There’s a good chance you’re reading this because of a link you saw on social media. But here’s what you need to know: I didn’t post it there. As of this morning I am officially on an extended social media break. My husband has changed all of my passwords with strict instructions not to tell me what they are until I finish my current novel (he’s Texan, so there’s no way he’ll cave) and I’ve deleted all social media apps from my phone, including Pinterest and Words with Friends. It’s a pretty extreme thing to do, I know. But I am convinced that there are seasons in life where the best things we can do for our personal and professional lives is to walk away from the distraction of social media. And my guess is you’ve thought of doing the same. So, today I’m offering three reasons why you might want to join me in this radical experiment. All three apply to me at the moment and I’d wager you can relate to one or more yourself.
You Need To Focus On That Big Project.
I’m in the homestretch with a new novel and I won’t finish on time unless I am ruthless about eliminating distractions from my life. The book is called I WAS ANASTASIA and is about the last days of Anastasia Romanov and the woman believed to be her most famous imposter. It explores the long-standing mystery of whether or not the young, Russian Grand Duchess survived the massacre that killed her family and is…well…something of a beast to write. To do this story justice I have to be fully present. I have to, as Dr. Cal Newport says, do deep work. At the moment there is nothing social media can provide that will replace time spent with my manuscript and in my research material.
Do you have a big project that needs to get finished? Maybe you’re also writing a book. But maybe you’re remodeling your kitchen or rebuilding a car engine with your teenage son. If you have a big, glaring project on your to-do list that just doesn’t ever seem to get finished, then perhaps it’s time to take a social media break.
You Need To Focus On Your People.
Speaking of teenage sons, I have one of those as well. I also have a pre-teen and two elementary age boys. And while none of them are driving yet, all of them are playing baseball at the moment. And it’s amazing! It’s also time consuming and a lot to keep up with. Four boys. Four teams. Each with two games every week and, well, I have to be on my A-game to keep everything straight. But it’s not just the schedule. Lately I’ve found myself on the stands watching a ballgame on a beautiful evening. And what am I doing? Looking around to see if there’s anything interesting I can Instagram. I’m embarrassed that I’ve become that person. My children need me to be present and accounted for because in a few years there won’t be any more baseball games or choir concerts or awards ceremonies to photograph. I don’t want to miss them while trying to record them.
Do you have people in your life that you need to focus on? Maybe it’s a friend who’s going through a rough patch. Or your spouse is in the middle of a tough work transition. Or your children are struggling in school. Maybe your relationships are in a good place right now and you simply want to enjoy them. If you’ve been thinking that your people need more of you these days, then perhaps it’s time to take a social media break.
You Need To Focus On Your Heart.
Sometimes it’s all a bit too much. And social media gives us a million reasons every day to feel discontent, jealousy, isolation, anger, frustration, comparison, and any number of other blood-pressure-raising emotions. Sure, there are plenty of good things about it. But there are also seasons in life when the bad things outweigh the good things and our poor, battered hearts could really use a rest. We could use a bit of curated silence. We could use some time with the real people in our real lives. We could use a break from the Twitter/Facebook fight du jour.
Do you find that you can’t log on to social media these days without flinching first? If you type in your password and automatically wonder who is hurling abuse, or who is sticking their foot in their mouth, or who is getting publicly shamed today, then perhaps it’s time to take a social media break.
Really, I suppose, the point of this exercise is simply to focus. To focus on the things that matter. Your work matters. Your people matter. Your heart matters. Social media? Not so much.
Here’s the Ted Talk that convinced me to step away from the “social media slot machine” and engage in some really deep work for the remainder of this year. If you decide to join me, leave a comment below.
Interested in this subject? Read DEEP WORK by Cal Newport
In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, DEEP WORK takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories — from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air — and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. DEEP WORK is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.