Doing the “Digital Cleanse”: no Twitter for a week

John Mayer had a good post about a “digital cleanse.” The idea is to step away from the busy, buzzy world for a week. John mentioned four ideas, but I’m going to try just one: “no use of Twitter or any other social networking site”.

That’s right, I’m going Twitter-free for a week. I don’t really use Facebook, so that’s not a problem. The only other social networking website I use is FriendFeed, so I’m cutting that out too. To keep me on track this week, here’s what I did:

  • Tweeted that I was doing the digital cleanse and changed my Bio line to mention that I was doing the digital cleanse.
  • Removed all Twitter apps from my mobile phone.
  • Removed the Twitter and FriendFeed shortcuts from Chrome’s new tab page.
  • Hard-coded a bunch of websites so that I can’t even access them. In Linux, you can type “sudo vi /etc/hosts” and add the following lines:

    127.0.0.1 twitter.com
    127.0.0.1 www.twitter.com
    127.0.0.1 facebook.com
    127.0.0.1 www.facebook.com
    127.0.0.1 friendfeed.com
    127.0.0.1 www.friendfeed.com

    What these lines say is “Computer, when you try to use the domain name system (DNS) to resolve twitter.com to an IP address, hard-code the IP address to be 127.0.0.1.” Note that 127.0.0.1 is a special IP address that corresponds to your own computer. In essence, these entries make it impossible to browse to Twitter, Facebook, or FriendFeed. You might need to reboot your computer too for the settings to take effect.

I’m thinking that I might blog a little more now that I’ve stopped tweeting for a week, so I’m doing one extra step–I’m linking my blog in Feedburner so that when I publish a blog post, it will tweet a link to that blog post. Here’s how to do it:
1. Log in to http://feedburner.google.com/ and click on your blog’s feed.
2. Click on the “Publicize” tab and then the “Socialize” service on the left.
3. Add your Twitter account and select the options you want. Here’s how it looks:

Tweeting from FeedBurner

Then click “Save” and that’s all you need to do.

So far, I’ve been Twitter-free for twelve hours. In that time, I’ve
- worked out
- taken down our Christmas tree, chopped it into sections and put it out on the street
- typed in three months’ worth of data for a project that I’m working on
- taken down our Christmas lights and packed them away
- stored all our various Christmas decorations
- run a couple loads of laundry
- put out the trash
- gone shopping and had a couple meals with my wife
Oh, and written a blog post. We’ll see how the digital cleanse works for the rest of the week. :)

61 Responses to Doing the “Digital Cleanse”: no Twitter for a week (Leave a comment)

  1. Good luck with your “digital cleanse”. In today’s world we’re all so used to be tuned in and plugged in every second of the day, that it’s probably a good thing to step-away from it for awhile. Besides seeing if you can do it without needing rehab, you’ll probably come back with a different perspective on things.

  2. Congrats and enjoy the break!

    I personally do this every week – I call it #working rather than #digitalcleanse, haha.

    Every week I go to work and I stop Twittering and Facebook’ing… umm, cuz I’m working… Lot’s of us do it, actually, I’m always very surprised at how many don’t bother to #digitalcleanse during their #working hours. :)

    I’ll add one more smiley face :) so every knows I’m just kidding!!

  3. Good luck with the ‘digital cleanse’. The concept has been around for some time now, digital simplicity or digital minimalism, here’s how on a Mac: http://theweeklyreview.ca/2009/08/13/cultivating-digital-simplicity/. It is good time to do this during the holidays because you might not have the time or inclination to do so during normal working days – just as you clean up regular clutter, pays to clean up after digital clutter too! If you have too many folders and files in My Documents (in Windows platform)? Buy an external hard drive and store the important files and delete the rest! Do you have much too email to read? Before you declare ‘information and communication bankruptcy’ like some people have already done, unable to cope up with incoming new stuff constantly, take the time to clean up your inbox by filing away important stuff (gmail archive function) and keep your inbox clean! Related reading: how to be more productive : Wired article about email bankruptcy – http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.08/howtodesk.html – things to do during the holidays. (more interesting links available in my blog-click on my name)

  4. The idea is to step away from the busy, buzzy world for a week

    Nope. The idea is to never lower oneself to that level to start with. Never yet read anything on any “social media” that I couldn’t read is some trashy and glossy gossip magazine.

