Dallin Crump


I haven't been in a good place mentally or emotionally the past several weeks. In most of my free time I played video games or watched TV and had no desire to do much of anything else. Aside from alternating feelings of anxiousness and guilt, I felt mostly numb.

Earlier this week I decided I needed to drastically cut back on the amount of social, news, and entertainment media (including video games) I was consuming. In my free time, I decided to finish reading The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, the wonderful biography of a man I have considered a role model and mentor since childhood. I have also focused more on personal prayer and scripture study.

The improvement in my mental and emotional state within just a few days has been remarkable. I've also been sleeping better. And as I have learned some things about the remarkable Fred Rogers, I have learned some things about myself.

One thing I have always known about myself, but am becoming more perceptive of with respect to its impact on my mental and emotional state, is that I am extremely sensitive to the influence of electronic media. Perhaps more sensitive than most. I have always had the ability to recall and replay visual and especially auditory media in my mind with a high degree of detail and accuracy. I have an excellent music memory. Recently, I was reminded of a music album I had listened to on cassette tape a great deal in my childhood, but never since. As I remembered this album, I could recall music from the album with startling detail in my mind. I recently rediscovered this particular album on Apple Music and, as I listened to it for the first time in decades, it sounded just as it had in my mind.

To varying degrees, we are all influenced by media. I don't think most of us realize just how much.

Earlier in my career, a previous employer gave each employee a card on which the following was written:

Watch your thoughts, they become words; Watch your words, they become actions; Watch your actions, they become habits; Watch your habits, they become character; Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

The media we consume has the power to influence what we think and, therefore, our behavior, our character, and our destiny.

Fred Rogers understood this. He saw the tremendous potential of television to be a powerful influence for good – or for evil – in human society. He figured out a way to use television to help and educate young children in a marvelous way. Ironically – or perhaps not so ironically – although he created one of the most popular and beloved children's television shows of all time, which aired for 30 minutes each weekday for decades, Rogers himself rarely watched television. According to his biography, as a young man he'd watch The Alfred Hitchcock Hour once a week – but only the beginning where Hitchcock would speak directly to the audience, then he'd turn the TV off. At one point he also removed the radio from his car. Later, as he and his wife Joanne were raising their two sons, they limited their television time to one hour a day.

Today, we are swimming in more media – and more mediums for its delivery – than ever before. And I feel like most of us are drowning in it without even realizing it. It's influencing our thoughts and behaviors in ways we don't fully perceive.

Just this past week, there was a horrific school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. It's been one of the top stories on every national and local news outlet the entire week. It has been sensationalized in news and social media – rehashing every morbid detail, frequently displaying the pictures of those who were killed. But even more disturbing, putting front and center the name and picture of the shooter who was eventually killed by police, diving into their background and motives, showing text messages the killer sent just before the shooting, showing security and police body camera footage. Naturally, this incident has also been prominent on popular social media networks and has been politicized on all sides. The modern news and social media cycle has become shifting from one outrageous, sensationalized incident to another with no reprieve. It's about capturing as much attention as possible for as long as possible because that's how news outlets and social media “influencers” make money.

Fred Rogers was deeply concerned about the media trends he was seeing in his own day. I can only imagine how horrified he would be with the current state of things. There are still good people trying to do good things through media, but they have long been the exception, not the rule.

I believe our collective obsession with sensational, exploitative, and addictive social, news, and entertainment media is having a detrimental impact on our emotional and mental health and is warping our perspective and sense of reality as a society.

In the face of this, I feel that I need to drastically limit or even eliminate some of the electronic media to which I have become accustomed, perhaps even addicted.

I have already been making significant strides in this direction in recent years. It's time to take the next dramatic step.

  • Video Games. I am going to completely quit video games except for social purposes with people I know in real life. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, my brothers and I enjoyed playing the game Valheim together. It was a time for us to socialize virtually and collaborate on something fun together. I will use that example as my standard going forward. I will not play video games by myself again.

  • News and Social Media. I will set aside a 30 minute time slot per day to catch up on news and social media. I will not check them outside of that time slot. I have developed a habit of repeatedly checking them throughout the day, and that needs to stop. For me, social media includes Facebook, Twitter, Mastodon, and Discord. One-on-one or small group messaging like texting, Signal, etc. is okay, as that is more personal and intentional interaction with people. But I will still try to limit how often I check anything outside of SMS texts.

