The reason why there is “social” in social media is that we can keep in touch and build networks. Ironically, the more connected that we become via all these new platforms, the more blurry our personal relationships become.

Photo Credit: Seth Doyle on Unsplash

The reason why there is “social” in social media is that we can keep in touch and build networks. Ironically, the more connected that we become via all these new platforms, the more blurry our personal relationships become. I can’t tell you the number of times, people have sent me a friend or connection request on various platforms but when we meet IRL (in real life), our conversations can’t go past ‘Hello’.

Another reality of living in the social media age is that we are afraid of being alone, physically and mentally. That’s why everywhere you look, everyone is either scrolling through their feed or plugged in their earphones to either avoid the mental noise or avoid making small talk with the stranger sitting next to them on the bus.  I know you are going to say this is the only time that I have to finish listening to S-Town but sometimes we rob ourselves of the opportunity to think through the issues that we are facing and the joy of living in the moment.

When I took the time to reflect on my own social media habits, I realised a couple of things:

Networking ≠ Not Working.

Let that sink for a minute.

I know. I know. As a person who ‘graduated’ with a Magna Cum Laude from “Google University”, I can authoritatively say that not everything falls under the bracket of “research”.  As an early career researcher, I know that spending a lot of time on the internet can mislead you to think that you are being productive but in essence, you are only sinking deeper into the internet black hole.

I am sure that if you simply scroll through your Twitter feed you will find numerous links to articles or online courses or webinars that promise to help leverage your social media presence. But, if you calculate the total amount of the time that you spend on these social media platforms and compare it with the yielded ROTI (Return on Time Invested, not the Indian flatbread), you will not be very proud of yourself.

Related to this, be present when you are meeting people for coffee dates or meals by putting your device face and/or on flight mode. One of the best gifts that you can give a fellow human being is reminding them that they are special or worthwhile by giving them your full attention.

Scheduling time for researching specific items and then disconnecting from the internet so that I can purely focus on my tasks and allows you time to spend time with the important people in your life whether in person or via phone or Skype.

Batch and Ship

Unless you are expecting some urgent information, you can put off opening my email as the first order of the day, when you get to the office.  As someone once put it, you are less likely to bombarding yourself with other people’s priorities first before setting up your own for the day. By letting your mail pile and answering them at specific times of the day will enable you to focus on the important first and it also gives you a sense of achieving instead of switching attention from multiple tabs.

One of the perks of living in a digital economy is that there is an app for everything. So use the tools at your disposal to filter and organise your email so that you can focus on creating and achieving your goals.  Personally, I was inspired by the KonMari method by Japanese Marie Kondo, I am have been on unsubscribing and deleting accounts that I no longer resonate with.

You Do Not Have Read Every Single Blog Post

Keeping up with the news using a blog aggregator or reader such as RSS, Bloglovin’, Feedly etc. can be a double-edged sword.  They are great at reducing the number of tabs that you open go but at the same time, depending on the number of blogs that you subscribe you can also easily get overwhelmed especially when you take a mini-hiatus.In such situations, selectively clipping important articles, sections or pictures and saving them on apps like Evernote or Pocket, not only reduces your carbon footprint but also helps to organise them in an accessible manner. It is also important to give yourself permission to  ‘Mark All Read’.

Go ahead.

The world will not come to an end.

Go Cold Turkey

I decided to wean myself of social media like deleting my WhatsApp yourself by replacing the time with an alternative activity.  In my case, after I completed my grad school dissertation, I hungered for alternative information. So I headed to the library and charity shops to find books that did not fall under the finance and economics categories. But I fell into a reading slump and had to make the conscious effort to get back into my groove. Nowadays, I always have a book with me so that I read while commuting or queuing as well as to block off all the glaring ‘FREE WIFI’ signs.

While you might not be a bookish person, still hear me out. This might be the perfect time to get take up that hobby that you have been postponing for lack of time like visiting flea markets, hiking or playing a sport.

Disconnecting helps you connect and create more -Ann Makosinki

Social Media Free Weekends

Arguably most people tend to make use of their social media accounts during their downtime. Who would not want to immortalise that they attended the Koroga Festival or all the cute things that you saw at the K1 Flea Market? But sometimes,  it better to savour the moments with worrying how many likes or re-tweets Sunday oatmeal pancakes garnered on social media. Maybe this could be the perfect time to practice your photography skills on the DSLR that is gathering dust. How about taking the wellness challenge and swap endless scrolling on your screen for real face-to-face conversations?

Bonus: Why I Get Off Social Media on the Weekends

Put the Miracle into Your Mornings

If you have ever watched  YouTube sensations’  morning routines, you will notice that most of them will begin their days by automatically reaching for their iPhones and checking their Instagram and Facebook feed and replying to their comments and tags. I used to check my Twitter feed first thing in the morning but I noticed that by the time I got out of bed, I was emotionally and psychologically drained by all the horrible news that occurred while I rested. So I stopped.

I decided to use this time in a more mindful manner like spiritual meditation, journaling and ensuring that I have time to eat a proper breakfast. (I am still working on the exercise part.). These are all activities that Hal Elrod describes as Miracle Mornings where you schedule an hour or two of self-care so that you prepare yourself for world domination and other issues that may have occurred while you were sleeping.

Arriving at your place of work gives you an opportunity to have some “me-time” to write your to-do lists first and/or finishing the last couple of pages of the book that I was reading during my commute or reading articles.

In the context of work, uncontrolled time makes me uncomfortable. If you’re serious about working deeply and producing high-end value, it should probably make you uncomfortable as well. Using your inbox to drive your daily schedule might be fine for the entry-level or those content with a career of cubicle-dwelling mediocrity, but the best knowledge workers view their time like the best investors view their capital, as a resource to wield for maximum returns – Cal Newport

After my introspection, I have given myself permission to decline random social media requests and to consciously subscribe to newsletters. I truly believe that if someone is genuinely interested in you and what you do, they will go beyond a generic “I would like to add you to my LinkedIn Network” request and drop you a note (DM, email or snail mail).  More importantly, I am continuously reminding myself that I should not judge my everyday life with someone else’s social media feed.

As I write this, I recognise that social media is a force that everyone has to struggle with.

That I have also to struggle with. Every. Single. Day.

Psychologists have even equated social media to Pavlovian cues trigger dopamine, the pleasure hormone.  This, in turn, results in you falling into the internet rabbit hole.

But in the long run, it will boil down to the counting the cost of building quality relationships, building your body of work and your overall well-being.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives-Annie Dillard 

The ball is in your court.


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6 thoughts on “A More Realistic Plan for Coping in the Distraction Age

  1. Very sobering post this is! I once deleted all my accounts on social media, Deleted, not Deactivated and I’ve been out since then. Just recently did I create an instagram account, which I use occassionally by uninstalling and reinstalling.. One needs lots of self control though coz it s really hard to not be on social media in this day and age.


    1. Hi Grace! Well, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. At least these days, I don’t have as much FOMO as before. I think it gets better with time.


    1. Thanks for stopping by Patsy. This was one of those posts where I was preaching to myself too. I am glad you enjoyed it. Looking forward to reading more from your blog too. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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