Study Hacks Blog

Analog January: The No Twitter Challenge

December 20th, 2021 · 40 comments

Back in December of 2019, inspired by the recent release of my book, Digital Minimalism, I announced what I called the Analog January Challenge. The goal of the challenge was to complete a series of five commitments designed to help you develop quality, non-digital alternatives to screen-based distractions.

Two years later, I’m bringing back the Analog January Challenge. In response to the urgent anxieties of our current moment, however, I’m simplifying its demands to the following:

Do not access Twitter for the month of January. In its place, learn a new non-professional skill or pursue a hobby project for no other reason than inherent enjoyment. When you feel the need to check Twitter, work on this initiative instead.

And that’s it.

I’m motivated in designing this new challenge by the reality that Twitter has had an unusually toxic run in recent years. It’s become difficult to make it through more than a handful of tweets before you encounter something that either makes you angry, or depressed, or, more often than not, incredibly anxious.

In fairness, this service wasn’t intentionally designed to grasp our brain stem and squeeze it into an inflamed pulp of enraged emotions, but it turned out to be exceptionally good at accomplishing exactly this insidious goal. You might log onto Twitter for an important and noble reason, like checking Washington Nationals baseball trade rumors, but then, out of the corner of your eye, you see a trending tweet about white supremacists using Omicron to accelerate climate change, and boom: your innocent contentment is shattered.

So why not take a break? For thirty-one blissfully peaceful days. A period to re-learn that there are other, more meaningful, more analog ways to quiet our chattering brain. We can learn how to knit, or buy a lathe, or 3D print mini spaceships for a strategy game we’re inventing with our kids. For just one month, why not take a breather from the panic and outrage?

In comparison to other digital tools, Twitter offers little that you can’t either replicate or easily live without for a month. When it comes to distraction, you can find much more engaging fare on streaming video services or podcasts. When it comes to news, unless you’re a TV producer or newspaper editor, you don’t need to be nearly that up to date. When it comes to connection, send text messages, FaceTime, and, to the extent possible, do things with real people in real places. When it comes to building an audience, they’ll still be there in February, so in the meantime, why not create something special they’ll really appreciate when you return?

This 2022 version of the Analog January Challenge is, for sure, more stripped-down than its antecedent from two years earlier. But this is, if anything, a moment for simplicity. So I hope you’ll join me. And if you don’t, keep an eye on Washington Nationals tweets and send me a note if there’s anything I should know.

40 thoughts on “Analog January: The No Twitter Challenge

  1. L says:

    That’s easy. I quit Twitter several years ago. Fully quit, deleted account and all. Since then I’ve read more books, learned to do hand beading, and started studying watercolor.

    Highly recommended

  2. Al says:

    I did this at the end of November 2016. On the whole it is still working out. I did log back in a couple of times in 2019 I think, but was repulsed by it and gave up.

    My issue is that I just replaced the distraction with my own curated list of RSS feeds. Not as bad as Twitter, but still mostly mindless consumption. I think I ought to make more of an effort to be non professionally productive.

    1. Joe Greene says:

      I’ve also got RSS feeds curated, but I schedule when they’re looked at so that it’s a minimal time distraction and I don’t just mindlessly read everything.

      Kind of did the same with news, dropping down to two print options and only reading them once a month at a local coffee shop.

      1. BENI says:

        Out of curiosity what are the names of the 2 prints?
        Cheers from Malaysia.
        Beni

  3. Leslie says:

    Inspired by your work on the ills of Twitter and social media, I quit Twitter last month! It felt amazing and I haven’t missed it. So I’ll swear off Instagram instead.

  4. Sandy says:

    Embrace the challenge and see how your world will be better without the chaos and noise of just Not Twitter but all social media. If you cannot let social media go, ask yourself after looking at something; how did this help me live my life; what have I gained from this information, and how has this helped me grow.
    Instead try enjoying family and friends and learn to invest time doing something You love that does Not involve technology. As you can probably guess, I don’t do any social media and feel my life is better serviced without the noise. Cal, appreciate you challenging society. I hope some go longer than a month.

  5. Mohammad Ibrahim says:

    I do not use Twitter but apply the same for Instagram, “The No Instagram Challenge”

    1. Christine N says:

      I’m doing the same! I deleted my Twitter account around the time Digital Minimalism came out, but had replaced it with Instagram. I’ve used it much less since the summertime but it can easily become a black hole whenever I periodically re-install the app to my phone.

  6. Scott E. says:

    I’m all in! I deleted my Twitter account after reading Digital Minimalism and haven’t looked back. It was a great decision. Thank you!

    Instead, I think for January I’m going to try the “rules” you suggested for your students aand only use my smart phone as Steve Jobs intended. This should a challenge and hopefully a productive and life changing one!

    1. Geoff says:

      I have the same issue.

      I too am a data scientist, and I blog on the side.

