The Coffee Bar is my favorite cafe in Redding, CA. It has an old-time vibe, and it’s got a sweet motorcycle theme. In November, I had an opportunity to spend time there. Earlier that day, I had dropped my mom off at the doctor for a standard procedure. Rather than waiting for my mom at the doctor’s office, I decided to go to The Coffee Bar. I ordered a coffee, along with prosciutto and toast, and hunkered down with my treats at a corner table.
My morning plans didn’t include surfing the Internet or Instagram. Instead, I wanted to read the Flow Mindfulness Workbook, journal, mindmap projects for 2017, and people watch. Yet, as I sipped my coffee and munched on my toast, I had a strong urge to open Instagram.
Thankfully, I didn’t log onto Instagram. Instead, I turned my phone off, put it inside my backpack, and began writing in my journal. Here’s a portion of my journal entry from the day:
“I feel like I’ve rewired my brain to constantly check Instagram, and that doesn’t feel good. I need to let my mind wander, not check Instagram every two seconds. Also, my desire to constantly check Instagram is annoying! My old twitch is back—it’s time to rethink how I use social media. Oh, and I need to read Deep Work again.”
A few days later, I was reading the New York Times’ Morning Briefing. (It’s delivered to my inbox, Monday through Friday, and I love it!) Anyway, Cal Newport's op-ed—Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.—was featured in the briefing. Talk about serendipitous timing! Cal’s article was helpful, and the essay reaffirmed why I’m scaling back on social media.
Here’s how I’m managing my various social media accounts as well as some thoughts about my decision-making process:
- I’m no longer using my personal Facebook page. To stay in touch with friends and family, I prefer talking on the phone, texting, reading their blog posts (or email updates), sending letters, and having conversations in person. However, I haven’t deleted my Facebook account because I’m still utilizing my Facebook Fan page to share my daily photo, blog posts, and other news with lovely readers.
- To avoid information overload, political rants, and the trap of trying to keep up with everyone, I’m following fewer people on Twitter and Instagram. Now I’m reading blog posts and the news at specific times.
- Currently, I log onto social media once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
Also, I’ve incorporated the following habits into my routine; all of which have decreased my crazy twitch to log onto the Internet:
- Before I Google a person, topic, book, or research interest, I write the information down in my notebook. Then, I’ll search for the information at a designated time.
- When I feel the urge to check social media, I ask myself why. Usually, the twitch emerges when I'm feeling uncomfortable or unsure about a certain project.
- If I have spare time, I read books, magazines, essays, and blog posts. I don’t read on a Kindle anymore because I prefer paper books. However, Feedly is a handy tool to organize the blogs I enjoy reading.
For the last month, I’ve incorporated these ideas and habits into my creative routine. Overall, my new habits have made a difference in my daily life. The twitch to log onto Instagram, for example, is growing smaller and smaller every day. Also, I feel more creative, productive, grounded, and I’m not silently judging folks for sharing fake news stories on Facebook. It’s not my job to police Facebook. However, it’s essential to support journalists and to become a savvy news reader.
Despite my addiction to social media, I do find tremendous value in services like Instagram and Twitter. Social media is fun, and it’s a great place to find inspiration, friends, business opportunities, and more. However, I want to do deep work; doing that kind of works means I need designated blocks of focused time. Those time blocks don’t include social media. As Cal eloquently noted, "If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work."