January’s 30 Day Challenge: Digital Purge

The first of my 2011 challenges is going to be a tough one: no Facebook or Twitter for 30 days.

As with each of these challenges, I have to set some parameters for it at the beginning of the month. In other words, what does “no Facebook or Twitter” mean practically? It requires a little more definition than just logging in to Twitter and Facebook to check or post updates. Am I allowed to look over my shoulder as my wife checks her Facebook? (Yes.) Can I use apps like Instagram or Gowalla to push updates to Facebook? (No.) What about reading email notifications from Facebook? (Fortunately, I turned those off.)

I found myself overthinking this (as I tend to do), so I decided to take a very simple approach: no active pushing or retrieving from Twitter or Facebook. My blog and Flickr push to Facebook automatically, so those stories will get pushed into Facebook. Everything else will be an exercise in discipline.

And these first few days have truly been that. I’m not going to say that it’s been a struggle, but I have found myself bumping up against habit. I removed the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone and I changed my computer’s host file so that it won’t serve up twitter.com or facebook.com, and I found myself trying to run Tweetie or launch the Facebook app without even thinking, much like flipping through channels at night when you’re tired and you really should just go to sleep.

I’ve also found that I think of things happening around me in terms of how I can tell other people about it. “What would be a humorous, catchy way to say this? Could I say it in 140 characters?” I wonder if that mental tendency will wear off after 30 days? Expect my first few February tweets to be irrelevant, banal, and cut off mid-sentence.