In December, I began a three-month break from Facebook and Twitter. I was on a brief book leave from FiveThirtyEight, and with the election finally over, it seemed like a good time to step away from the news cycle.
The first thing I noticed was that I suddenly lacked an outlet for the compulsion not to write.1 It wasn’t news to me that I used social media for procrastination purposes, but without it, I found myself lacking an easy source for distractions.
It dawned on me that I’d mostly stopped visiting websites directly and instead had been following the recommendations in my feeds to wherever they might lead me. My reading was no longer deliberate but curated by external forces that may or may not have aligned with my interests. I’d ceded control of my most valuable currency: my attention.