    Leave Twitter and alike to the immature teenagers they were designed for. One would think that Matt Cutts would have enough online time at work. Spend non work time with your Family before its too late.

  5. As I looked through your list of things you did with your 12 hours, I think I’m convinced to never do a digital cleanse. Why would I want to do all those “chores” when I could be on Twitter of Facebook?

    Except for the meals with wife. That part I like.

  6. Digital cleanse? I could not help but laugh. A decade a ago everyone talked about holistic cleaning, now Twitter cleansing?

    The funny thing about the idea of a digital cleanse is, many people are shaking their heads ‘yes’, ‘You go Matt’, ‘Maybe I should try this’… when they read your post. Myself included.
    Your post was appropriately placed not just at the beginning of a new year, but it heralded in a new decade, as a sign of how things have changed. A shift in the collective unconsciousness if you will.

    My philosophy has been to minimizes the use of social networking, although it is in vogue. Although I use Twitter and Facebook, I see it more as a distraction from my primary focus as a website owner, that is creating more in-depth thoughtful content. Twitter is like junk food, easy and cheap. Blogging is like whole foods. If people want to interact they can subscribe to to a websites RSS and leave a comment. This is why your I think your idea of a Twitter cleanse is the right thing to do.

    But maybe I am a little bit old fashion or retro and belong in the 00s not the 10s.

  7. Interesting way to cut back on your input stream. You’re still sharing your activities (outbound) by batch processing in a blog post.

    Have you considered your digital cleanse is a form
    of sensory deprevation?

  8. I digitally cleansed for almost three weeks- it was by necessity due to a hectic trip home. It felt good that I could go that long but I came home ready to see what I missed and anxious to get my hands all over everything again.

    2 things I noticed- my blog still kept running just fine (thanks, search engines) and the world did not end.

  9. A week?? That’s going to feel like forever! lol However, look at what all you’ve accomplished in a 12 hour period. Imagine what all you will get done in a week. It’s amazing how much time one ‘little’ task takes out of our day.

    Removing all the Twitter and FriendFinder apps reminded me of throwing out the junk food when you try to diet. lol The temptation has be removed.

  10. Good. I think that blogging is more satisfying than tweeting. Breaks are good from addiction to tweeting! I will do the feedburner stuff. Thank you. The problem with blogging is to get visibility : tweets are indexed by Google!! :)

  11. Just back from a totally disconnected “Digital cleanse” week in Dubai just enjoying the sunshine and beach. No Internet, not even my iPhone with me. My wife convinced me I had to drop all web presence for a week and although I was pretty sceptic at first it did give me a feeling of relaxation I don´t think I would have got otherwise.

  12. Okay if you want to stay away from social apps for a while to improve productivity and focus in other areas of your life but my question is that why do it for just 1 week? Why not abandon social networking forever?

    But, I’ll say that everything has its place and if done wisely, social neteorling is also fun and increases productivity.

  13. Now, see, I think you’ve “undone” your digital cleanse by letting Feedburner automatically tweet your blog posts. In essence, “you” will still be tweeting. You’ll still be making use of Twitter. Twitter is a great way to let people know about things, and you’ll still be using it for that – though it will be via a bot. Nevertheless, you’ll not be totally cleansed from Twitter because you’ll still be taking advantage of it, and getting the benefits from it. If you really want to cleanse, you need to also not obtain the interest, feedback, and traffic from a social network that causes all that to happen. #justimoofcourse :)

  14. Tim Dineen, I hear you. One year when I was in a crunch for work, I installed a Firefox extension that would block access to certain websites during 9-5 business hours. :)

    John Lynn, it all needed to be done. One year I left Christmas decorations lying around inside the house for months–not a good feeling. :)

    Mark Essel, it is a bit. I woke up this morning scavenging for stuff to read while I’m on the elliptical, and not having Twitter/FriendFeed definitely feels like sensory deprivation. We’ll see whether it gets worse as the workweek starts and I’m unaware what people are saying on Twitter.

