Stop Social Networking From Taking Over Your Life

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2016-02-29 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Social media distractions

How can you break the social media habit without quitting social media? Get set up to receive good info without being sucked down the social media rabbit hole.

Social media is a huge waste of time … but it's also valuable.

The trouble is, the benefits of social media can't be justified by the time we spend on it. Or, more to the point, the mental energy or cognitive load devoted to social networks can't be justified by what we get out of them.

We spend all this time and energy because we've been trained by algorithms to compulsively return again and again to see if something has happened that we don’t want to miss out on. We check our phones. We check the sites. We're always checking—to the point of obsession and compulsion. Sound familiar?

Worse, we use social media to procrastinate. When we're doing something boring or challenging, it's too easy to just click over to a social site and distract ourselves. Social media has trained us to bail on problems that get hard and go check social media where everything is easy and usually trivial and superficial. It’s basically a form of escapism.

There are two ways to participate in the economy—as a producer or a consumer. You're a producer when you do your job: come up with a great idea for a startup; manage a team of people; call and interface with clients; write a book; or fix, build, clean up or deliver something.

Social media is a huge problem for anyone who wants to accomplish things in life. Why? Because all those minutes and hours you spend checking social media add up to many days, months and even years of wasted time and lower productivity. Every minute spent "consuming" on social media is a minute less of "producing" something.

How many goals won’t be achieved, how many companies won't get launched, how many books won't get written and how many clients won't be satisfied because too many people were too distracted by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and the other social networks.

And the problem will continue getting worse as more social networks come out and the social sites improve their algorithms to make themselves more distracting and addictive.

However, you can put an end to this increasingly time-devouring and life-eating problem! It's time to reclaim control of your time and attention by breaking the social media habit—without quitting social media.

Understanding Social Media Distraction

The compulsive, addictive distraction of social networks is all about the unstructured checking and browsing and hunting for content. We do this without much awareness. Once we get sucked in, we lose track of time

How often do you find yourself automatically checking your phone while in the company of others, around the dinner table with friends and family, or during other social and even professional interactions?

If you allow yourself to check social media whenever you feel like it, you're in trouble. Social sites are cleverly engineered to make you feel the need to check more frequently. And as the engineering gets better, the compulsion to check gets stronger.

While you're sitting there hunched over your laptop, it may look like work and feel like work, but it's actually the opposite of work.

Every time you check social sites like Twitter or Facebook, you place yourself on the edge of a rabbit hole where time stops and you could hand over control of your mental energy to the social mind hive. While you're sitting there browsing social media sites, clicking on videos, commenting on political posts, following links and generally following your compulsive curiosity, your vital powers are being drained.

At the end of the day, you're mentally exhausted. How much of that mental energy was invested in doing productive work, and how much was wasted on social media? It's impossible to know for sure, but most of us forget about all the social distractions and convince ourselves that we're tired and late and overwhelmed because we have too much work. Meanwhile, we justify this behavior because of the "truly valuable posts" we occasionally encounter.



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Mike Elgan, a Baseline contributor, is a Silicon Valley-based columnist, writer, speaker and blogger. http://elgan.com/

 
 
 
 
 
 

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