• Alexander Lester

An Experiment in Seven Acts: Act One

July 17th, 2020


Around 7 PM yesterday (July 16th, 2020), I saw a call to join Brian D. Earp in an experiment where you step away from social media, and the news for seven days. The purpose? To see if your mental health improves. I have been quite restless lately with the start of my low-residency doctorate program looming over me. I have also been mentally cluttered with the constant updates on twitter, fights with people who believe wearing a mask is a liberty issue on Facebook, and the continual pumping of news articles about how the world is ending into my Reddit feed.


I start my doctoral program on Monday, July 20th, and I want to start this program clear-headed and in a better place than when I started and ended my master's degree, so I decided to do it. This experiment calls for me to virtually transport myself back to how I lived in 2005 a year before joining my first social media website, which yes was myspace. After using that for a couple of years I became an early adopter of Twitter; I had my first account in 2009 (which I deleted but not before I amassed over 1000 followers) I then rejoined a couple of months later in 2011. In those early days, I never thought it would end up being what it is now. Back then, TheWB.com twitter handle (now CW seed) had giveaways. I won a Rockville CA teeshirt … that sadly didn't fit. Rockville CA was a drama web series set at a club that featured indie bands on the now-defunct platform. I also won a DVD of the first season of Nurse Jackie. I think that was an HBO give away, but I am not sure it's been so long.


I used and still use social media quite a bit; in fact, it is why I moved to Los Angeles a year after I graduated high school. You see, I was myspace "friends" with Ryan Wise of the now-defunct Big Fantastic. They created the first Daytime Emmy nominated web series. Being a fearless 18-year old I reached out to him upon exchanging messages with him he told me if you want to work with us, you have to move to LA. So three months later, I did just that. I picked up and moved to LA to be an actor. After moving out to Los Angeles, I was invited to Ryan's house for The Comedy Carhole, a speakeasy he and his roommates hosted. I was able to audition for a commercial they were shooting in Spokane, Washington, which I did not get. Still, I found myself hanging out with quite a few rising web celebs at the time. There is a whole story of how I went from wanting to be an actor to being in academia. I won't bore you, but know there isn't much of a difference between the two careers; one judges you for what you can do with your body, and the other judges you for what you can do with your mind.


I am digressing, the main point is I am an avid user, in fact, I think I am slightly addicted. I am constantly checking Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Instagram. It takes up a lot of my time and mental energy. For some reason, I can't pull up my screen time as I deleted all social media apps from my phone, and now they are not showing up in my history but reviewing my Youtube usage, I may have an issue with that as well.


This experiment has already boosted my activity. It is noon, and I woke up, played with my dog, picked up my coffee at Starbucks, did an hourlong workout, went to the pharmacy, went to two stores to try to find Clorox wipes sadly with no luck, and read a few chapters of a book.


Since COVID has hit I have been taking it quite easy. Usually by noon on what is now a typical day I have picked up my coffee and gotten in a walk or watched a couple of hours of TV (based on the day) and played on my phone for a few more hours that is it. I think I accomplished all this because I am not wasting time on social media, and it doesn't hurt that I got a decent night's sleep, and so I have energy, and I am very mindful. I have noticed some phantom pains. Upon waking up, I picked up my phone to check to see if I got any messages, comments, or likes and had to resort to checking my email, which was all spam.


This week-long experiment will push me to be more productive and more present as I don't readily have an escape at the tip of my fingers. I also find this an exercise in Will. If I have been using social media mostly daily for over a decade with maybe one or two-day breaks, can I make it an entire seven days without it? Only time will tell, but I am posting this blog so that I can track my journey.

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© 2019 by Alexander Lester

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