      I deleted my FaceBook account in 2015, and have never been remotely tempted to go back.

      However, I started a twitter account about the time I started the blog, to promote my content. Except that the traffic I get from it is not remotely proportional to my time spent on there. I closed down my account I can’t remember, maybe late 2019, for about 12 months, and then got sucked back into it. I use it a lot less now than I did then, but still more than I’d like, and it definitely doesn’t get the return on investment as a content marketing medium.

  7. I’m a data scientist who has been running a music side project for the past few years. I’d been convinced by Deep Work to quit social media, a decision I didn’t regret… until it came time to launch my music project; so I got sucked back into that world for a bit. I’ve been taking month or more breaks here and there to try to refresh, but it’s still not enough. I miss the focus and rawness of my experience of the world from the time when I completely abstained and shed all the feed update and “who saw/liked/interacted with my content?” conditioning.

    Anyway, I think I’ve hit a point where my organic uptake is sufficient that investing in quality focused time makes more sense than the diminishing returns I’m seeing from social media, so I’m taking this challenge further and staying off all social media for all of 2022 and pointing everyone to my newsletter instead. Here’s to hoping an early retirement from attention hacking land is in the cards for me.

  8. Micah says:

    Challenge accepted! I’ll redirect my Twitter time into learning more Spanish via Duolingo (and likely playing some Retro Bowl).

  9. Carl says:

    I like the way you’ve written this Cal. There is more ease, levity and humor involved, hence more persuasive impact.

    1. Carl says:

      While I’m at it, there is more assimilation and comprehension of what you’ve expressed as well. I hope you will write your next book in this style.

      An excessive emphasis on facts and information without a little humor or levity becomes a cure for insomnia after a certain point. This partially explains why students fall asleep in class.

  10. Love the lathe suggestion! I need to get one (but have no place to put it.) Your article makes a lot of sense.

    1. Study Hacks says:

      Check out the mini-lathe in this video: https://www.tested.com/show-and-tell/staff-favorites/tested-in-2021-bills-favorite-things/

      Feels like the Deep Work HQ probably definitely needs one of those for…you know…professional reasons

    2. Nice work producing the podcast Jesse!

      Thankfully, I quit all social media over a year ago. Zero regrets. Bought an espresso machine and have totally nerded out on drink receipts. I also spend more time with my young kids that need attention almost every day. ?

  11. David Burn says:

    Break the tyranny of the Tweetstream. Excellent idea.

  12. JR says:

    I don’t have twitter, thanks to you, do I win?
    Got rid of all that s**t Nov 2016 after I read your book Deep Work. I’m so much happier from the doomsday, sky is falling, status signaling, my life is awesome curated posts, rants, etc…

    Really has been transformative in my life! Thank You Cal!

  13. Dan McDougall says:

    OK, I am in. No more daily COVID summaries. Now I need to go to the health unit dashboards but I can handle that.

  14. Akash Hiwarale says:

    Deleted my twitter, in march of this year and using Instagram on Saturday to check messages and read from some people I admire, mostly it takes 25min(by eradicating news feed with the help of an chrome extension),Will try my best for no Instagram January. Your books Deep work & Digital Minimalism helped me a lot in putting my life in perspective. Thank you Cal.

  15. JR says:

    I have never used Twitter and do not have a Facebook account. Yep, total luddite. Thank you Cal for warning me of its danger to my mental well being. Frankly, dealing with email is enough with the option of deleting the email after reading only the title to filter the content. I have looked at Twitter and Facebook yet do not understand the appeal.

  16. Jared Wyllys says:

    I took December off of Twitter last year and am doing it again this year, and I find it very refreshing. The problem I come up against is it’s treated like an essential part of my side job (I’m a baseball writer for a couple of large publications). I still haven’t quite figured out how to maintain the necessary presence there while not letting it seep into my day-to-day life. Suggestions welcomed!

  17. David Truong says:

    Thank you for creating a different analog challenge! I started doing the original challenge and had been doing it for the last two years. I do mine on my birth month–since weather is better to allow me to do my walks. Also, being a year older, allows me to reflect about my life better while doing this challenge.

    In addition to doing them, I emphasize on the connection by contacting 20 people I have not contacted for awhile. Several of them were once my best friends–some I haven’t spoken to for over twenty years! It was awkward at first to contact old friends like that, but I told them of my challenge and they were all receptive to it. Now–they expect me to contact them every year!

    I will continue doing the original challenge, since it made my life a lot better. Thank you!

  18. Rebecca says:

    “You might log onto Twitter for an important and noble reason, like checking Washington Nationals baseball trade rumors”

    YES THIS! But I have already much reduced my Twitter use and a January challenge is just what I need.

    I hope the Nats will hold off on too much player shuffling in January.

  19. I deleted all my social media after reading your books. I also created the NO-vember challenge (you are cited a bunch.)
    –> no-vember.net

    Thank you for your insights! Youre the greatest.

