It has been an interesting past few months on social media. I can personally say it has been much more of a distraction now than it has ever been.
My usual tricks for limiting the amount of time that I spend engaging in non-work related activities on social media have had much less of an impact, and in a lot of cases it’s like I’ve forgotten all about them.
(I will share them in a bit.)
I do not post or comment a lot on political subjects, but I do feel a need to stay informed. This leads to observing very heated discourse between people on both sides of various topics.
I do not seek to persuade anyone, but I do seek to understand both sides. Unfortunately, in most cases I don’t find understanding. Instead, I noticed that I’ve just wasted an extra 15 minutes, sometimes even longer, reading commentary that upsets me. Then I spend another 15 minutes trying to find content that will help me get back into a healthier, more positive, more productive mindset.
Generally, I have noticed that I feel a little more powerless and that has led to a lot more anxiety. I have noticed that people I like to spend time with, I avoid now, knowing that they are very vocal on the opposite side of my beliefs. This makes me sad and I do not feel as connected to these people who used to bring such joy to my life.
I have a given an exception for invitations to meet new network contacts, and favor shorter get-to-know-you phone calls to avoid topics that usually tend to emerge when you sit down with someone for longer than a half hour.
My practice of being happy has required a lot more diligence to overcome these obstacles. I tend to want to immerse myself in more positive content just to normalize myself into a state where I can get done what is on my agenda to fulfill my mission.
Then I wonder about all of these people who are engaging in heated discourse. Some of them seem to go back-and-forth all day defending their original statement and refuting others. I’m seeing referencing data, which may not have just been at their fingertips. It is clear that they have taken the time to search and find this data simply to prove to a stranger that they are right and the other is wrong.
The upsetting thing for me is not that people disagree. I believe that is part of the beauty of our country. The upsetting thing is the name-calling and the dismissing other people’s opinion as being a product of ignorance, lack of morals, or low intelligence.
As a human being prone to bias just like anyone else, as per my previous post, I may make the same initial assumptions, but I know logically that even if there is a different belief system driving people to reside on an opposite side than me, my beliefs are not better than theirs, nor are they worse. It is just very difficult using the medium of social media and a venue like emotionally-charged sound bites, to really get down to the understanding that would enable me to draw a more accurate conclusion.
This desire to understand, however, is not only unsatisfying but unproductive. Especially while my first quarter initiatives have been riddled with technical setbacks and difficulties, it has been even easier for me to justify the distraction of so called informing myself and seeking understanding. I’m at a crossroads and I have to make a change.
No, this isn’t my usual “insight, expertise and practical tips” post. This is something I am still in the middle of figuring out, and I know that I’m not alone. I am hoping we can help each other figure it out. Here are some things that I have done in the past that have been successful in helping me curb succumbing to the siren of social media:
Lists on post-its
I cannot always opt to just to avoid social media; it is part of my job. Not only do I market myself on social media, but I also help others leverage it to increase opportunity. That means staying in tune with changes, staying up on navigation and future updates, and listening and observing to help others effectively use social media. Lists may not seem like that ingenious of an idea, but the key is keeping them visible. I write a sticker for whatever I am there on social media to accomplish and stick it to my screen. It serves as a constant reminder that I am there for a purpose.
It is a best practice to decide the night before what I really need to accomplish the next day and break my day up into segments. If you are someone who experiences high-level anxiety when things don’t go as planned, this may actually increase your stress. The purpose is not to be rigid, but to be intentional. If something happens to take longer than anticipated, I know that I have to adjust the rest of the day and the activities, perhaps making some sacrifices to make sure that the most important things get done.
In The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris, I learned that we will tend to take as long as we give ourselves to complete a project. This is why some people wait until the last minute to finish a project– they feel it will ultimately take them less time than if they started early. Of course, waiting until the last minute can cause problems when unexpected events and challenges occur. Tim Ferris does not recommend waiting until the last minute, but he does recommend giving yourself and others an early fake deadline. In applying his advice, not only will I manage a larger project like this, but also milestones, mini-projects and tasks.
When it comes to things like writing and social media, I know my tendencies are to get sucked in and take too much time. These are the things that I time. I might give myself an hour to write a blog, but when it comes to social media I will keep the time very short, I favor multiple short visits versus blocking a significant amount of time to get everything done. For instance, I will avoid social media until I have gotten the most impactful things out of the way. I will have already have meditated, and I certainly will have already broken my day down. Then I will schedule three 10 minute time slots intended for short postings that I will write outside of social media first. The next day I will allocate an hour to posting a client’s LinkedIn profile content. Then I plan when I will engage in social media for personal pleasure and interaction. I usually do this during a meal, unless I am eating with someone. I may slip in again while my kids brush their teeth at night. This is ideally where it would stop.
Turn off notifications
Social media designers know what they’re doing, and their intention is to make you come back over and over again. They want you addicted. Turning off notifications can be tough when potential clients and customers reach you through these venues and their needs are immediate, for instance if you’re a plumber and you deal with a lot of plumbing emergencies. Realistically, you would want to have someone else handling any incoming inquiries, because most of your time would ideally be spent helping customers. When you have a different quandary – make sure whoever is assisting you with incoming leads isn’t wasting their time on social media.
If these strategies alone do not help you minimize the amount of time that you spend not getting closer to your goals, there are some apps that can help you block websites for periods of time. SelfControl, StayFocsd, and Cold Turkey may help. If your job requires you to be on social media, these tools maybe too inhibitive for you.
If you have noticed a decrease in your quality of life and relationships, and you believe there might be a correlation between this and your social media usage, I encourage you to try these tricks.
However, if these tricks do not work and you sense that your social media habits will continue to have a cost to your life, consider that you might be suffering from FOMO (fear of missing out). While this legitimate syndrome recognized by psychologists is not just limited to social media and users thereof, you may be able to look at your social media usage as either a symptom or a cause, and reach out for help.
As I am committed to relieving myself from the potential costs that social media has been imposing on my own life, I would love to hear others strategies and tactics.