Aziz Ansari is something of a Renaissance man—he’s a writer, producer, comedian, actor, meme and more. But Ansari embodies the Renaissance in a more literal way, too: he’s gone analog. As he told GQ in a new interview, he quit Twitter and Instagram, removed the internet browser from his phone and doesn’t even use email.
Ansari told GQ reporter Mark Anthony Green “whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling.” He’s not wrong: we are literally addicted to the internet and social media (you can read all about what it’s doing to our brains here and here). And for Ansari, “the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things,” he said.
But how does he keep up with the news, Green wondered? Ansari said that if something important happened, he'd still find out. Plus, in a post-truth world, “It doesn’t feel like we’re reading news for the reason we used to, which was to get a better sense of what’s going on in the world and to enrich yourself by being aware. It seems like we’re reading wrestling rumors...it all just seems so sensationalized,” he said. It’s not that the news doesn’t matter, Ansari cautioned; it’s that reading the news is “putting me in a bad state of mind.” (I’m sure many of us can relate.)
That doesn’t mean it was easy to ditch the digital life. Aziz told Green “When I first took the browser off my phone, I’m like [gasp] How am I gonna look stuff up?” But it got easier: eventually, he forgot about the world online and stopped caring.
Part of Ansari’s desire to unplug seems linked to finding inspiration and needing to recharge after two successful seasons of his Netflix show Master of None. He put a lot of ideas in those episodes, he said, many of them personal, and there’s certainly pressure for him to deliver on the next season. He told Green “I need a minute to refill my notebook. My life has not progressed enough for me to write season three yet.”
To refill your notebook, literally and figuratively, cutting out social media and time-wasting internet rabbit holes seems like a good place to start. Instead of the internet, Ansari says he’s been reading (he’s juggling three books at the moment), and he seems happier for it. He told Green that when reading real books, “I’m putting something in my mind. It feels so much better than just reading the internet and not remembering anything.”