Recently I deleted all social media off my phone in an effort to reclaim my focus and attention. I was using my phone too much during the day and evening and when I wasn’t, I was thinking about it.
I use my phone for not only consuming information and surfing the internet but also creating content. In fact, it’s my device for creating and editing video content so you can imagine that I’m always using it. I would say that I’m one of the people who use the phone in so many ways more than the average user because it’s my learning, creation, business, work, entertainment and so much more.
It’s an integral piece of kit for every person nowadays. I get that.
However, when I was on it, there was always some pull to have me check my newsfeeds from Twitter and LinkedIn and then once I was in there, I would respond to posts, read posts and share posts and before you know it, my original goal of completing a task that would have taken 15 minutes, was now not finished and I had wasted an hour on it. I also queried why I was sharing everything that I was creating. I need not do that. It’s adding no value to anyone most of all, to me because it doesn’t give me a chance to reflect on what it is I’m doing instead, appeasing some gratifying need of having people see my work or engage with it through views or likes.
However, that wasn’t my main reason for deciding to delete them. It was where my attention was.
I noticed my own behaviours.
When I was driving in my car, I’d make a mental note of where my phone was – did I bring it with me? Was it in my bag? Can I reach for it? If I had an accident, would I be able to call up emergency services if I needed to? Was it fully charged?
Why was I thinking like that when my attention should be on the road?
Then, when I was out and about taking video footage, my awareness of my surroundings and environment would be reduced. That meant that just by not being aware of my surroundings, I could easily put myself into a vulnerable position of a mugging, or having someone steal my bag easily.
Watching the Instagrammers at Diamond Head take ludicrous actions by ignoring signs that alerted them to danger and climb out to rocky cliffs for the perfect shot made me realise that effect of social media has gone too far.
This is not what social media was meant to be about.
The Wake-Up Call: I’m Going to See Someone Die In Front of My Eyes
I think the biggest wake up call was when I realised that it would be only a matter of time before I see my first fatality on a busy street – that is, it dawned on me that it’s likely that I’m going to see someone with their head down looking at their phone, oblivious to their surroundings be killed by a car or truck on the road. It’s an image I don’t want to ever have to see because it will live with me for a long time and most of all, it’s a stupid way to die.
So I gave up social media on the phone – including the direct messaging apps – to get my focus back.
From now on, I was only going to check social media if I happened to be in front of a computer desktop (which I access at certain times of the day).
Fear of Missing Out
Looking back now on my initial fear of missing out on important information shared by my network or not being in conversations where I can help people was nonsensical. It was an unfounded fear.
The truth is, for a while now, I’ve felt that conversations with my own peers in Learning and Development have been going around in circles. We talk about the same topics over and over and after a while, it starts to become tedious.
I know the position where people stand on certain topics, some have their own agendas as well which are evident but on the whole, the way people use and engage in social media is their prerogative.
Also, there’s fewer people in the conversations as some leave Twitter and go to LinkedIn, leave social media entirely or just focus on getting on with life.
In my own personal situation, I didn’t like how my mindset and behaviours were being changed, and how I let it start to take over my thinking however I was fearful that if I wasn’t on it, I would miss out on:
- The latest articles or posts that my network shared so that I was ‘in the know’ (you can still see them in Feedly or another newsreader)
- The conversations around the above posts and articles (people prefer to share and retweet these and not engage with them – or there’s only some people who have conversations about them)
- Being seen as being up to speed with the trends and insights (now I realise it’s the quality of your thinking through blogging, sense or meaning-making, observations, reflections than the speed of which you share SOMEONE ELSE’S thinking)
- That I wouldn’t be espousing ‘working out loud’ when my entire ethos of personal learning is about showing and sharing my work openly and transparently (I now realise that there is so much muddled thought about what this is and meant to be – and how confused it has become around trademarks – that I can still show and share my work openly and transparently but that I don’t need to show everything otherwise, it is simply ‘noise’ – noise that makes people switch off and I don’t know, say, get off social media as they start to put back some boundaries in their lives….?)
- I’m going to lose some reputation and credibility in the area of global learning and development (I now realise that although some people will measure your success based on the books you have written, the keynote presentations you present, the amount of travel you do, the number of conferences you attend during the year, the cliques that you’re part of, your financial status, the amount of followers you have, or the people you’re connected to and I realise ‘who cares’ – that’s not how I measure success. My success is dependent on the relationships I have with people and doing good work that builds reputation, credibility and trust between my colleagues and clients.
So they were my biggest fears however I now see they’re unfounded. Let’s see how this all goes and where it takes me.
Rest assured, I still use social media – it just means you won’t see me posting, sharing, retweeting, responding quickly because of the limited times I have on it when I happen to be at my desktop.