the spirit of the New Year, that I suggest you make a simple resolution: join analog social media.

As I’ve discussed before, analog social media describes organizations, activities and traditions that require you to interact with interesting people and encounter interesting things in the real world.

Here are some examples:

  • Join a local political group that meets regularly to organize on issues relevant to your local community, or serve as a volunteer on the election campaign of a local politician you know and like.
  • Join a social fitness group, like a running club, or local CrossFit box.
  • Become a museum or theater member and attend openings.
  • Go to at least one author talk per month at a local bookstore.
  • Create a book club, or poker group, or gaming club.
  • Join a committee at your church/temple/mosque.
  • Establish a weekly brunch or happy hour with your close friends.

These types of activities tend to provide significantly more value in your life than their digital counterparts. Indeed, tools like online social media are probably best understood as weak online simulacrums of the analog encounters that we know deep down we need to thrive as humans.

Equally important, as I learned during last year’s big digital declutter experiment (summarized here; detailed here), the more analog social media you introduce into your life, the more bulwarks you establish against the creeping demands of the digital.

With nothing else in place to fill your time, your phone will become increasingly irresistible, regardless of your intentions to spend more time disconnected. When you instead introduce meaningful analog activity into your regular routine, the appeal of the screen suddenly diminishes.

To summarize: if you’re vaguely unhappy with your digital life, respond by introducing much more positive real world activity. If you embrace analog social media, you’ll soon be wondering how you ever dedicated so much time to its inferior digital equivalent.

34 thoughts on “Join Analog Social Media”

  1. This is a great article. In the last year I’ve filled my time with activities that do not heavily rely on the internet. I train for and practice Judo three nights a week after work, and I compete in regional tournaments quite regularly. I’ve competed five times this year. If it isn’t a Judo night then I usually spend it writing essays for my blog and reading books. On the weekends I cook at least one delicious dish for me and my wife. They are dishes that takes time — more than an hour on average. Though tiring at times, I genuinely believe that I am learning and improving valuable skills, and cultivating meaningful relationships by choosing to not spend my time on social media.

  2. Great stuff, Cal. I’m looking forward to your new book. As part of my own teaching, I teach a class on the philosophy of happiness. One of the issues that comes up again and again is the powerful role played by secure attachments (i.e. love and friendships) in happiness and well-being. The attention economy only offers us the illusion of attachment and hence social media use actually increases anxiety and depression. By contrast, forming substantive attachments with others in the analogue world (whether through volunteer work, spending time with friends, or date night with someone you love) is a necessary component of well-being.
    This point about real world attachments, spending time with each other, and happiness was first made by Aristotle in books 8-9 of the Nicomachean Ethics. Perhaps it’s time we return to the lessons of the great philosopher?

  3. This was a very insightful read, Cal. I’m hardly on any digital social media save a couple that I rarely ever check. Being an introvert, I don’t much enjoy socializing and small-talks with friends either. Our mundane lives just aren’t that interesting to chat about for too long. It is a great idea to become a member of an organization that works toward a cause.

    Now, if only I could identify what I feel strongly about..

  4. Hi Cal! Great post, I am looking forward for the new book. Happy New Year and may 2019 be full of accomplishments and deep, meaningful connections.

  5. This blog is play a good role to fill the gap between why i quit social media to what i do after quiting social media.
    So this is very important what we do after quiting social media if we want same glorious life and after quiting also desire to surf social media all day thats not god this is similar to use social media.
    Real Meaning Of Quit social media is to fill the Digital life equally with Digital media so i am totally agree with this blog
    Thanks sir.

  6. Life on digital media. The risks are insidious and Cal highlights them well. Aside from eliminating meaningful time, it can also eliminate deeper considerations about our real wishes, needs, feelings and other noble inner promptings. Sadly they just won’t surface. All your digital distractions extinguished all that.

  7. I’m an introvert, so it can be hard for me to get out there and expose myself to the world. My plan for this year is to very deliberately schedule these things on the calendar at the beginning of the month. One family outing, one professional event, one religious gathering, one thing I do by myself, and one purely social event. Five things, for an average of once a week. Plus scheduling makes me much less likely to cancel.

    In January, that’s a zoo trip, a networking event, a church conference, a gallery open house, and a dessert party with a bunch of friends. I’ve already pre-purchased tickets, invited friends, gotten it all on the calendar. AND I’m looking forward to it, which is the most important part.

