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Social Media: Anxious and Unproductive to Unplugged

How Being Disconnected Helped Me Reconnect

It was a crisp August morning in the Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. I rolled out of my tent and stretched in the morning light noting the quiet stillness of the world around me. My mind was at ease without any pressing concerns or feeling that I was ‘missing out’ on something. I had no idea what the weather was going to be that day, what was going on in the world, who was doing what on social media or how many emails I received that week. It hit me: I went from anxious and unproductive to unplugged – I was in heaven.

Social Media Myth

‘They’ say that being active on social media makes you feel more connected to others. I firmly believe that the illusion of social media connection can disconnect you.

It’s great to see what your friends and family are doing around the world when you cannot necessarily speak to them each day. It’s also too easy to let that digital connection be the ONLY connection you have. Soon, you don’t know anything about one another except what you see on social media.

What you see in the digital world is a version of the truth. We are consuming what others want you to see. So, who are you feeling connected with? Not the real person, just the façade they want the world to see.

Social Media Anxiety

I didn’t know that I had any inclination to anxiety until I was on social media. We all have a fear of being left out. You know that feeling! The stomach-turning sensation when you realize that you weren’t invited.

We are social creatures that have a deep drive to be a part of a community. When you realize that you weren’t included, you naturally feel left out, sad, and a little upset. While logically you understand that one cannot invite everyone to everything you do, that sinking sensation is still there.

Social media is a “social-validation feedback loop,” Sean Parker, the former president of Facebook, said. “Exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a human psychology.”

Social Media Assumptions

Your inner critic tells you lies. It is dangerously easy to make a wrong assumption when you see a post that evokes an emotional response. Assumptions are the root of many broken friendships, bad business decisions, and misunderstandings.

As a career growth coach, I have learned that humans are fantastic at leaping from circumstantial evidence to foregone conclusion in the blink of an eye!

Even without all of the facts, we build a story. Often, that story is built on the negative rant from your inner critic. Before you know it, you’ve convinced yourself that someone or an entire group aren’t your real friends anymore.

Social Media Time-Sucker

Have you ever counted how many hours you spend on social media? Even as a relatively conservative social media user: I was logging 1.5 hours per day. While this is well under the national average, it still shocked me! This led me to question what I was actually doing with my time, particularly when it came to my business.

A CareerBuilder survey found that more than half of hiring managers believe employees are extremely unproductive due to smartphones. Social media is very distracting and highly addictive. Even my friends report feeling compelled to check their phone throughout the day and the inability to focus.

From Anxious to Accomplished

When I decided to take a break from civilization and camp in the Grand Tetons National Park for a week; I was burned out, frustrated in my career path, distracted, and more than a little raw. I felt anxious for striking out on my own as an entrepreneur. I couldn’t see a clear path anymore. I was distracted.

After 3 days I started to forget about social media or emails. By the 5th day, I wasn’t even worried about the weather. I made the best out each day. I became more present, more aware, and definitely more grounded. My mind was clear and I knew what I needed to do personally and professionally. By unplugging, I could think again.

I decided to develop a few habits to prevent from falling into the same trap again:

  • Minimize Social Media Interaction: I now schedule when I will be on social media and for how long. This has made me amazingly more productive! I also realized that I’m not really missing out on anything. I am less distracted, more focused, and more productive.
  • Develop an Attitude of Gratitude: I keep a gratefulness log and I devote 15 minutes before bed to record everything I am thankful for that day. It helps me maintain a positive outlook and silence the inner critic. I am more grateful for my friendships and intentional about my time with the people I care about.
  • Be Intentional: take the time to be with your friends in person (without your phone) to truly connect with them beyond the façade. I also have challenged myself to ask more questions and do less talking. I want to value my friends and show empathy by listening more than I speak.
  • Be Present: I have found that being present takes daily intentionality. I have a daily practice of 10-minute meditations. Those mini-breaks in my day to clear my mind and help me focus. It’s almost like pressing a ‘reset’ switch on my brain to dump all of the clutter that can lead to distraction.

Reconnect to What Matters

You may not have to embark upon an epic trip to a remote National Park to unplug and reconnect with what matters most. All it takes is a little daily wisdom and being intentional about your choices.

“Social media takes so much of our attention,” Emma Watson told CNN in April. “It’s so important to keep an eye on what your daily diet is.”

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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