As we engage with constant bombardment from the outside world, we can feel overwhelmed, unmotivated and tired. No longer are we creating our days and feeling like we are ahead of the storm; instead we let our intentions drift off between text messages and Facebook notifications. The reality is that nearly everyone is addicted to his or her mobile phone and social media platforms such as Facebook. This habit hurts. And it hurts because it gets in the way of productivity, which is the ticket to fulfilling our goals. It hurts, because in the guise of connecting with more people more often through our mobile devices and social media platforms, we actually feel less connected to one another.
An essential flaw with the social media family is that people are losing their connection with themselves. We are laying down a persona in the public domain, something that we presumably would like to be seen as, or something that we feel embodies our spirit. The trouble is, most people are not sure who they are, what makes their lives meaningful or how to genuinely connect. There are too many people sitting beside each other at the dinner table with eyes on their respective mobile devices.
To get something straight: I DO NOT hate Facebook or social media generally. But I think that the way we allow it to distract us from real life is a trap. Facebook can be inspiring and uplifting when our chosen ‘friends’ are inspired and uplifted (or want to give the impression they are). When we don’t choose our friends so carefully and find our newsfeeds full of depression, cries for help and attention, it is time to take a close look at ourselves and what we are allowing to permeate into our lives. Rehashing a quote by motivational speaker Jim Rohn: “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. ”
What does this mean in your life? Perhaps if your Facebook newsfeed is depressing, then it’s time for a wake-up call. Get off the screen and into the world and take a good look in the mirror. So we can see Facebook has some uses in terms of personal self-awareness!
So what do we do now that we know that we are addicted to touching the shiny iPhone every 10 minutes, even when it’s not ringing or demanding our attention? What do we do when we feel compelled to check Facebook 20 times a day, for the tiniest glimmer of positive reinforcement that your new haircut looks ok? What we need to do today, to get to where we would like to be going, is to meet with people face to face and connect, and to take time out to sit with ourselves.
As someone who is currently battling a technology addiction, my best advice is to gather up your willpower and unplug. Turn off your phone and do not check your social media profiles (and this will take self control for many of you). Sitting alone with yourself will probably feel a tortuous, lonely experience. Though the reality is, you were probably lonely on Facebook, it’s just that all the beeps and sensory distractions helped you to forget.
This weekend, I’m having a technology unplug. I’m turning off my iPhone, ignoring social media and spending time away from friends to be by myself. Why? Before this weekend, I noticed that I was probably sending 50 text messages a day to 10 different people, sending 30 emails, checking Facebook over 20 times throughout the day and spending over two hours of my 24 on the phone. Just typing out my usual technology expenditure this is exhausting to recall, and while I am a busy woman, this weekend’s unplug has taught me that it is important to see where you are putting your energy. Where energy goes is where you will grow.
I would rather have a successful business than be maxing out on likes for a post I generate. I understand that social media platforms such as Facebook are a great way to gain publicity for a product. At Flightamins we are grateful for these platforms, which allow us to connect with travellers and help them to stay well. However, the bottom line is, unless you have a product (and even if you do!) or are a product (i.e. a celebrity), if you are spending loads of time on Facebook then you probably need to unplug.
I started my unplug on Saturday at noon, with the intention of just allowing myself to do whatever I pleased with my weekend. I prepared food and juices, finished reading a book I have been stagnating on for a month and went for a walk. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, listened to music and did some work for my company. As the day meandered along, I noticed an overwhelming desire to go out and see friends, but I decided to stick with my plan. Instead I made posters for my new Chinese medicine venture and read another book. The time away from other people was very therapeutic for me, especially since I know that my sense of self worth is tied to accomplishment. I got things done because I wanted to and that felt good.
It is here in the quiet of our own time—without the distractions of other people’s feedback, likes or criticism—that we can discover what is right for us. Today I made breakfast and reflected on my life, and my relationship to friends and family. I envisioned future goals and got to the heart of why these really matter. I don’t think this level of clarity and depth would have been possible if I had allowed technology to interfere with my ‘me time’. I was quite impressed at the speed I could get things done. For example, documents that would usually take me a few hours were knocked out in under an hour. I have found this time very healing and useful and I hope that you will try to unplug too. Even if you try one day over the weekend, use your willpower and allow yourself the freedom to do whatever you want with the day.
Ok, so this is fine as a one-off, but how do we actually minimise distractions and stay focused on the other days when we aren’t unplugging?
I’ve been playing with this concept for a while and my key suggestions are:
- Put your phone on silent (unless you are expecting an important call) and check or post Facebook first thing, then resist the urge to check it throughout the day. If you are starving for a Facebook hit, have a look over lunch but then refocus and turn it OFF!
- Try and keep no more than 4 windows open at any one time in your browser and ensure that social media pages are not on any of these screens.
- Stop trying to sort things out by text. If you can see that something is going to take more than 1–2 text messages, then call.
- Make a real effort to be with the people you are with when you are with them! Turn off your phones and enjoy the moment.
- Don’t sleep with your phone on and ensure that if you have a phone waking you with an alarm that it is a song you really love. (I had the most annoying alarm tone for about 6 months last year. It was a sudden realisation when I discovered I had been starting my days being aggravated.)
The end point is: stay aware. Watch yourself and be honest with how much you are overusing your phone and social media. Have the guts to take a hard look at yourself and honestly admit the holes you are hoping to fill with this quick fix of sensory stimulation. Then use your willpower and pick one thing to focus on at a time. That way you can’t con yourself. If you are doing work and then doing social media, it’s a clear distinction. You can shut social media down before your productivity takes a dive.
As I sail towards Monday, I’m glad I took the time to shift my gaze from outside to in. I hope that this will provide you with some food for thought about your own habits with social media and technology consumption. I will resist my urge to hit Facebook now to post this! My unplug isn’t finished until Monday morning!!