    Faisa Khan, we’ll see at the end of this week. In theory, I do need a new “30 day” project to try this month: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/type/30-days/

    DazzlinDonna, my wife agrees with you. When I asked her to go to Twitter to see whether my link about not twittering was showing up, she teased me mercilessly. :)

  15. @Matt:

    I tried to cleanse myself. But my fans and clients need me. Twitter has replaced so many things in my life. I just can’t escape it!

  16. Harith

    Hey Matt

    Maybe the “Digital Cleanse” would allow for more time to hang out with Emmy and Oz. Who knows :-)

  17. So this is what it has come to, a digital retreat. Back in the day, men would go out wandering in the wilderness, or in solitary retreat in some dark cave, reflecting upon the world and the nature of reality.

    Today, with the digital overload, I can understand the need to filter out and quieten the noise.

    In any case, more blog posts this week would be welcome Matt and it would be appreciated if some light could be shed on the question of the possibility of being penalized by Google for having too many pages too quickly, i.e. sudden explosive growth? (in terms of scale, I mean going from around 30k pages to about 11+ million in the course of a few months – that’s how many pages were indexed and as soon as the index count went up into the millions, the traffic from Google plummeted overnight with it. We filed a reconsideration request detailing everything we were aware of, but the question mark still remains if we have triggered a false positive of any kind, especially if it was for having a very high number of pages (as a product aggregator service the database has accumulated over 10 million product records).

    By the way, remember to update us on how your week works out for you and how beneficial you found it – we could all probably do with some away time.

  18. Sorry but it should not be
    sudo su
    gedit vi /etc/hosts
    then add the lines
    127.0.0.1 twitter.com
    127.0.0.1 http://www.twitter.com
    127.0.0.1 facebook.com
    127.0.0.1 http://www.facebook.com
    127.0.0.1 friendfeed.com
    127.0.0.1 http://www.friendfeed.com
    Otherwise a Great way to get some Peace

  19. I am not ready for a complete digital disconnect but I am willing to start a digital cleansing.
    First step not checking my e-mails 100 times a day.

  20. Wow. I would need to have someone hide my computer to do what you are doing. I don’t tweet that much, but Facebook is a serious detriment to productivity in other aspects of my life. How long would it have taken you to do all those things normally?

  21. Matt, good luck with the digital cleanse. Numerous conversations over the holidays have lead me to believe a new trend is coming that will gain serious traction this year. Perhaps it’s my own wishful thinking but I believe the great digital disconnect has begun!

  22. Wow, I am a true luddite now. The idea of a “digital cleanse” where you blog more seems to me like the equivalent of an intense health-food jag on which you increase your consumption of Twinkies. There’s nothing inherently wrong with blogging, but I would have thought it was exactly the sort of electronic interaction you were supposed to be giving up, not what you would do more of. Of course, I don’t really get this Facebook/Twitter/FriendFeed stuff at all.

  23. Hey Matt, I think I am going to do the same and follow you and John on the Cleanse but with some customizations for the roles as I believe that ay one can put his own roles for this awesome Digital Cleanse, I am going to rest my mind and relax because I didn’t have the chance for that on the Holidays! So.. Good buy to Social Networks for a few days, and Happy New Year to you and to the Family!

  24. “Digital Cleanse”, Matt good luck with that, I wish if I were that “strong” to give up anything online for a week and completely agree with you. I didn’t get a break of any kind for almost two years, no vacation and no rest at all.

    Once again, all the best, we’ll see you after the cleansing is complete.

    Cheers,
    Emil

  25. I only use Google properties, so I will be cleansing myself of all Orkut and Gmail communications for the next 5 minutes, in which time I hope to like Bing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  26. Wow, you are productive! You managed to do a lot in 12 hours, and so much of that was house chores? Can I marry you? My husband isn’t on Twitter, and is very well-meaning when it comes to house chores. He just “doesn’t get around to it” very often.

