Possibility and Probability

A Python programmer with a personality thinking out loud

19 July 2020

Journal instead of social media

by Nick

Time spent on social media is wasted time. Endless scrolling of algorithmically selected content, posts that seem to be either full of blinding rage at <topic> or carefully staged and crafted pictures to show a “perfect” life that probaby is a thin veneer over a ordinary existance… just like yours.

This poisons our minds, filling them with fear that we are not “keeping up with Joneses” and doubt about ourselves, our bodies, our life choices. Even worse, it encourages us to join in and add our snark, knee-jerk reactions, and snap judgements. All just contributing to the noise.

And all of it self inflicted because of a simple choice. “I have to post!”

But what if there was a better way?

Let’s talk about a healthier option that will make you better.

The urge to post on social media

For the last few months, every time I’ve thought about posting something I’ve felt a twinge: “What if post “the wrong thing” and someone argues with me?” or bizzarely “What if no one sees what I post?”. Both of those thoughts lead me to change what I was going to post.

Is that a good thing? It depends on why I was posting. If I’m trying to express myself, its probably a bad thing. One should just express themselves. (Although, I will point out that if editing forces you to refine your thoughts into something clearer this could be a good thing).

Ask yourself this: What’s your objective in posting your comments?

If you are just expressing your thougths that’s different than trying to win someone else over (as in a debate). Are you asking a question? If, so whom are you asking? Sometimes a question is just a thought for ourselves to ponder. Sometimes those personal questions don’t necessarily need to be aired to the world.

What if there was a better and healthier way to do this?

Journal your thoughts

For the past year I’ve been keeping a journal. Originally I did this to help capture the “flavor” and “color” of my days: looking at old to-do lists typically don’t tell me how I felt that day. The journal lets me capture little thoughts and feelings that I can look back on a few weeks or months later and start to see trends.

Writing in a journal is one of those deeply personal things that no one should tell you how to do. So let me tell you what I do, and then see if this works for you. ;)

My “random thoughts” that I usually turn into a tweet typically fall into 2 categories: technical programing thing, or something I thought was funny/important. Very slowly, I’ve learned the technical stuff should be written down, but into a “tech/work journal”. The other stuff I tend to put into my journal.

Let’s look at my workflow:

My journal

Following the advice of Derek Sivers, I started keeping an electronic journal. I like this because:

Personally I’m using Evernote and every month I make a new note. I like this approach because it allows me to only look at 1 month at a time, plus if anything gets screwed up the blast radius of the damage shouldbe limited.

This approach could be done with any number of free tools out there, Notion, OneNote, even just a plain text document are all great choices. Just pick one and start typing.

One important thing: make sure the document isn’t publicly shared. These are your private thoughts, they aren’t meant for public comments.

My process

Basically I have Evernote open all the time. Anytime I have the urge to post to social media, I switch to Evernote and write it down there. (I like to put the day’s date in the journal so I can see day-over-day how things are going.)

Since I’m the only one looking at the journal I tend to write things down pretty quickly. Its rare that I spend more than 5 minutes typing in a thought. I try not to edit too much, the point of this is to capture those “raw” thoughts.

Every so often I will go back an read through a previous month’s journal. Doing this has let me identify some trends in my thoughts. If I see the same topic being talked about over and over I take that a sign I need to do something. Usually it is either take action to correct if it is something that bothers me, or take action if it is something I want to accomplish.

So does this work?

I think it does. There’s lots of accomplished people that journaled.

Posting to social media is a form of journaling, but it is not the same: No one should be commenting on your thoughts, questions, or dreams. Posting publicly we tend to self-censor our thoughts, or worse amplify our worst tendencies in order to get social approval (likes, etc.).

Putting that into a journal that only you see… it changes the conversation a lot. Instead of trying to score points with witty retorts, I have found that I tend to ask more questions. On the internet, asking a question is a good way to be told how dumb you are, or to be ignored. In the journal, the question sits.

That sitting allows you the space to develop the question further. No one rushes in to scream “BIG MOOD” or “UR AN IDIOT!!1!”. Its just you and your thoughts.

This self reflection is an important thing to do. In the past when were less connected there was more time to do this type of activity. Today’s highly connected world doesn’t exactly encourge this behavior, but you can still do it. It just takes a little effort and a little bit of time.

Why not just blog?

I am a huge fan of Cal Newport (I found Digital Minimalism to be a huge inspiration to get away from social media). He likes to encourge people to blog instead of posting to social media.

I agree with him that blogging is a great alternative. But what I’m proposing here is baasically keeping your thoughts to yourself. Or at a minumum, using a journal to refine your thoughts before you share them publically.

And when I say “share them publically” I do not mean “share them all publically”. Just as you don’t (or shouldn’t) speak every thought that comes into your mind, you shouldn’t share everything you put in your journal.

In conclusion

Keeping a Journal is a much better habit than reading and posting on social media. And it is super simple to do:

tags: thinking