    • That can be true if you use it carefully, and is my main reason for remaining on Facebook. However, I highly recommend tools like News Feed Eradicator to eliminate the scrolling/browsing habit, and deleting FB from your phone and just having Messenger (chat) and Local (FB events) apps.

  8. You’re absolutely right. I have to show your post my students who cannot understand that there is life outside the facebook and instagram bubbles.
    I’m looking forward your latest book! And I wish you a fantastic New Year!

  9. This is inline with Dr. Jean Twenge’s work and what I’ve been reading about in chapter 7 of Jonathan Haidt’s new book “The Coddling of the American Mind”. In short, social media use leads to depression and anxiety in adolescents through “social comparison” rather than “social connection”. The effect of social media on depression is not felt, however, by those youth with active, real-world lives. Real > virtual.

  10. Let me also give a plug to Toastmasters.

    After reading “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” I joined TM to continue honing my craft of public speaking (I’m a pastor). An excellent opportunity for analog social media!

  11. Three years ago, my youngest son was part of a special college program, which had building community as a core value. The students surrendered their phones each Sunday evening, and got them back for a few hours Sunday afternoon. In addition, there were two days a week in which internet was not available. It was hard for many students at first, but most came to appreciate the time away from digital distractions. To this day, my son occasionally lets me know he is doing a “media fast” for a few hours or days. And the relationships he built that school year are deep and lasting.

  12. Good info Cal, and challenging. I’ve disengaged again from Facebook, but my Twitter use is up. So is my WordPress blogging. I agree that Facebook’s digital connecting does not adequately simulate real life relationships; people are too nuanced, much more so our inter-connectedness. I’m trying to understand my Twitter enjoyment contrasted with my Facebook distaste. Anyways, thanks again for your work and insight.

  13. I can attest to this! 2018 I finally successfully cut out fb, and subsequently joined a local martial arts group (for which I previously supposedly didn’t have time for), which has been extraordinarily fulfilling (and I am also way more buff). I’ve also had a few “supper club” sessions with friends – everyone has to eat dinner, so on random Tuesdays we would try to do it together, even if the meal was as simple as a pot of soup or pizza and beer. No FB= literally saving up to an hour a day of arguing with relatives about current events, instead I tried to actually set up travel weekends see such relatives and connect as humans. This framework of the “analog social media” is a great way to approach my 2019 ambitions.

  14. When I was little I remember going with my parents to their friends house to watch a slideshow of one of their international trips. It was a great experience listening to the story of the trip and watching the slides. 2019 idea – next time you get back from a cool trip, instead of posting to Instagram – borrow a projector, invite your friends over and have a slideshow party!

  15. A great post that highlights a common question in the nosurf community. Quitting is one thing, it’s replacing that people struggle with. They honestly don’t know what to do with their time. In many cases, they are younger and have not known a life without internet. People struggle with socializing ‘offline’ and anxiety becomes a big factor in not going off social media.

  16. Cal, what would you say to those who insist that digital social media is necessary to build analog social media? As a pastor, I am constantly advised to post on FB everyday to reach people. I don’t have social media, and I don’t want it, but I sometimes struggle with the tension between the toxic affects of social media and its alleged ability to get people’s attention easily.

  17. Hi Cal,

    I just did 3 weeks of no social media (with exceptions to Pinterest for workout exercises and LinkedIn for professional connections). I have to get back on it because of my college job but wanted to share my experience of how amazing it was taking that break. The first couple days I had dreams I went back on social media and thought I broke my streak. I put app blocking measures to stop me from getting on social media which curbed any subconscious habit of trying to get on it when I’m bored. It made me stay off my phone more and I felt happier. It let me get the perspective I needed.

    I got on today and realized how much I really didn’t miss out on. I need to stay on social media again till I graduate (because of my job) but I am happy to report that I am more self-conscious of how I use this tool. I am still going to tease out blocking my personal social media usage the best I can.

    Hope this gets to you!



  18. Can’t wait for the new book, “Digital Minimalism.”. Read all your books and the blog. Best wishes to you and your family in 2019.

  19. Cal you are a heaven sent. Apropos timing for a dwindling society that is in desperate need of realigning to good old fashioned social values. I look forward to the next books. Thank you from the entire WORLD because you’ve done such a fabulous job at researching and detailing specific data to encourage minds of all types. Keep doing your deep work because you’re on purpose! Thank you!

  20. I would also add outdoor walks and travel to this list. New experiences and adventures always distract from spending time on the Internet. The main thing is to share all these joys with friends.


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