Social media is optional – on deciding to do things differently

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun

I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes

Watching the ships roll in

Then I watch ’em roll away again

(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding

I recently listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast with Cal Newport, who I’ve followed for about a decade now. I first read his study skills books when I was in school, and jumped with joy when he started writing about deep work and digital minimalism.

Cal has thrived without ever having a social media account. No Facebook. No Twitter. Nothing. In this podcast, he talked about how social media has become something that we just expect everyone to be part of.

But as he reminded, “there is a different way of doing things.”

When you think about it, of course there is. It’s nuts to presume that everyone has to be on social media. And yet, that has become the assumption.

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Why has social media become essential?

There are other ways to stay in touch with people, learn about the world, and share what we’re experiencing in life.

As Johann Hari explores in his brilliant new book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – and How to Think Deeply Again, our attention and focus are worse than ever.

“Dr. James Williams—who works on the philosophy and ethics of technology at Oxford University—he told me: “If we want to do what matters in any domain—any context in life—we have to be able to give attention to the right things…. If we can’t do that, it’s really hard to do anything.”

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari

Most of us spend a shit load of time on our devices everyday, often at the expense of creativity, contemplation, undocumented adventures, and the slow and simple pleasures we used to find joy in.

During one of the Covid lockdowns when I was in the UK, Iain and I compared our screen time with others around us. Iain and I averaged about 2.5 hours a day and Iain’s Dad was just under that.

Two hours felt like too much for me, especially when looking at the apps where that time was going.

But it was nothing compared to some of the others we asked. Some of them came close to ten hours a day.

Ten. Hours.

And they were okay with that.

Know what you’re gaining and losing

After giving up most social media last summer, I’ve realised just how awful I feel when I’m scrolling on my phone. It’s not just about distraction and comparing myself to others (although they’re definitely factors).

It’s that I lose sight of who I actually am and the things I really love doing, such as falling into a flow state, making things, dreaming up new ideas, and spending time in my own head.

This is about how I experience things – not everyone – but I think it’s fair to say that it’s incredibly hard to assess your own relationship with social media and how it affects you.

It can feel like something that we’ve all fallen into, without even really thinking about it or giving our consent.

You might gain more from social media and sacrifice less than me, and that’s fine.

But if you’re one of the people losing more than you gain from it, why do you need to keep it?

Even without a full breakup with your phone, with less social media you’re way more likely to find deep focus, uninterrupted time for creativity and reflection, quality time with the people you love, and respect for yourself exactly as you are.

Breaking up with social media as a business

I grew the consulting business I started after quitting my full-time job to six figures without doing any sort of social media promotion. My social media presence for my other online writing has been lacklustre at best. And it’s been okay.

I’m pretty sure that I’m now going to cut social media marketing out of the projects I’m working on entirely – including here at Live Wildly.

Social media isn’t where I want to spend my time, I don’t want to encourage my readers to be there either, and I just simply don’t think it’s necessary for a business to succeed.

If you want to follow my writing, you can subscribe to my emails. Or you can just bookmark my website and visit it when you feel like reading it.

Find your own way of doing things

There is a different way of doing things – in life, business, creativity, and human connection.

I know I want to pursue a direction that’s different from what’s expected – one that’s tailored to who I am, how I want to spend my time, and what matters most to me.

Even if you’re not going to throw your phone in the sea just yet, take a moment to ponder these questions:

What does your relationship with social media look like now, and what would it ideally look like?

What are you gaining and what you are you losing from social media?

How do you actually want to lead your life, rather than just following assumptions of what you should be doing?

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