Who Dares Wins. Ditch Social Media from your phone and breathe again
Back in November, a good mate sent me an article from the New York Times. “Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.” Written by Cal Newport, an Associate Professor of computer science at Georgetown University, the article offers a wonderfully counterintuitive view of the usefulness of social media platforms. Everyone says that you have to be on social media to get ahead in your career, to build your personal brand, yet Newport argues, quite convincingly, that it’s more important to produce quality work. He suggests that such work speaks for itself and will garner you much more notice than engaging in what he considers to be the very risky use of social media.
Newport’s challenge struck a chord. I’d engaged with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn some years back at the urging of my professional colleagues. I’d initially been a stumbling user but over time, I'd gotten up to speed and enjoyed the interactions with other folk in the social media sphere. In the last few years, it’s fair to say that I’ve become quite active.
I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable that social media was a serious distraction. In quiet moments I found myself reaching for my phone. I wasn’t spending that precious, rare time thinking. Quiet moments became all moments and the phone was never far from my attention. I never got as bad as some of my friends but for sure I was no longer looking out windows to take in the beauty. I was no longer benefitting from the solitude of boredom. I wasn’t breathing.
I had a decision to make. I could totally disengage from social media by deleting all my accounts. I have a history of taking such decisive actions but on this one, I wasn’t sure. I do enjoy connecting with people but I did feel uneasy that social media was changing my life.
I decided I would delete all social media from my phone but not yet delete all my accounts. I did it, and then I waited.
Would I suffer withdrawal spasms? Sweating, would I be constantly reaching for my app-less phone, unable to survive without screen time?
I’m happy to report that not only was I instantly liberated, I haven’t had any inclination to go back. I still visit the various platforms on my laptop but nowhere near as often as before. I’ve been on holidays the past three weeks, like most of the world, so I’m yet to detect any career threatening developments.
What I have noticed is that I’m relishing having more time to think and reflect. When I had social media on my phone, I loved the quiet time on long haul flights when I was completely disconnected. Long hours were spent just sitting and thinking, no phone, no movies, just me, myself, I. Now, that great feeling has returned to my waking hours when I’m not on a plane. I concentrate and think thoughts through. I read more. I think more. It feels good.
Let’s see how this middle ground approach unfolds. Right now, I’m excited because I can feel long unused parts of my brain kicking back into gear. Newport puts it thus:
“A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.”
If I am true to my belief that the path to change lies in a deep connection to what’s inside us and that making that connection requires focus and hard work, then I have to make sure I’m not taking myself away from that special work by looking at my phone every two minutes.
So far so good. I may yet take the Newportian route and delete all my social media accounts, let’s see. Right now I face the dilemma of deciding what to do with this text. Do I post it to my social media accounts via my laptop or just leave it for others to do that, via their own accounts, for me?
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