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  • Derek

A Barrier that can be Taken Down

I'm 3/4 of the way through, Cal Newport's book "Deep Work" (2016). It's fantastic! Not only that, but think for a minute that Cal wrote this book 7-years ago; yet if anything it's EVEN MORE important now to read his words! Wow.

Throughout the book, an obvious distraction that is discussed is social media ("networking tools" as he calls it in the book). A later chapter dives deeper into social media usage. Cal Newport approaches this in a very intelligent way though, I feel. He's not saying "you should quit social media", but rather is throwing out realistic questions to ask yourself in regards to it's importance in your life, and whether or not it's helping or detering you from doing your best work (personal and professional). I compare it with my job as a Fitness and Health Coach. My job is not (contrary to popular belief) to "tell people what to do", but rather coach them and guide them on the correct path that works for them. In doing so, my job IS to ensure that my client is being honest and realistic with him/her self as to what IS and ISN'T working.

In this chapter of Cal's book, he suggests stopping social media for 30-days. Completely. Don't announce it. Just step away - cold turkey. Then, after your 30-days ask yourself two very important questions. The second question is one, for the purpose of this post, I wanted to mention:

Did people care that I wasn't using this service?

This brought back some memories for me.

Those who know me know, I left social media several years ago now. Now that said, I use Facebook and YouTube for work and my music hobby/gigs purposes. However, personal usage stopped several years ago now with zero regrets.

Cal's question however struck me because... it's true! Anyone reading this who hasn't tried leaving social media for any length of time, try it. You'll be surprised how many people actually realize/notice you're not there. Two years after leaving Facebook, a friend of mine who lives in Bowmanville says in conversation "well you're on Facebook...". "No man!" I replied. "I haven't been for a couple years". "Really??" he said. This has come up with a few different people over the years, which says to me everytime that my choice was right for me.

Social Media has become a major barrier for several people (of all ages) in that it prevents them from reaching goals (personally and/or professionally). In regards to healthy

lifestyle practices, social media often takes so much of our time and energy away from other activities that would provide many more benefits inside and out. Rather than putting time into ourselves, hobbies, work etc... we choose to mindlessly "doom-scroll" through our contacts feeds to see "what they have to say today" , "what their dinner looks like today" or "Oh look, so-and-so's cat made a funny face".

Cal reminds us however how some examples of social media usage are truly helpful and useful to people. For example a solider who is overseas and wants to keep in contact with friends/family. Another example would be a young man/woman just starting college in a new city, away from home and can utilize the connection of loved ones and friends as they settle into a new chapter in life. For them, social media is an excellent tool to utilize to keep loved ones close and in touch. The key word here is "tool". Dr Greg Wells recommends the same concept: It's not that we "should" quit social media per say, but rather be honest with ourselves in how it's helping us in our everyday lives. If it's creating stress, mood swings and/or sucking time and energy from our days, maybe we need to revisit it's importance. However, if the time spent on it serves as a useful tool (personally and/or professionally) and it doesn't take away from your time and/or energy, it holds value.

It all comes down to being honest with yourself and understanding if social media is useful for YOU!

In his book, Cal Newport uses the words "low-impact activities". For example, spending time on low-impact activities like finding friends on Facebook (that you may message once or twice a year) vs spending time on high-impact activities like going to lunch with a good friend. In other words, giving LESS time/energy to a social media site and low-impact activities in favour of high-impact activities, is not "missing out" but rather benefiting for more important benefits for YOU!

If you haven't tried it...

Why not try a leave of abscence and see where it takes you? No intentions or anything, just take a break for three, four or five weeks and see how you feel?? If you don't want to go that route, how about downloading a tracking app to see how much time you spend on social media. A client of mine did that with me recently and we were able to help her see that she was spending over 3hrs on average per day on social media sites. If you don't want to download an app like that, just use an old fashioned pen and paper and track your usage.

I left Instagram a few years ago, not by tracking, but by simply catching myself having my morning coffee scrolling through pictures. I'd like a picture and scroll on as we all do. Yet within 3-minutes I couldn't tell you everything I just liked because nothing was staying with me, or truthfully not impactful enough to remember anyway. It was just there! Fastforward 45-60min later and I'd still be sitting there scrolling for no rhyme or reason, when I could be doing something more useful and/or enjoyable. So ... I deleted it.

You can make the process of "figuring it out for yourself" as simplistic or detailed as you like or need. But I do believe it wouldn't be a waste of time to be honest with yourself and truly ask the questions; "How is this bettering my life?" and "How is this useful to me?"

I've had the argument of "well how will you stay informed?". Especially when I left Twitter several years ago, that's a good question. The answer: people. In our modern world, most people are on social networks. Most people are spending time online, reading/watching news etc... If it's "that important" word will get to you quicker than you think. Trust me. Then once I learn about something, if it truly is that important to me, I'll Google it to dive deeper into the information. If it's not, I don't have to spend my time or energy on it. Basically, your friends, family and others become "your newsfeed". It works. You still get good and bad information, just as you would online, but you save yourself time, energy and in some cases stress.

I'm definitely a fan of Cal's work, and I'm excited to dive into his other books (with similar topics). We have an abundance of options in so many facets of life, like never before in human history - but we are still learning how to control the WHAT and HOW we choose to let these things be a part of our daily lives.

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