Stoic Sentiments Trump Social Media
Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic is a collection of 2,000-year-old letters. It helped me beat my Facebook addiction.
A few months back, I was scrolling through Facebook. I don’t know for how long, but at some point I reached a string of particularly dull posts. So I got bored and closed the tab. I sighed to myself and opened a new one automatically. I don’t remember typing but I typed.
Click…A second passed and the page loaded before me: a light blue header with white text. It read: ‘Facebook’.
I had just done a Digital Circle.
We’re high. Like, all the time — and most people don’t seem to notice it — or worse, they welcome it. I’m not talking about marijuana, I’m talking about all the useless stuff we digest every day. Drifting through Facebook is just one example.
Do you ever binge-view some TV show that you honestly stopped liking after Season 1?
How many covert phone-checks do you make under the table during a meal with someone?
Was anything in that Hollywood blockbuster worth remembering? (explosion and sex scenes aren't)
It’s all eye-candy really. Mental Sugar. Pseudo-stimulation. And it’s so easy to get addicted, to glaze over from the HD, 5G, airbrushed pixels. We’re surrounded by it and we come to expect it and depend on it.
We’re malnourished. We overdose on eye-candy. But what we need is mental nutrition; eye-protein. It’s as important to our physical health as water and exercise. A lazy unexercised mind kills us just as fast as a candy-only diet, maybe even faster.
The first-century Stoic philosopher Seneca said:
What we say should be of use, not just entertaining.
The same holds true for what we do.
What use is all of that mental sugar we dump into our systems? A soon-forgotten chuckle? A means to waste time at work? An escape from the people around us? Is it building you up — or just filling you up? Is it enhancing your relationships, your beauty, your health, and your career pursuits — or is it insulating you from self-reflection and self-improvement?
Break free from your digital circles:
For a person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to be put right. You have to catch yourself doing it before you reform.
1. Track the number of times you check email, social media and your most visited websites each day for one week. This will make you more aware of how much drifting you’re doing.
2. To help track the number, log out of email and social media each time you check it. This way you have to pause to re-enter the Digital Circle and you’ll remember to mark down the instance.
3. At the end of Day 7, identify your Big 3 Digital Circles. My Big 3 were Gmail, Facebook, and Twitter. Commit to cutting your Day 1 numbers in half on Day 8. Then Day 2 numbers in half on Day 9 and so on.
4. If your Week 2 Total is half of Week 1 Total, *reward yourself, but not with eye-candy binging.
I saved about 3 hours my first week. *That’s three hours for me to read about people who inspire me, bike around southern California, and grab drinks with friends (without sneaking phone-checks under the table).
Keep in mind that changing tasks takes time for you to mentally acclimate. When I’m writing, I now turn off my phone or leave it somewhere out of reach. If I were to interrupt my writing, even just to check — not read — who texted me, I noticed that it took me a good ten minutes to re-focus on my content once more.
Seek out substance - find the eye-protein:
Nothing to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.
1. List your favorite movies. Rank them.
2. Do this for TV shows as well.
3. Then books.
4. Lastly people. (Historical figures, rock stars, authors, entrepreneurs. Whoever inspires you.)
5. Think about why you like them more than your other favorites. Is it one particularly dramatic scene? Do you like the music? Is there a line or passage that has haunted you, confused you, or inspired you? Do you like their message?
6. With your favorites in mind, buy a book on Amazon for a few dollars — or pennies. (Don’t just plan to buy one by adding it to your wish list or wait weeks for it to come out in paperback. Buy it.)
7. Read it for at least thirty minutes a day. This shouldn't be hard if you’re truly breaking free of your Digital Circles.
8. Remember to take it with you everywhere, on the bus, in your carry-on, to the doctor’s office. You never know when you’ll have 10 — 20 — 30 minutes free. Don’t give that time to others via email and social media. Be jealous of your time. Your mind needs to eat.
Be purposeful in your first selection and future selections. Focus on your interests, which may take you in uncharted directions as your interests evolve, but don’t drift mindlessly. If you find yourself struggling to finish a book, this is a sign you've deviated. Return to your favorites, or if necessary find new ones.
If you’re looking for book recommendations, I’d love to help you.
(Yes, you still should track that email in your Week Total)