Squinching my eyes, I massaged the temples of my head and exhaled. I spent three hours of work when I could have squeezed it into just two. This year I noticed that there was a decline in my ability to focus. This has affected my daily activities including making time for myself. Hence, I picked up a book. And halfway through it, went for a social media detox for almost a month.
What we choose to focus on and what we choose to ignore – plays in defining the quality of life.”Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Deep Work by Cal Newport
I first learned about Dr. Cal Newport through a YouTube video that popped on my newsfeed. It was an interview about quitting social media. And I was struck by the fact that this computer scientist does not have a social media account.
For my 40th birthday, I wanted to gift myself one of his books. In fact, I was particularly looking for the book Digital Minimalism however at that time it was not available on Shopee. I reckoned I better start with his book, Deep Work.
Newport has provided several practices in his book that we can adapt. These practices were used by successful people to allow deep work in their professions. Deep work is when you are performing activities related to your professional work while in a state of distraction-free concentration, pushing your cognitive capabilities to their limits.
I felt that my current daily activities have made it more difficult to maintain focus. I tend to go back to my readings after reading a few paragraphs because I did not understand them. It also takes me more time finishing tasks.
Therefore, I went ahead and applied some of the practices from Newport’s book, including social media detoxing.
Quitting social media is a way for me to take back control of my time and attention from the many diversions.
Social Media Detox for Almost a Month
I don’t see social media as a bad thing. In fact, SocMed has been my platform to connect with more people for years. As a stay-at-home mom, these tools have helped me in sharing, learning, and socializing.
But like sweets, using these tools has allowed me to become dependent on them for a quick fix. It is addicting, quite frankly.
I would tend to open my phone, swipe up, and before I could notice, half-hour has passed. Those 30 minutes could have been used for other activities like spending time playing with the kids or studying that could support my professional goals.
Social Media is vital to my work, how can I do a social media detox?
Here are the steps I took.
Step 1: Identify the main high-level goals in my professional and personal life
I listed down (well, more of mentally took note) of my goals so that it would be easier to take steps 2 and 3.
Step 2: Consider the network tools I am currently using
It is important in this step to be particular about what network tools I am using that have a direct impact on my goals. For example, I have a client whose Facebook page I manage, ergo, Facebook Business Suite and Facebook Pages are important. Hence I cannot close these applications. Twitter, on the other hand, has no direct impact on my goals so I can remove this application from my list.
Step 3: Stop Social Media Cold Turkey
I stopped using Social Media applications, including Instagram, my personal Facebook account, the Facebook page of my blog, and others before February 2022 ended. It was done in a cold turkey way, not informing others online that I would be signing off.
As Cal Newport said in his book, there was no need to uninstall the applications. But in my case, on my phones, I uninstalled Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. I kept the Facebook Business Suite on my phone and also accessed my client’s FB page using my laptop. This has tremendously helped me resist the temptation to check my feed.
Step 4: Add Routines and Rituals
After dropping the connection online, I added routines and rituals to my daily activities. These were important in developing my focus and maintaining a state of unbroken concentration. One of the routines I did was to wake up earlier than I used to. I now wake up between 430AM and 6 AM. The little extra time I had in the morning was spent on my self-care. During vacation days though, I sleep in a little bit since my youngest child still cries if he wakes up without me by his side.
I continued journaling, added a schedule to read books and walk in the afternoons
I kept my FB messenger on since this is the application my families use to connect with each other. We hardly text anymore, haha!
Also, I just opened my Facebook account to work on my client’s projects using a laptop. Whenever I open FB, I directly went to my client’s page. I did not browse my feed during the detox period.
Moreover, I kept using YouTube since this is where I watch most of the videos related to the upcoming 2022 elections. We don’t have a cable subscription, you see.
The key here isn’t to avoid or even to reduce the total amount of time you spend engaging in distracting behavior, but is instead to give yourself plenty of opportunities throughout to resist switching to these distractions at the slightest hint of boredom.Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Halfway through the detox period, I posted on Instagram Story to promote the video on my channel.
For more than three weeks, I had a break from my personal account, my blog’s socmed pages, and the unnecessary stressors brought about by the negativities online. It was a great break from my online life.
Lessons Learned After a Social Media Detox
The very reason I went on sabbatical in my social media accounts was to bring back my skills in concentration. I want to be able to read and comprehend a book in a couple of sittings. I wanted to be more productive. Not busy, but productive.
Dr. Newport asks his readers to ask themselves two questions after the self-imposed network isolation. And here are my thoughts.
Did People Care That I Wasn’t Using This (App/Website) Service?
Prior to doing socmed detox, I rarely post on my personal account. So, it wasn’t a surprise that nobody noticed.
Even on my blog’s social media accounts, no one messaged to look for me. There were a few comments that came in, all from old posts. But other than those, nada. Not even those people who DM my page to ask for money.
It was silent.
And it was ethereal.
Would the last thirty days have been notably better if I had been able to use these services?
Quite frankly, no. It’s the opposite.
When I was not using my social media accounts, my days were lighter.
My moods were tolerable. I felt safe, loved, and grounded.
It felt like I was removed from all the noises. It was refreshing. Peaceful.
Interestingly, I didn’t feel detached from the world. There was no “missing-out.” I was still aware of the important things happening around the world. And the non-essential “news” were sifted.
So, What’s Next?
Cal Newport says in his book that if your answers to the two questions above were both NO, then quit the online services permanently.
If I do so, it would mean I need to say goodbye to my blogs’ social media accounts. In addition, parents would no longer see snippets of our homeschool journey.
I can still speak my mind through my blogs, YouTube channels, and podcast.
However, for this particular website where you are reading this article, most of its traffic comes from social media. Essentially, it is dependent on social media to get traction. My older blog on the other hand is more stable and appears on searches.
I appreciate how the social media detox has helped me train my brain to focus more intently. It did not significantly give me more time to work on other things. But it did help in managing my fickle-mindedness and loss of focus. By doing so, I can follow through my schedule, finish tasks on time, and be more mindful of the present.
For now, I will retain my social media accounts but refrain from using them frequently. My FB is still uninstalled on my phone and I access it only through my laptop. Perhaps in the future, once this new blog is better in rating and search engines, I can go back to just being a blogger.
I don’t see myself as a social media influencer. I prefer to be in the background, writing. I’m just a simple blogger who wants to share with the world some snippets of her life. And hopefully, be able to inspire at least one woman to her own path and embrace her beautiful self.