  • Entertainment Media. I will limit watching videos for entertainment to two hours per week. That means no more binge-watching favorite shows like The Mandalorian or Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. (In fact, I'm concerned that I've become desensitized to violent content and may stop watching those kinds of shows altogether, but that's for another blog post.) I will need to be intentional with how I use that two hours for entertainment videos. I will not limit educational or religious videos (especially since I'm starting school in two weeks), but will try to be aware of when I am watching these excessively as a distraction or to “kill time”. I already don't use TikTok or Instagram, and I will stop watching YouTube shorts, period. They are a time suck and mostly garbage. I will not impose limits on listening to music. I often listen to music while I work, as it helps me focus. And good and uplifting music is healing to my soul. I don't listen to the radio often. But when I do, news and current events programs will be limited to 30 minutes. No limits on music.

  • Replacement Activities. It's not enough to just cut back, I need to find good replacement activities to fill the time the cutbacks will free up. I plan to read a lot more books – alternating between fiction and non-fiction. I also feel like I need to get back into music and practice and play an instrument regularly. Another thing I learned about Fred Rogers is his deep love for writing, playing, and sharing music and using it as an outlet for dealing with and expressing feelings and emotions. Many years ago I was studying to be a music teacher. Music was an important part of my life. I've lost that, and I need to get it back. I also think I need more real-life social activity, so I am going to look for ways to cultivate that. Have the neighbors over, make friends, etc.

It is my hope that limiting and being more intentional about the media I consume will help me be more stable mentally and emotionally, have a healthier perspective on life, and feel better about myself and others.

#media #SocialMedia #life #DigitalMinimalism #intentionism

I'm half-way through a two-week news and social media fast. It's going just as I had hoped it would.

I'm disturbed (but not surprised) by how many times I have absentmindedly tried to open a news or social media website. Thankfully the blocks I have put in place have prevented me from breaking my fast and reminded me just how entrenched I have become in these habits.

I feel like my overall mental state is getting better. I'm less anxious and agitated. I'm able to think more clearly and focus more easily. I have a greater desire to read and write. I know there are concerning and disturbing things happening in the world, but I'm focused more on how I can make the world a better place by influencing circumstances within my control.

Going forward, I think I need to schedule specific times to check news and social media. I'm not sure yet on the duration and frequency. 30 minutes daily might be too much, so maybe 30 minutes every other day. I'll have to experiment and see what works. Outside of those scheduled times, I need to avoid news and social media.

For now, I will enjoy the remainder of this news and social media fast and continue to think of other ways I can align my life more with my values for the coming year and beyond.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 94) #DigitalMinimalism #SocialMedia #intentionism

I've decided to end the experiment I started a month ago and stop running my own Mastodon instance.

It's obvious my relationship with social media is not a healthy one. And it likely never will be. So it doesn't make sense for me to run and administrate a Mastodon instance, which would obligate me to be on social media when I should be taking a break – or stepping away for good.

I had high hopes for ZCMI.social, and would still love for there to be a supportive, safe, faith-affirming space for members of my church to have a social media experience. But I am not the one to make that happen. Besides, the level of interest even among close associates who supported the idea was lackluster to begin with, and actual engagement on my Mastodon instance itself was practically nonexistent.

I have migrated my personal Mastodon account back to Fosstodon, where I have felt the most at-home on the Fediverse.

I have learned a lot from this experience and I don't regret it.

I don't feel like explaining all I have learned in intricate detail, but I'll sum it up by saying I have gained an even greater appreciation for everyone who has made and continues to make Mastodon and decentralized social media possible. I appreciate all the developers, hosts, admins, members – all who are trying to move us away from corporate-controlled, exploitative social media platforms that foment outrage and contention for profit, and instead create safe, engaging online communities that foster communication and understanding.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 85) #tech #SocialMedia

Someone in a Discord server I'm on forced me to look in a metaphorical mirror and made me realize how news and social media have negatively impacted my objectivity and mental health in recent weeks.

It was an uncomfortable moment, but a welcome one. I have gotten way too worked up over Elon Musk and his Twitter antics because that situation is at the intersection of a lot of issues I'm passionate about like #tech, #SocialMedia, #politics, #FOSS, #privacy, and others.

When I get too worked up over issues like this, my emotions get the best of me and I don't think clearly. I'm not as articulate or persuasive in my arguments. I get upset, argumentative, contentious. I feel anxious, agitated, frustrated. I lose control. And I don't feel good about myself or others when I'm like this.

Over the years, I've made some changes to keep from slipping into this state of mind and continue to participate on social media in productive ways, but it still happens and I don't like it.