  20. Fabrício Yutaka Fujikawa says:

    I’m in 🙂

  21. I love the idea of this and have certainly been dramatically cutting down on my own twitter use this year.

    But (and there is always a but in these instances) I feel as if I *need* twitter to promote both my own SubStack writing and the creative work of both myself and the people in my circle.

    It works (sadly).

    So, in the spirit if not the letter of this challenge I will use scheduling software to line up a months worth of automated twitter posts for January while I spend the time I would have used tweeting ‘live’ to read or go for a walk or whatever.

    So thanks. I vaguely had such a scheme in mind but this post came at the right time and nudged me towards actually committing to it.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  22. Abolfazl says:

    Challenge accepted! I’m in.
    I logged out from my Twitter account, Delete Instagram from my phone and going to change my habits for more than one month! Maybe for a full year of 2022.
    I got a lot of things to do, this decision will change my life, and I’m sure I would be very happy at the end of coming year.

  23. Jayne says:

    Challenge accepted. I’ve never had Twitter; deleted Instagram last year; and only have Facebook now, which I often take extended breaks from.
    I reviewed the original challenge from 2019, and I’m going to approach each of the areas in the original challenge (but excusing myself from the in-person meetings, because, you know…)

  24. Hoang says:

    Hi Cal Newport. I am Hoang from Vietnam. I’m very your book. I already have two your book in Vietnamese. Yesterday I read Deep work and you said that we should escape Social media but some people in my country said that Facebook is the main attraction of their customers. Can you suggest me any method for marketing better than using social media? Thank you.

  25. Pawel says:

    Since I never had Twitter account (I haven’t learned what too look for there), I will do no youtube January :).

  26. James says:

    For those looking to permanently remove certain social media from your lives, I found a trick. I was once on a web forum that became very toxic, and decided it was time to leave before it affected my mental health. So I did two things. First, set up a burner email address–there are websites that give you email addresses that self-destruct–and changed my email to that address in my profile. Then I change my password to something that was incredibly long (think 30+ characters) and completely random. Again, there are websites that will do this for you. It doesn’t rely on self-discipline, as there’s no way to retrieve my password. Now the only way to get back onto that website is to set up a new account. While this isn’t the most arduous process in the world, it’s enough of a pain that it’s kept me off the account.

  27. Alex says:

    I live in Manhattan and joined twitter in March 2020 (when NYC was one of the first epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic) so I could get the latest information quickly from experts who are professionals in medicine, public health, etc. But you still have to be judicious on which expert you follow/trust, (and I tend to follow those on the alarmist side – and more often than not, they have been correct.) I am triple vaxxed, but under heavy immunosupression, so I don’t know if the vaccines generated much of an immune response.
    The nice thing about twitter is you can choose to follow what topics and people to follow (I don’t tweet or have any followers or reply to any tweets).
    I have wasted a lot of time on twitter – it is addictive. And I randomly find people worth following. For example, no matter your station in life, I recommend you follow Brian Wallach (he went to Georgetown Law btw)- he was dagnosed with ALS at 37 and tweets about how he strives to positive despite such a horrific disease . And whenever I feel bad, I think about some tweets of his. Finally this youtube video shows how twitter helped her find a community and that helped her (along with many other things) learn a skill (coding, specifically ruby on rails)
    https://youtu.be/xvV7OI1jdu4
    So in conclusion, I agree that I have wasted a lot of time on twitter, and that I turn to it when I want to be distracted. I have enjoyed the dopamine hit and hours fly by when you are having fun.

  28. BrandonL says:

    So good. I don’t use Twitter at all and I have very mixed feelings about it as a valuable tool. Other than than the white supremacist climate change acceleration rabbit hole of doom, I feel like these tools make things like reading so much harder. It’s a little gross. I have a copy of Twitter and Tear Gas on the shelf that I’m looking forward to. And I’m still sort of partial to the original 2019 Analogue challenge. I’ve been trying to integrate it into my monthly plan ever since. I started playing a lot of soccer with friends and I recently joined Toastmasters thanks to it. I read more too! Love this and happy 2022!

  29. Diana says:

    I only follow one person on Twitter, so I’ll keep reading his daily tweets, but I am (trying) following your other advice offered a few posts back about only using my smartphone for a few, discrete tasks.

  30. Khurshida118 says:

    I don’t have any Twitter account. I deleted my Facebook account in 2020 and since then I’ve read more books and focused on my hobbies instead. It’s all happened after I finished reading Digital Minimalism. I’ve wasted too much time on Facebook for about ten years and now a days I’m enjoying my distraction free mindful days, It’s amazing! offline is the new luxury in this chaotic world. 😀

  31. Rocko says:

    Funny! People are proud of not using Facebook or twitter for more than 3 hours a day and they post how smart and mindful they are.

    Other people have not even registered and have a wonderful life too 🙂

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