NOTE: I leave for college in 3 days. My output will hopefully be 1 post and 1 short every 2 weeks. This is part 1 of my take on social media and how to live a better life. Social media is revolutionary and important for some… I understand that… but do you need it? I found I didn’t.
I got rid of my social media*. First let me clarify exactly what I got rid of…
- Facebook: I would check this site about once a day. Sometimes more, and sometimes less.
- Twitter: I admittedly checked it around 5 times per day. The application on my phone made this extremely easy.
- Video Games & TV* : These follow the criteria of being distractions that took away from the day.
*I DO watch some TV still, mainly sports and MSNBC. I will get hooked on a series now and then though.
In my opinion, my days prior to this cut off were very productive. Typical tasks in my weekday would include:
- Finishing my part time shift (usually 4 hours).
- Attending my computer science course or doing work for the class (either were 3 hours).
- Working out once/twice a day (run & lift typically adding to a total 2-3 hours).
- Pursuing research interests (1 to 2 hours).
- Breaking down a lot of time towards reading (hours varied greatly 0-4+ hours).
With all of these “things” I was doing how could I question my lifestyle? I was getting plenty of sleep, completing what I needed to, living healthy, and having a good time! So what was my motivation to change? The answer to this question required me to do some thinking of my own.
Despite my productivity, the desire to optimize further persisted. I felt like I was lacking insight, lacking an ability to develop deep personal opinions on research, and feeling as if my day-to-day schedule had no core. I was going through the motions. I was not pushing myself. I was not allowing myself to fall into “deep focus,” but I would suspect for most people it would be considered a normal day. It was for me anyways.
The reason I pointed out my day-to-day schedule was not because I wanted to show how cool I am, but because those hours and hours of work make the total time I spent checking social media basically negligible. It was not like getting rid of these social accounts would free up globs of time that would allow me to independently re-develop Einstein’s theory of relativity. Many people’s defense when talking about social media is how negligible that time really is, and that it is a good filler between walking into the bathroom, and walking out (if they admit to ever checking their accounts at all). So what did deleting these accounts do for me?
Let’s Get Theoretical
It has now been over 30 days since I deleted my accounts. I would be lying if I said I was completing my schedule quicker, or living an astonishingly better life, but I will say that I am happier.
Social Media is a lot like a party. The main differences are that Social Media is active 24/7 and has basically an infinite amount of information. Parties end. Having access to this infinite content is very much like being in the thick of this very elaborate party with conversations on everything from sports to third world revolutions. We naturally love all of this information, because it is a wonderful wealth of a wide variety of topics.
For some people this information is excellent because they require a broad amount of quick information to find their work (ie. Journalists), but for others it creates a heavy problem. College students, for example, need focus. Although the amount of time spent checking social media is negligible (as defended by many), there is no doubt that it adds a lot of noise to the day. After deleting my accounts I found that I was able to move between tasks much more efficiently and my mind never wandered towards thinking about recent tweets or uploaded photos. I became very comfortable with what I was doing, rather than critiquing what others were sharing. Analogous to the party, I placed myself on the balcony, but was still able to witness the main events down below, like Gatsby anonymously wading through his do-well jubilant guests. The high pitched banter became a serene hum, and the tasks at hand were completed with more care and depth.
For those refuting the idea that these outside sources of petty information have no impact on their conscious work, I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s, “Blink.” The author of the highly disruptive, but popular book “Outliers”, provided concrete evidence that our conscious decisions can be greatly altered (I would say inhibited) by the environment’s affect on our sub conscious (read the book for great studies on this topic). Now reread this statement and absorb it. Gladwell’s work shows that even the mere wording of tests in certain ways had a profound affect on personality and mood. So how can you defend that observing hundreds of tweets, photos, videos, and updates a week does not affect personal behavior? Doesn’t it take away from what YOU are doing or maybe… what you want to do?
Simplify your life. You already have so much to do and think about. Why hinder it all with unnecessary information? Become a person who creates an output surplus rather than one who sucks down mostly useless information. Think independently, and don’t know everything about every person’s life. It makes for better conversations. Become the most interesting person at the party… everybody will genuinely ask you what you’ve been up to… rather than pretending like they don’t know every bit of information you have shared online.
Enjoy the balcony view, appreciate the hum of activity, and focus better than ever before.
* Social Media: Twitter and Facebook are NOT everything. If you are serious you have to look at your ‘infinite’ sources of information… instagram, pinterest, vine, ifunny… all of it.