Focus and Social Media

Deep Work - The Antithesis

In his book Deep Work Cal Newport argues that the capacity for deep work is becoming increasingly rare and with rarity comes value. One of Cal's main arguments is that intense focus is needed to develop solid expertise in an area and when this area is of great service to society then these individuals can become highly valuable. With this being said, how can we develop focus in a world where the opposing virtues so frequently surface?

Being social media savvy is often seen as a positive thing yet social media work is often shallow, and rooted around the premise of being highly available to other people. I don't think I have heard of a social media manager who activates his/her out of office for a couple of months in order to deeply focus on a task.

The good news is that we don't need to become focus ninja's overnight, instead let's take some small steps to closing the gap. Let's just start with a healthy approach to social media and go from there.

Social Media Negative Internal Reactions

I think we all have been there at some point or another. We look at our news feed and think 'what am I doing with my life?'. We see the travel, the parties, the laughter and the fun and all this happening without us! If we take these thoughts seriously then we can start to get into trouble very quickly.

If you are still frequently living in these types of feelings then it may be time for a change. The best step I have taken was unfollowing things that I either didn't like, found distracting or that I was not learning from. I am not advocating a put your head in the sand approach but if you are seeing things in a largely negative manner then this is not serving you. For every negative there is a positive and between positive and negative energy there lies a balance. If you feel you are having  overly negative reactions to your news feed then its time to tip the balance towards the positive poll.

You may think to yourself that you want to stay up to date with what your friends are doing. However, social media allows you to unfollow updates from almost everyone and still remain in contact and up to date with your friends by navigating to their pages. Indeed the extra glycogen used by your brain in order to take this action may even help you identify the people who you truly care about.

Quitting Social Media

There was a time where I felt that social media didn't serve the world. My dramatic thoughts led me to taking a 'dramatic' decision which was to QUIT social media for a period of time. In hindsight I think it was probably what I needed. Not only did it give me a break and an opportunity to practice discipline, it also showed me that the problem wasn't entirely with Facebook.

Before I decided to quit, for the first or second time, what I was seeing leading up to these decisions were people portraying lifestyles that were distorted and not a true reflection of their day to day living. I saw self absorption and a platform where 'stupid' ideas and 'stupid' memes could spread like wild fire. I saw a platform where herd mentality is free to perpetuate and a platform that can be addictive in its extremes.

When I took a break from social media I am sure it was in the hope that this would help resolve these feelings for me, but the feelings followed. Thankfully I wasn't deluded enough to ignore the reality that the problem wasn't all to do with Facebook, because the problem followed I had to acknowledge that the problem was with me.

What Changed

When I went back to social media again I started to take the advice that I always knew was useful.

1. I started to unfollow things that I had a negative reaction towards. Not the type of things that I needed to expose myself to in order to grow as a person, but the type of things where nonsensical thinking almost becomes contagious.

2. With this space came more freedom to start liking pages and following things that I either genuinely liked or that I was curious about. Pages which I previously didn't have the courage to like due to the thought

what would some of my Facebook friends think if they saw me liking something like that

The irony of worrying about what 'Facebook friends' think about me is not lost on me. :)

These two simple steps may seem small but they have made a huge difference over time and they cater to the fact that nature abhors a vacuum. When I log into Facebook nowadays I see a news feed where I can learn new things and see positive and productive thoughts that reinforce my vision of the endless possibilities that can exist in my world, when I choose to lean into it.

Did this blog post help? Have you ever quit social media and did it help? If you have any insights, questions or recommendations feel free to leave a comment or drop me an e-mail.