Productivity Series – post #1

Intro

Let’s face a simple truth. Social Media is making you unhappy and unproductive, and you don’t need it.
I’m going to say some things here that may sound harsh. Don’t take it personally though, as I mean to address social media usage in general based on my observations over the years.
Let’s begin, shall we!?

How I used it so far

I was never a big fan of social media. Nor was I ever a frequent user. I made about 100 posts on Instagram (IG) over 7 to 8 years, and would only post on Facebook (FB) from time to time. I’d spend about 30-45 minutes daily on both IG and FB combined. That’s not a lot. You might wonder “why Armando, are you deleting them if you were barely using it?”
We’ll get to that later. Let’s discuss the problems with Social Media (SM) first.

It’s an addiction

I hate to break it to you. If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is check social media, you are ADDICTED. Same if that’s the last thing you do before bed.
If you uncontrollably prioritize something over other important things in life, that’s a behavioral addiction.[btx_image image_id=”100″ link=”/” position=”overlapleft” size=”bateaux_medium” on_click=”none”]All of us. Credit: pexels.com[/btx_image]
Chances are, if you’re checking your feeds at the beginning and end of the day, you’re doing it throughout the day. Every break, every opportunity – you allocate your mental energy to ‘check’ the feed, and it is constantly sucking you into the never-ending loop. The constant stream of posts, likes, comments, and shares affects the brain’s reward area to trigger the same kind of chemical reaction as other drugs, such as cocaine. What you are doing is a habit, and that habit defines your mental state, and that state is building out your character.

Attention span

SM has already reduced your attention span. Not just yours but your family’s and friend’s. A goldfish has an attention span of 9 sec. In 2000 the human attention span was measured at 12 seconds on average (including undiagnosed cases of ADHD). In 2016 the average human attention span was measured at around 8 seconds. We’re now worse than goldfish. How embarrassing. 

Killer blue light

The picture says it all. Take a careful look.

[btx_image image_id=”102″ link=”/” position=”center” max_width=”90%” on_click=”none”]Credit Tech Insider[/btx_image]

The 6-inch Worldview

SM also conditions us into believing that all that matters is what shows up there, on the tiny screens of our smartphones. I’d like to call that “the 6-inch worldview”.
I’m not going to tell you about how big the real world is and the richness of what we can experience in real life. I’ll just point out that 80% of our memories are shaped by what we see. Do you want your memories to be mostly confined to what you saw in a 6-inch screen? Think about it. 

A false reality

When we share photos, post thoughts, or even ‘like’ what others post, we are not doing that for ourselves. We are trying to meet others’ expectations for SM. We exaggerate, we remove context, and we try to please.  All to get attention or seek approval. We’ve all done that, and that’s not OK. We are generating a false reality together and perpetuating each others’ distorted views of reality. Worse, we ‘judge’ each other based on what we see in that false world. That results in our relationships getting more narrow and superficial.

Selfishness

SM usage drives our selfishness
The reward center of our brains become most active when we talk about ourselves. The more we talk about ourselves, the more dopamine is released, and the better we feel. This is a vicious cycle that perpetuates constant blabbering about our own awesomeness. The constant need for attention shapes our alter ego, and its demands greatly supersede our real lives.

Productivity loss

The average person checks their smartphone 2,600 times a day. The majority of that is to check SM. That’s a staggering, even scary number. You might think just checking SM for a few moments at a time won’t do much harm. Wrong.[btx_image image_id=”103″ link=”/” position=”overlapleft” on_click=”none”]Credit pexels.com[/btx_image] Let’s use a simple example. You’re focused on some important work and get interrupted by a notification. Someone commented on your IG post. You feel happy(dopamine rush!), you drop work and check what that comment says. You may only spend 3 minutes reading and maybe responding. Your mind, however, is now engaged with a different mental process. You lost your train of thought when you were focused on work. 

So once you’re done with IG and try to get back to work, it takes time for your mind to engage – 23 minutes on average. And how many times do we check SM during the day? Shocking, isn’t it? So go ahead and admit it – SM is killing our productivity.

