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Digital Cleanse

By 1 January 20102 Comments

The other day, John Mayer (yes, that John Mayer) put forth a challenge for people to go on a “Digital Cleanse.” In short, it’s an online enema, the goal of which to ‘defragment’ our brains from all the inundation of little bits of chatter we’re filling it with constantly.

I decided to take him up on it, but not before modifying it a little. My brain can indeed stand to be defragmented, but it needs a little more work than that. Lately I’d found myself being even shorter of attention when working than normal. I would try to get through processing a batch of photos and barely five minutes would go by before I’d alt-tab out and check my email, or Facebook, or Twitter, or any other number of time-wasters that usually catch my eye.

There was no need for these distractions. I wasn’t going there with purpose. I was just doing it because I was bored. I was right in the middle of doing something, and the second my attention wandered, I’d fire up my browser and fritter away ten minutes for every five minutes I had spent working. I didn’t just need a defrag, I needed a low-level defrag.

These are the basic guidelines to Mayer’s “Digital Cleanse”

  • no texting
  • no tweeting
  • no emailing from phone
  • no social networking
  • no entertainment/gossip sites

While this tends to capture the spirit of the cleanse, some of these things don’t really apply to me, and it misses a few of my own specific time sinks. Here, then, is my modified list of rules that I hope to adhere to for the next week:

  • no texts, except to reply with “ok” — there’s no point in returning a text with a phone call just to say “okay.”
  • no tweets, except when publicizing a new blog post — my tweet announcements are where most of my traffic comes from, sad as that is
  • no email from phone
  • no social networking and no online forums, except photography-related ones — I need to curb the browsing that wastes my time and increase the browsing that feeds the mind
  • no blog surfing, except photography-related ones — I don’t really browse entertainment or gossip sites, but I read the hell out of Gizmodo, Engadget, io9, and Lifehacker. All four will be put on hold for the next week. I’ll read only photoblogs and photography resources.

Already it feels like an almost gargantuan task, but that only further cements how important it is that I do this and succeed. I never make phone calls anymore. I can’t work on something for more than a few minutes without my mind wandering. Given a choice between reading a book and idly surfing, I choose the latter. These are all very bad habits I need to break.

Hopefully, by the end of the cleanse I won’t just dive right back into the same old bad habits. Hopefully I’ll learn a little temperance and be a little more conscientious about how I spend my time.

And if not, hey — I can always run another defrag.


  • Chris says:

    How’d the cleanse go? Make it through?

  • mike says:

    I did, actually, much to my own surprise. I made some exceptions (I continued to send out a tweet when I’d update the blog, for example), but I otherwise managed to stay clean.

    I’ve since returned to my old ways, but the intent was never to drastically change them so that’s all right. Much like a dietary cleanse, I wasn’t so much looking to completely rejigger my eating habits as just “reboot” my system and clear my head a little.

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