It's time for another news and social media fast. So here are the changes I'm making starting today and continuing through the end of the year:

  • Log out of Discord, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Mastodon on all devices (these are the only social media platforms I use)
  • Refrain from checking news sources. I will block specific news websites on my devices if force of habit gets the better of me.
  • Strengthen real-world relationships
  • Pray and meditate more
  • Read more
  • Write (blog) more
  • Enjoy holiday festivities
  • Focus on being present and living in the moment

When the status quo isn't working, it's time to change things up. So here goes!


#100DaysToOffload (No. 84)

Spoilers ahead!

I'm currently obsessed with the Star Wars TV series Andor. Writing, directing, acting, cinematography, music, story – all brilliant. It resonates with me on many levels. I'm watching the first season for the second time and paying close attention. In Episode 7, Announcement, a conversation between Andor and Maarva got me thinking.

Andor is trying to convince Maarva to leave Ferrix with him.

Maarva: I'm staying.

Cassian: But it's... it's not safe.

Maarva: I know all that.

Cassian: I can't be here. You said it yourself, “It's all come undone.” There's an Imperial barracks on Rix Road.

Maarva: Good luck to them.

Cassian: You wanna live under that?

Maarva: It's happening everywhere.

Cassian: Well, we'll find a place they haven't ruined yet.

Maarva: I'm already there. That place is in my head. They can build as many barracks as they like, they'll never find me.

Cassian: What's left to keep you here?

Maarva: The Rebellion.

Cassian: What?

Maarva: Ferrix has been hiding long enough.

Cassian: So now you're taking on the Empire?

Maarva: Laugh if you want to.

Cassian: Who's laughing? This is madness.

Maarva: No, it's not. It's overdue, and probably doomed, and I'm too old, and I don't care anymore. For 13 years, every time I walk down Rix Road, I turn off before I get to the square. I take the long way around so I don't have to think about Clem hanging there. Then yesterday, I heard about this attack at Aldhani. Have you heard about this?

Cassian: What about it?

Maarva: Well, Bee played me the news. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Cassian: Yeah, yeah, the garrison at Aldhani.

Maarva: I heard that, I put on my best coat, and I walked across the square with a smile on my face. If there are heroes brave enough to take on a whole Imperial garrison, I'm brave enough to stick it out here. I... I don't expect you to understand.

Cassian: Aldhani was just a robbery.

Maarva: People are standing up.

Cassian: Yeah, and getting killed for it.

Maarva: But there's work that will need doing.

Cassian: Yeah? What is that?

Maarva: Whatever it takes. I've been lying around waiting to die long enough.

Cassian: You can't beat them, Maarva.

Maarva: Not if I run away.

In the context of the show, the stakes are much higher than they are in my current reality. But the principle Maarva is trying to teach Cassian rings true for many different circumstances.

Social media has been on my mind a lot lately (and the past several years). I think of how it is being used to exploit and manipulate people. To spread misinformation and hate. Being a peacemaker by nature and one who avoids conflict and toxicity, I have almost completely stopped using the popular social media platforms for anything but a few Facebook groups and the occasional faith-related post.

And now we have a wealthy, power-hungry man (Elon Musk) who has swooped in to purchase Twitter, revoke much of their content moderation standards, including their COVID misinformation policy, and reinstate most accounts that were previously banned for violating those old moderation standards. I haven't used Twitter regularly in years, but the latest news reports claim there has been a notable increase in hate speech and misinformation on the platform.

I have been using Mastodon for the past few years and have witnessed the dramatic surge in people leaving Twitter for the Fediverse over the past couple months. And until very recently, I wondered why anyone who disagrees with what Elon Musk is doing would possibly want to stay on Twitter at this point.

But after watching this episode of Andor again, I think I get it. Even amidst the wave of fascist, racist, hateful, and other toxic content on Twitter, good people I know are staying. They continue to post thoughtful, positive, fun, uplifting content. They continue to post what they believe in the face of all of it. The chance of making a difference for good seems pretty slim right now if good people stay. But there is no chance if they leave.

And what is the result of running away? What is the result of ceding the public square (and for better or worse, Twitter is still an influential space in the public square) to hate and misinformation? And how long can we keep running until there's nowhere else to run?

Maybe instead of running away from Twitter, good, decent people who have had enough of this nonsense should be running towards it.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 71) #TV #tech #SocialMedia

My brother (who is younger than me) has never used big social media.

I make a distinction between big and small social media.

  • Big social media = the large popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Small social media = however you interact with smaller, private groups of people. Like a small Discord server, iMessage group, etc.

I guess technically my brother does have a LinkedIn account that he uses as an online resumé, not as a social network. But Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Nope. Nada.

I have to say, I envy him in that regard.

