Who knew social media could be so destructive to one’s productivity? When I began to actively engage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Flipboard, etc., I really had no idea. I had no clue that the minutes would become hours and the time would steal my creativity, confidence, and passion away from me. I didn’t realize the time it took me to come up with a creative post for my FB audience was time that I wasn’t spending polishing a manuscript. I didn’t understand that I started altering my life according to which photos would look good on my Instagram profile. I didn’t appreciate that focusing on who was following me, prevented me from creating the products that made people follow me in the first place. I was delusional.
I started to realize how social media had been affecting me when it became nearly impossible to sit at my desk for more than two minutes without NEEDING a distraction. The thought of sitting in front of a laptop and writing for an hour straight gave me anxiety. Processing how to respond to a complicated email gave me anxiety. But, where was all of this anxiety coming from? I wasn’t an anxious child. I wasn’t someone who was afraid to work. And, I’ve put in 8 hours straight writing novels and movie scripts without breaking a sweat. So, how am I afraid of an hour of writing? That’s what I decided to figure out.
Is social media good for me?
During the second week of December 2017, I came across an article from a former Facebook executive who spoke of the ill effects of social media on a person’s mind. Then I googled additional articles about the adverse effects of using social media. There were more articles than I could even believe. For the last two years, I’ve been struggling mightily with focus and concentration and in many of the articles, that is one of the largest complaints against social media. The non-stop feed of instant likes, comments, reactions = instant gratification. Your mind gets addicted to the feeling and all of a sudden you can’t bare to go a moment without being fed some superficial like.
Wow. Could that be the reason I couldn’t produce content like I used to? Could it be as simple as retreating from social media?
These are the six steps I took to test the theory:
1. I shut off notifications from Instagram and Facebook—the two sites which I spent the most time on. Within a couple of days, I noticed I wasn’t as down after visiting social media. I also felt better knowing that I chose to go on Facebook when I wanted and not when I was notified. That gave me a sense of power and control and also confidence.
2. For the first few days of shutting off Instagram and FB notifications, I put my phone in another room while I was working. I knew I would be tempted and so I didn’t want to sabotage myself. I thought about my phone being in the next room more than I care to admit, but I stuck to it. My focus didn’t immediately improve but my general well-being did. I felt happier and I can’t really explain why but I believe it has to do with not being distracted by notifications.
3. After a week of surviving without Instagram and Facebook notifications, I put my phone on airplane mode while working. This may seem extreme but let me explain. I wanted to know if I had no notifications, how would that make me feel? No text message notifications? No phone calls to “just say hi…” I had to find out. I work from home and I have a landline. I told my family members that I needed to be able to work distraction-free and so if there was really an emergency to just call me on my landline. The freedom I experienced in just one day made me think I was living in the time BEFORE Facebook. It was like the world had slowed down if only a bit. I immediately noticed feeling happier and in more control of my life.
I immediately noticed feeling happier and in more control of my life.
4. I began deleting time killing and unnecessary apps from my phone. Solitaire is gone, ABC is gone, CBS is gone, TMZ is gone, Page Six is gone, NY Post is gone, Fandango is gone, and so many more. My news apps literally sucked the life out of my days sometimes, but I was addicted to getting my news on my phone, all the time. The first thing I noticed about deleting these apps is when I thought to reach for my phone to play Solitaire or check TMZ, I’m not reaching for a book to read. So, the apps were enablers of my procrastination. Realizing this alone has made this change worthwhile.
5. I switched my personal Instagram profile to private. This wasn’t purely my idea. In one of the articles on the negative effects of social media, it was revealed that worrying about how many friends you have on social media takes up unnecessary concern and causes stress and depression in your life. I thought about it for a moment. I really enjoy my privacy and yet for the trend of Instagram, I’ve slowly compromised my privacy. I don’t want to share salads, my kids and photos of me from when I was 3. Those are my precious moments. So why am I? And in particular, why am I allowing a bunch of strangers to casually view those moments? I felt better knowing that a private profile allowed me to approve who would share in my moments. The minute I changed my Instagram profile status to private, my heart rate changed. Literally, my beats per minute dropped one whole beat to 60 beats per minute. The last time it was at 60 beats per minute was a month earlier on the day before my wedding anniversary.
6. I turned off all notifications for all remaining apps on my phone. Every Single One. Even text messages. Yep, and I have two kids. This is my deal. If there is an emergency, call me on the landline. If I’m not at home, I’ll have my cell phone on and I’ll receive your emergency. Other than that, I’m not going to be distracted every single moment of the day. Just not gonna happen anymore. There may be some people out there who will judge me for this, but I have to tell you, “It feels good to say to my kids and my family, I need time for me to focus.” Needing to focus doesn’t make me a bad mom and retreating from social media taught me that.
The results are in…
Now, as of this writing, I still have Twitter, FB, Instagram, Pinterest and a bunch of other social media. I changed my personal Instagram page back to public but, I’m using my social media differently. I’m not posting as much and I’m not allowing the notifications on my phone. I’m going to see how my focus and productivity is impacted within the coming weeks and months and give another update on this story. But, I must say, I’m truly optimistic about what’s going to happen. I’ve already given notes on a colleague’s screenplay, edited a resume for a family member, ordered Christmas gifts and written this blog post all on the same day. These are all things I would have procrastinated on further had I not stepped away from social media.