SM skills vs. real(other) skills

Granted, a few people make money with social media. The brutal truth, my friend, is that most of them are already famous and influential elsewhere. Through talent and skills outside of SM. If you want to live off just through your SM presence, that’s a full-time job that requires total concentration and 24/7 dedication. And there’s a downside. You’re at the mercy of whoever is operating the SM platform and its popularity. You might be a big IG influencer now, but there’s no guarantee that IG will always be popular, or have the features that you’ve mastered to make yourself popular. Only a very small fraction of ‘influencers,’ say <1%, will make enough money to be considered ‘rich.’ Like Kylie Jenner. I won’t stop you from aspiring to be like Kylie, but I’d rather take my chances and work on developing skills off of SM that make me stand out. Then you can hire an SM person to do all your posting for you. 
There are many more downsides to SM and being addicted to it that impacts our lives at all levels. With the above, I hope I’ve covered the most important ones above. and convinced you that SM does more harm and has no benefit. Let’s switch gears and talk about how what we should do.

Deleting it

So, having become aware of how honestly I don’t need it, I’ve decided to delete it.
It’s not that complicated, you can Google how to do it. It’s a resolute mental task – you make a decision, be present when you do it, and just go and delete it, and that’s that. You don’t have it anymore. Just make sure you’re not signed into useful apps using SM credentials. Or just change your password to something you’ll never remember. 
So you did it. Now, let’s discuss what you’re getting in exchange. I’m sure you’ll love it.

Freedom – mental space

Your SM-free mind will now have so much free space for your own thoughts and memories now that you’re not processing the lives of others. You might not feel the effects immediately, but you will feel it, I swear. The freedom felt is not just time spent on SM being freed up – you now have more mental space for your own thoughts. This opens up a plethora of possibilities.

[btx_image image_id=”104″ link=”/” position=”center” on_click=”none”]This opens up in your brain. Credit pexels.com[/btx_image]

Rerouting the focus

You no longer have to think and behave according to a UX designed to keep you there and watch ads. There’s no one to impress, no need to check up on others all the time, and there’s no pressure to post to prove that you’re alive. You’re now thinking inside out instead of outside in, on your own. Use this to recalibrate your thoughts and focus on what’s really important.

Productivity gain

You’ve got it by now – you’re now free of distractions from SM and the time it takes to refocus on what really needs to be done. It’s been more than a month since I’ve gotten off SM and my productivity took off. How do I know? I’ve measured. Every day, I assign a list of tasks that needs to be done, and by the end of the day, I try to complete the whole list. Comparing the success rate now, and two months ago, my productivity went up by roughly 25%. That’s not a negligible metric. And bare in mind, I was a ‘light’ SM user.

Creativity gain

There’s a part of your brain that is responsible for creativity. It works like a muscle – you have to train it. If you don’t, it will atrophy. Spending time on SM weakened your creative muscle or even shaped it in the way SM wanted. Here too, it’s time get back in control. You were being programmed, now it’s time to reprogram, even rewire, your brain and tap into its broad potential. 

Control

SM was not only distracting me, but it was also dictating my communications flow. Breaking out of that now puts me back in the driver’s seat. I’ve shifted to asynchronous conversations over WhatsApp* or email and respond to messages only when it’s a good time for me and when I’m ready for a thoughtful response. Nothing is that urgent (certainly not some meme your buddy sent to “check this out.”) and what I lost in speed I’ve made up for with quality.
*WhatsApp is often called an SM but you don’t have to use it as one. Be deliberate and judicious with your responses, and it becomes an effective asynchronous communication tool.

Building real relationships

Not being updated on my friend’s lifestream, gave me a chance to put some relationships into a broader perspective. It’s not good enough to just see what you posted, I want to hear your voice or read your true thoughts in a one-on-one setting. If you read this and I haven’t called you, just call or email me. I’m not reading messages on FB or IG. 