My brother is an average guy. He has a wife and kids, lives in the suburbs, works a white-collar job. He plays video games and watches nerdy TV shows and movies like me. But if you ask him if he saw so-and-so's post on such-and-such big social media app, the answer will always be no. He's never done big social media and likely never will. If you ask him why, the answer is simple: it's never appealed to him. He doesn't see the point. He's happy, is well-informed, and works hard. He's well-liked (not the Facebook or Twitter “like”, the real-life like) amongst his family, friends, and associates. In every way that matters, my brother doesn't seem to be worse off for never having used big social media.

I don't remember when I created my first Facebook account (I'm on my third one after deleting two previous), but in total it's probably been at least 15 years, probably more. I've also had stints on Twitter and Instagram, but no longer use either (I'm on my second Twitter account basically to park on my username, deleted Instagram and never looked back). I also have a LinkedIn account, which I use primarily as an online resume (I like it even less than Facebook as a social network).

When I think on the totality of my big social media experience and ask myself if it has added value to my life and made be better for having used it, I have to say no. In fact, I am probably worse off. I consider the role that social media has played in spreading misinformation, in amplifying harassment and bullying. I consider the companies that have run the most popular platforms and how they use these platforms to exploit and manipulate their users. Whatever good, uplifting, virtuous content may be posted on these networks is more often than not buried – drowned out by louder, in-your-face, more enticing, more profitable content surfaced by an algorithm. My feed is riddled with ads from companies trying to convince me to give them my money in exchange for a trinket or a service I don't need.

I even consider my experience with the decentralized Fediverse social media network and Mastodon. While it's certainly been a notable improvement overall from the popular proprietary networks (no ads, chronological timeline, good people), and moves that needle significantly towards the “yes” side of the dial, when I ask myself the same question – has this added value to my life and made me better for having used it – I still have to honestly answer no. I mean, I have enjoyed most of my interactions there and learned some interesting things, but for the most part, it's been a way to distract myself and waste time. Also a way to seek validation from strangers.

Big social media has always been promoted and praised as a way to connect people. But in reality it has encouraged and facilitated tribalism, contention, and incivility. It has actually exacerbated social isolation rather than alleviated it.

People like my brother are proof that you don't need big social media to be connected, happy, knowledgeable, or productive.

And despite having started a new Mastodon instance recently and doing a “closed beta” inviting a few people to join me, I am having second thoughts about that. It's just perpetuating the big social media shtick, albeit in a more ethical, decentralized fashion. Unless my closed beta goes amazingly well (which it's not so far, only one person besides me has even posted anything), I don't see myself continuing that experiment.

I remember the pre-Facebook days when people had their own blogs. I think that's a better way for anyone to share things publicly on the web. You can write whatever you want, share photos, videos, etc. If people want to see that stuff, they follow your blog. If they don't want to see that stuff, they ignore it. Some blogs even have comment sections for each post where people can interact with you and other readers if they want. I miss that. I've rather enjoyed blogging again after years of using big social media. Whether or not I leave big social media altogether, I'll definitely keep blogging.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 65) #SocialMedia #tech #life

Getting a new shared Mastodon instance going is a lot of work! I've put in a lot of hours the past couple days on getting ZCMI.social off the ground. It's not just the technical side of things with domain, hosting, and administration – there is a lot more to it.

We've got to figure out what kind of community we want to create and then develop server rules, standards, etc. to help us get there. We've got to figure out how to fund the venture as a community, because as it grows more money will be necessary to keep the lights on.

In addition to hosting a server, we've got to get a companion website going, as that's the easiest way to keep all of our info in one place and help people learn more about what we're doing.

We also need to help and mentor people joining our server who are completely new to Mastodon and the Fediverse, let alone our instance! If they're familiar with other social networks, they will find some things familiar and other things completely foreign and not intuitive.

With all of this, patience is key. I've felt a little overwhelmed at times, but most of the time I've just been eager and excited to learn new things and get all of this working.

Whether this project ends in a month or continues for years, I'm glad I finally worked up the motivation to try.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 56) #tech #SocialMedia #hobbies

It's been a whirlwind weekend, but I somehow started a new Mastodon instance! ZCMI.social is now a thing.

It's currently open only to a small group of close friends and associates for a “closed beta” until I get this whole Mastodon Admin thing figured out. If there is any reasonable degree of success after a month or two, I might opening it up for more people to join.

But let me back up. Why did I name it “ZCMI” and who is it for? The original ZCMI – Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution – was a department store chain founded in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1868. It changed owners throughout the years and went defunct about 20 years ago. (Seriously, how many department store chains have died in the last couple decades? Remember Mervyn's? Fred Meyer? Montgomery Ward?).