  27. Damian

    Matt

    If you have managed to do that much while not playing with social media – I think you have to start limiting your social media time ;)

  28. Okay, if there’s one sign that you shouldn’t go back to Twitter as much (if at all) as you did before, it’s that you replaced Twitter with a workout. There isn’t a thing online that should substitute for exercise. Bad Matt. Bad, BAD Matt. Go run around your block 3 times.

    The other thing I don’t get is why you would add lines to a hosts file to block access to sites. It makes sense for that particular computer, but why not add the blocks in question at the router or DNS server level?

  29. Matt – they say to stay to a new routine you need 21 days – so try it for 3 weeks and maybe you won’t even want to access t****** anymore! :)

  30. Matt,

    I think disconnecting from the “matrix” is a great idea.

    It’s hard though, because sometimes we get so wrapped-up in our jobs, and digital lifestyles.

    It often feels like it’s such an integrated part of our lives, but we have to remember that humans have lived for thousands of years without things like twitter, facebook, or even computers for that matter.

    Taking a step back, and reconnecting with our former, twitterless lives, may not only be refreshing — but necessary.

  31. don

    Cant wait until the whole twitter craze finally ends….

  32. Dmitri

    Hi Matt! How come you don’t have any contact form on your blog or anywhere?
    How can someome submit a question to you for your next youtube video?

    Someone on google webmaster forum recommended to reach you via this blog’s comments, but this does not seem right. I have a very intesting question that you have not addressed in any of your videos about google search.

  33. Yes! A great post and a terrific idea. I’m addicted to Twitter & maintain four different pages. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to use Twitter less & blog more. More personal & business benefits (see my current “Resolution” blog post). The larger question is how to apply your cleansing notion throughout the year–not just for a week. In resolution terms…how do you keep the weight off? Your thoughts, Matt?

  34. I have begun to wonder if there isn’t a danger in replacing real-life, complicated, sometimes difficult relationships with the digital-life, you can walk away from, on your terms relationships of social media.

  35. well good going with “digital cleanse“…Happy new year

  36. I love this feature as we can add more than 1 twitter account for different feeds. I thought I had to share 1 twitter for 5 feeds, but it is not. Thanks Google

  37. Great to hear about your digital cleansing Matt. It’s something that I did for a little while a year ago and without sounding cheesy it gives you a bit of a different outlook.

    Most of the people on here have a media-centric life so everything revolves around the internet, social media and so-on and so-forth.

  38. Ian

    I recently spent 9 months off Facebook. Wonderful!

  39. I went travelling over the holidays, and completely stayed off twitter the entire time, including for several days after I got home. It was liberating, indeed. The hotel I was in had wifi and I read FB and LJ at times, but refrained from commenting at all, and specifically stopped those evenings of just hitting F5. Instead, I apparently got through 3 books, actually have all the vacation photos posted up to my site already, and started into the work week without a pile of dishes in the sink! It’s surprising to think how much time can disappear 160 characters at a time.

  40. Oh, and written a blog post. We’ll see how the digital cleanse works for the rest of the week.
    Digital cleanse while blogging? How?
    I use Twitter but I really don’t understand how people spend so much time using it.

  41. Don’t go back to it after your week is up! ;)

    I went without Facebook for a month once… all that happened was I missed a couple of party invites. It’s not really surprising when you think about it, but for the majority of us, life goes on without social networking.

  42. zoe

    In my country, We cannot visit twitter and facebook, but we have QQ and renren, so we are also immersed into the digital world. it seems that the digital world is all of our life. However, we still have families and friends, so we should spend more time staying with them.

  43. @MATT

    My motivation for a “digital cleanse” was my 17 month old daugter, it is amazing how someone can make you feel crummy for paying more attention to your “Digital Life” than “Real Life”

    Good Luck and Happy New Year!

  44. One of the problems of being “off the grid” is the amount of work one has to do upon getting back to the digital planet. It might take an entire day getting caught back up.

