So a few days back I shared on Twitter that I’ve deleted all social media apps and direct messaging apps off my phone.
Over the holidays in Hawaii, I had a lot of thinking time while lounging around on the balcony of my cabin on the cruise (as you do) and decided that my attention has been taken up by this pesky phone that I use for everything in my life. It’s the first thing I pick up in the morning and the last thing I put down at night – and in between, I must touch or pick it up hundreds of times.
While on the phone, I can’t help but check social media and every time I do, the majority of times recently have left me somewhat dissatisfied.
Over break, I thought about a lot of things. One of them is the increase in time in consumption of social media that is adding little to no value to personal learning. There’s more consumption than experiments, applications, reflecting, blogging. This annoys me. pic.twitter.com/otZh9QOfhO
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) April 28, 2019
The reason is that I’m not feeling as connected as I once did and overall, felt that I was more bombarded with marketing messages – not only from advertisers but also from people in my network. Social media, over time, was being used less for conversations and connections and more about marketing or promoting products and services. Of course, I understand that people need to make a living and need to promote these however, personally, I was being overwhelmed. Similarly, the tone across social media was changing. Messages became repetitive, argumentative, personal.
As someone who seems to “take everything in intuitively”, it was getting me down. (Yes, believe it or not, despite the quirky nature, I am an empath and I tend to take on the feelings of people around me and this get tiring for me so one way I overcome it is by acting quirky or weird or simply, withdrawing to recoup some energy).
I started to notice patterns that I didn’t like about myself such as when my husband was talking to me, I was looking down at my phone scrolling through feeds.
When I was having a nice dinner and wanted to query something, I’d pull out my phone to Google it rather than just debate it for the fun of it.
If I wanted to capture something in the moment, I’d pull out my phone to take a photo or video about it and share it.
I also was spending more time consuming, less time creating or experimenting or reflecting/blogging.
That’s when I realised that I had to change my behaviour.
In an effort to get more of a perspective to the world around me, I had to start to focus more on what was happening in the moment – the here and now.
To give attention and priority to the people who were with me in person, in front of me.
It reminded me of the old days back when people used to call each other. Social media is akin to speaking to someone in person and then their phone rings. The person will either take the call (if the person on the other end is more important than you or it’s a convenient excuse to end the conversation) or put it to voicemail if what you’re saying was critical, relevant or important to them. On the whole, people who rang always seemed to get the priority in the past over the person who was physically standing in front of them.
“Oh, please excuse me, I must take this,” as they put up their finger and turn their back on you to take the call.
Now, as people aren’t answering their phone calls anymore, we could be standing in front of them talking but their attention and focus is on their phone AND we are competing with their entire followings, notifications and messages across a multitude of social media platforms as well as their organisational social networks!
I noticed these behaviours in myself that I hated in others.
For example, when you talk to someone, you can tell that they’re not really paying attention to what you’re saying. They’re thinking about saying the next thing, or their mind is on something altogether different. They’re vacant while you’re talking to them – and you can actually, physically see that. The eyes don’t focus on you or they’re glancing down to their phone; they’re scrolling their feeds while you’re talking; they’re not making eye contact; they’re nodding their head or spurring you to get to the point; or they say something that is irrelevant and unrelated to the conversation that you wonder whether they’ve been listening at all!
This in turn, makes you cut your sentences short (because you don’t want to take up any more of their time), you make some stupid claim or statement or a loud laugh to momentarily get their attention back to you or you apologise for taking their time and walk away feeling like a twat.
So by watching others and how they interacted with me when their attention was diverted, made me reflect on my own behaviour only to realise I was doing the same thing! Naturally, I felt like crap that I should be disrespecting the other person who was talking to me and I wasn’t giving my undivided attention.
As a start to change this annoying habit about myself, I started reading more fiction books to delay the need to look at my phone. This has been somewhat successful because I can go for some time however, I needed to do more.
I decided to just use social media on the desktop instead. So I deleted all the apps off my phone keeping only Snapchat (which let’s face it, isn’t really a social medium more of a direct messaging app) because it’s the only app that I actually feel GOOD after using it every time because I’ve connected with someone and had a conversation with them via voice or video. I find Snapchat more real and personable than any other app I have used.
After a few days, I’ve already noticed some things:
- Firstly, the need to share things in the moment is not available to you. That is, it’s not as simple as point, shoot and share. If you don’t have the app on your phone, it would mean having to take a photo and then later on, uploading that photo onto your desktop and then sharing it – by that stage, why bother? It would have lost the impact. So now, when I come across something, I think “is this worth sharing?”
- Secondly, the time you are on your desktop is limited. I use it during my work hours Monday through to Wednesday and then possibly, a couple of hours across Thursday, Friday and Sundays. If you haven’t checked your social media feeds in that time, you have a lot to get through and so I start to question, “is this important to me right now?” As a result, I only catch the current, most recent notifications.
- Thirdly, I’ve scanned messages and had this desire to answer them. As I start writing responses, I then delete them and I catch myself thinking, “Do you need to respond to this?”. This usually happens in LinkedIn.
- Fourthly, my focus is not broken up by taking out my phone to take a picture or a video or search online for something. I have to take a note of it and then revisit it at some later time. It’s making me think hard on what I want to do or read or view. Of course, it makes working out loud impossible but then, I’m okay with that because I am beginning to change my tune on this because I learn best when I first make sense of it myself – then share it for other perspectives.
So in effect, it’s a slow process to change my mindset about this in an effort to reclaim my time and attention but also give the respect of my time and attention to others by asking the one question:
“Is it worth it?”