The ZCMI in ZCMI.social stands for Zion's Cooperative Mastodon Instance! It's intended for members of my church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – who are actively trying to live their faith. I envision it as as a safe space for church members to talk about their faith and interact with and support other members trying to walk the covenant path. The name of this new Mastodon instance is a way of honoring our past while looking forward to the future.

There is still a lot of work to do – a few of my colleagues and I are coming up with some community guidelines and refining the server rules (I mostly copied our existing rules from Fosstodon because I think they're a pretty great place to start).

Over the next month I'd like to try to get at least 30 or 40 people on there and actively using it and see where things go from there.

I'm excited!


#100DaysToOffload (No. 55) #tech #faith #ChurchOfJesusChrist #SocialMedia

Occasionally over the past couple years, I've thought about starting a Mastodon instance for members of my church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Today I've been brainstorming with some friends about it. I actually purchased a domain name and have been looking into hosting options.

With the tsunami of new users that have joined the Fediverse over the past couple weeks due to the turmoil at Twitter, now seems like a great time to get a new instance going. But the increased attention also means that most dedicated Mastodon hosting services have been overwhelmed. One of the most popular providers – Masto.host – has actually suspended new registrations as of the time I write this while they figure out how to accommodate the surge in demand for their existing customers.

In addition to hosting, I've been considering many questions about how to administer and run such a community. How big do I expect it to get? Should I cap the number of accounts? What should our rules and guidelines be? What is our ban policy? Can people appeal? Should I set up a Patreon or similar to help defray the cost? The list of questions is long and continues to grow.

Thinking through these questions has really given me more appreciation for all of the volunteers who host and run thousands of Mastodon instances out there, especially the one I'm currently on – Fosstodon.

Whether or not I actually get a new Mastodon instance off the ground, I'm thankful that such an option exists and allows people all around the world to connect with each other in meaningful ways without for-profit companies trying to exploit them for profit.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 54) #tech #SocialMedia

Back in January I wrote Why I Use Librem Social. Librem Social is a social media network that is based on a fork of Mastodon. About a month after I wrote that, I decided to migrate to a different instance. Fosstodon is where I landed and I've quite enjoyed my experience there.

One of the reasons I moved is that the Librem Social fork was lacking features available in newer releases of Mastodon, and those maintaining it didn't seem in any great hurry to update it. For instance, I was using a third-party service to auto-delete older posts, but newer versions of Mastodon have that feature built in.

Another reason related to the above is that Purism seems to have abandoned or at least tabled its plans for Librem One, in general. Promised additions of new features like encrypted cloud storage, backups, and contact sync never materialized, and Purism themselves stopped promoting Librem One in their marketing and social media efforts.

So I decided to move to Fosstodon because it seemed that most of the people I had connected with and interacted with on a regular basis were there, they have great admins who stay on top of things and interact with the community, and I appreciated their server rules and moderation policies. It's been really great, and I have continued to meet new people and learn new things as part of a very nerdy, mostly gracious and helpful community.

I don't use FOSS (free-as-in-freedom and open source software) exclusively, but I do use it and believe in the philosophy behind free software. But I post about all kinds of things that interest me and find many Fosstodonians and people from the greater Fediverse share those interests.

A big difference Fosstodon has from Librem One is that local and federated timelines are enabled. I mostly stay away from the federated timeline because it's like drinking from a firehose and there is a higher probability you will encounter mindless or toxic content. But Fosstodon's local timeline is almost always on-point and even respectful, and good to check out every so often. Again, lots of fellow nerds like me sharing nerdy stuff. It's fun.

I tried getting back into Twitter again a few months ago. I mainly wanted to park on my username, but decided to try to post some things, follow some people, and see how it went. It was terrible. Ads everywhere. Nothing I posted, even with hashtags, seemed to by seen by hardly anyone. I guess the algorithm didn't consider my stuff interesting enough to put in front of people or buried me because I was a new account. Random promoted posts and junk cluttering my feed. It wasn't a pleasant experience. I was reminded why I eventually lost interest and deleted my account before.

Mastodon gives me a delightfully ad-free experience and more control over the content I want to see. I can easily block accounts or entire instances, as desired. My feed is always in chronological order, so I never miss anything if I don't want to. I can easily follow hashtags I'm interested in. But more importantly, I find I am able to more easily connect and engage with others. I'm able to meet people, learn new things, and express myself without being monetized or marketed to.

I'm glad that Mastodon exists, and that Fosstodon is a thing. It's a neat little corner of the Fediverse and I'm happy I landed there.


#100DaysToOffload (No. 32) #tech #socialmedia