  45. Matt…I didn’t realize I had done a ‘digital cleanse’ but I did NOT check work email or twitter (which I do for my company) for the past 10 days. I did not miss it one bit and like you, I got a ton of things done around the house, read more and enjoyed my time with my family. Keep it up!

  46. John R. Carlisle

    I think the digital cleanse is a great idea. We’ve all become so consumed with various forms of media, it can be overwhelming. Ive suggested everyone here at the John R. Carlisle Institute try a digital fast for at least a few days. A week would be good but it seems like a long time to be disconnected at the moment.

    John R. Carlisle

  47. I’m following your footsteps sir,
    Me too going for Digital cleanse for a month. No facebook, no twitter. :)

  48. seo

    “In my country, We cannot visit twitter and facebook, but we have QQ and renren, so we are also immersed into the digital world. it seems that the digital world is all of our life. However, we still have families and friends, so we should spend more time staying with them.”
    ZOE ,you’re right! We should spend more time staying with families and friends.

  49. Digital cleansing is good practice to see how dependent we really are on the digital world for information and social interaction. I’d be willing to bet some people find out they are addicts and need professional help to stop. It sounds crazy but unfortunately its true.

  50. Sorry, can’t do it. I’m a Facebook junkie!

    I’d like to know how the 30 days without Microsoft software went though.

  51. I finally submitted to Twittering and blogging to keep in touch with my community. It’s no wonder we need a break to get away from it all; twittering and blogging actually sound like ailments for which some form of remedy or relief may be necessary. This is a remarkable age we live in, it will be interesting to see how our children, who are native cyber babies, will evolve.
    Matt it’s nice to see how helpful you are around the house. I think I’ll pause a moment to go out and find a man just like you.

  52. @Dmitri

    It is apparent that Matt Cutts is a very busy person with work and life in general, so that is probably the reason for the lack of a contact form on this blog, which I can understand and agree with.

    However, I do feel that Google doesn’t provide an obvious way to get in touch with them about any important issue that hasn’t been covered in the standard help pages and couldn’t be answered by the help forums. We are keen to know if legitimate sites can sometimes get caught up in the Google spam filter if they have too many pages too quickly (i.e. 11+ million pages in 2-3 months), which might appear as a link farm on paper, but actually be a sizable product database in reality – potentially making a site a victim of its own success. If we knew where the official channels of contact are, we would put our question forward there, but so far it feels like the government of Google is holding its citizens at arms length.

  53. I wonder whether this is one of the bad side of digital lifestyle. It is also happening to me even when I had a gathering with friends, most of them were busy updating their status on feedbook rather than enjoying the event and talking to each other :). And what makes it more wierd was that it seems everybody is telling their friends on facebook about their presence at the event and they said they enjoyed it….:D. I read their status on facebook and i laughed!

  54. So if I stupidly add the wrong Twitter account, is there a way to undo that? Looks like my only option is to add another, and post tweets to both accounts.

  55. hah, great idea! I am planning to perform “digital cleanse” twice a month :)

  56. Matt I can believe you put out your own trash but you do your own data entry as well?!

    ‘- typed in three months’ worth of data for a project that I’m working on’

    I wouldn’t miss Twitter but I would miss facebook – if I didnt live so far away from so many friends it wouldnt matter biut its such a great way to stay in touch…

  57. Congrats on simplifying your life during the holidays. I believe we ALL should practice this all year long.

    Continue success and enjoying the extra time.

    Richard

  58. I found a great way to reduce time spent on Facebook: combine breaking your laptop’s keyboard by spilling port in it and being too lazy to get a new one.

  59. ashraf sobli

    Matt,
    I tried the same thing, inspired by 4-hours work week by Tim Ferris. He called it media fasting. I did it for 1 week and everything related to social sites were disconnected and the effect was – wow ! That week was the most productive week I’ve ever had in entire year :)

  60. It feels so good not to be beholden to Facebook and all the many email accounts I have. I was a latecomer to social networking but when I arrived I got hooked like a fish. The trick is to live in a cave when you are as weak as I am

  61. Me too going for Digital cleanse for a month. No facebook, no twitter.

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