Conclusion

The bottom line is, time is a finite resource and we ought to be careful how do we spend it.
We are simply not built to stare at a 6-inch window to get the occasional dopamine rush.
I’d rather spend the same time on the terrace gazing the setting sun, smiling and being present at the moment. If you’re there with me, even better.

[btx_image image_id=”105″ link=”/” position=”center” on_click=”none”]I rather sit here, sip on my coffee, stare at the view, and ‘do nothing’.[/btx_image]

Thank you for reading.

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Appendix:

Muting the social media

Deleting social media is an ideal move towards a more productive future.
But, if you insist on using it and you have the willpower to control it, there are steps to ease that process:
– muting it – simply turn off all the notifications, and do not get any ‘buzzes’. Your engagement is solely dependent on the time in the app.
– remove the icons from your first screen (desktop), so your finger doesn’t ‘fly’ to it
– whenever someone sends you a message there, tell them that you prefer email (whatever else) to discuss stuff. Discourage people from texting you over SM as a primary tool.
– track your SM usage either via built-in trackers or by limiting screen usage time. Both android and iOS have the options to set how much time per day can you spend in each app.
– make your device black-and-white: this way you reduce your overall screentime, and all images on SM are not optimized for b/w and look like shit there. You will use it much less, as a consequence.
– take time to curate the content – follow only those that bring benefit to your stream. Delete everyone else.

Often, people use various excuses as to why they have to keep on using it.
Let me address the most frequently mentioned.

I need it for my business.

Fine, delete the personal one and opt for the business page, but focus on the business-related stuff there.

I like to keep a collage of my pictures.

No, you like the attention and approval that you’re getting. Tons of other apps can sort it out for you. Your phone has a gallery with the option of creating albums and/or starred images folder.

How do I update my life to people I like?

Call. Whatsapp. Zoom. Line. Telegram. Email. Meet with them. Make it more personal.

I just like it. It doesn’t bother with my life.

Re-evaluate and do a truthful metric of how u use it and whether it’s improving your life.

I barely use it, I don’t need to delete it.

Have you measured how much do you use it? I bet you haven’t.
I could almost envision you now, endlessly swiping between stories. Stop lying. 😉

But Armando, there are way more benefits to it?

There are good sides to it, of course, but real life outweighs them all. No contest.

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BONUS TOPIC:

Parents and babies on social media

If you as a parent, put a picture of an innocent baby who has no right to its privacy nor its aware of a possibility of it, for everyone to see, I consider you A SELFISH IDIOT. Please, parents, stop this nonsense, use private channels for that, you are crossing the line.

Special Acknowledgment:

I want to thank my two dear friends, [btx_link url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/naotakem/” new_tab=”true”]Naotake[/btx_link] and [btx_link url=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/fwodzynski/” new_tab=”true”]Florian[/btx_link], for contributing and helping immensely to articulate my thoughts and deliver the message.

Sources I’ve used throughout my research:
https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/social-media-addiction/
https://www.athensjournals.gr/media/2017-3-1-2-Edwards.pdf
https://blog.dscout.com/mobile-touches
http://jodymedich.com/blog
Will technology make us SUPERHUMAN? | Jody Medich | TEDxKlagenfurt
Ted Talk – Why you should quite social media
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10649372/Food-porn-why-you-should-stop-taking-photos-of-your-grub.html
https://edition.cnn.com/2019/10/20/asia/smartphone-addiction-camp-intl-hnk-scli/index.html
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/12/humans-have-shorter-attention-span-than-goldfish-thanks-to-smart/
https://www.smudailycampus.com/ae/instagram-food-porn-has-negative-effects-on-health-eating-habits
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/311421https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338764206_Impact_of_Social_Media_Addiction_on_Employees’_Wellbeing_and_Work_Productivity
Why our screens make us less happy
https://consumer.healthday.com/health-technology-information-18/cellphone-health-news-729/dining-out-with-smartphones-isn-t-appetizing-736630.html