Social Tools I Adopted by Default
I’ve been conducting a sort of experiment the last few months…
Do social feeds add significant value to my life?
For longer than I’d care to admit, I found myself aimlessly scrolling through feeds.
I’ve never finished a social media binge with the overwhelming feeling of, “Gee do I feel satisfied and extra inspired, I think I’ll go create something.”
Quite the opposite.
As someone that has more time than I know what to do with (sarcasm), why exactly was I allowing this thing to take so much of my attention?
After many conversations with my wife, I could no longer justify the tradeoffs of these social channels. The few benefits of keeping up with my friends (and by keeping up, I mean watching them from a distance while never having a single meaningful conversation) were not worth the drawbacks. To name a few…
- Developing a need for checking notifications (addiction)
- Fragmented attention to the present due to wondering how my latest Instagram or Facebook post was changing everyones life
- Contributing to an overall lack of focus (not the only reason, but part of the equation)
- Not actually gaining any mental benefits from my social feeds… (i.e. I wasn’t actually learning anything that bettered my understanding)
- Negatively impacting my family by competing for my attention
I really appreciate Cal Newports logic in his agrument to quite social media. In his book Deep Work he writes about two different approaches to using network tools:
The Any-Benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it.
Let’s first name the fact that there are benefits to using tools like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.. In both personal and professional respects. But let’s also call them what they are. Tools.
The any-benefit approach embraces a tool without consideration of what the side affects may be.
Rather, it would this this tool section process would be more fitting:
The Craftsman Approach to Tool Selection: Identify the core factors that determine the success and happiness in your professional and personal life. Adopt a tool only if its positive impacts on these factors substantially outweigh its negative impacts.
As I evaluated the various social media services I was using, I could no longer justify the negative impacts I was experiencing in my life.
They were addicting and constantly pulling for my attention. The media and messages I was exposed to were mostly unhelpful and sometimes stressful. During moments of down time I found myself antsy and unable to let my mind wander.
I can’t say that I had a craftsman mindset when I adopted these various network tools years ago. But now having felt their affects for some time, it was time to ask some honest questions, and make some changes.
As someone that is striving to better my ability to focus and live in a less distracted state, there was some low-hanging fruit right in front of me.
Thus my decision to pull the plug.
As for my experiment. I haven’t been on Instagram since September of 2016.
It took me a little longer to break up with Facebook since it was a bit more nuanced in weighing the pros and cons. But ultimately, looking through the craftsman approach as proposed by Cal, the answer was clear. There was not enough positive factors to keep me around. It’s been over a month. RIP.
As for the effect, I can honestly say my mind is clearer. The clutter and nervous energy due to keeping up with timelines, is no longer there.
My capacity to focus at longer lengths of time is growing and is a skill I’m continuing to practice.
I’m also learning how to embrace boredom. Another practice enorsed by Cal.
Much in the same way that athletes must take care of their bodies outside of their training sessions, you’ll struggle to achieve the deepest levels of concentration if you spend the rest of your time fleeing the slightest hint of boredom.
In other words, by avoiding boredom, you are essentially never giving your mind the ability to rest. The constant demand of stimulation leaves you mentally depleated.
Funny enough, boredom is becoming a skill we must choose to practice. With plenty of gadgets and services at our disposal, it’s easy to fill every moment of every day.
For me, social media wasn’t improving my quality of life. Bottom line. And it didn’t line up with my long term goals or personal values. So why keep it around.
I‘ll never regret having spent less time on these social media. However I imagine there could be a great deal of remorse over letting these social tools overrun things that truly matter.
Slow nights around the dinner table with family. A few minutes on the couch with my wife unpacking our day. Missing important milestones of my children growing up because I was stairing at a device.
Under the scrutiny of the craftsman approach to tool selection, they don’t make the cut. Therefore, so long social media.
So in the name of radical change, I’ll replace my social feeds with books. Instead of checking social feeds, sneak in reading a few pages.
And if I don’t feel like reading, maybe I’ll start a conversation with a stranger. Heaven forbid.