I recently finished reading Johann Hari’s Stolen Focus (Why You Can’t Pay Attention) – in three feverishly fast and focused reading sessions that lasted several hours.
I went deep, fast, and it’s helped me assimilate some of the concerns, ideas and analysis I’ve been personally playing around with for years regarding social media, business, inspiration, connection and attention. This book has really helped me to solidify some great boundaries and perspectives for having a healthy relationship with all of it.
And I hope that maybe if you’ve been having similar thoughts – this sharing may help guide you into a solid yet still circumspect perspective (yes, this isn’t a place for black and white thinking!)
First up: I don’t desire to demonise social media.
It can be fun, inspiring, and lead to amazing in-real-life / offline connections (including many I hold dear!) and it helps many of us business owners and creators reach and inspire clients, readers and people we likely never would have come across just walking down our streets.
But I’m sure we’ve all recognised a tendency to have an unhealthy draw to socials – it pings into our head and draws us in for our next dopamine or serotonin hit, in ways we often aren’t even aware of.
And when it does, we’re told that we’re ill-disciplined or question whether we have ADHD when we can’t seem to concentrate on reading an email, an article or frankly ANYTHING without being distracted.
It’s concerned me for a while though, that the responsibility always seemed to fall to the shortcomings of us as individuals rather than examining the highly distracting information ecosystem we float around in – that’s designed by very clever people who WANT to maximally distract us!
But rather than make it a purely us vs them debate, I’m throwing myself in here for reflection time, because as someone who uses a couple of these platforms as distribution channels for my work and content, I also have a responsibility to the users, readers and followers of that content – because you are in part and at times coming on to these spaces to hear from and see me and my work.
A quick aside: I’d like to explain that as a content creator – we’re directly punished/rewarded for dancing (or not) to the tune that the tech platform wants us to: and our content will NOT be made visible to the majority of people who have elected to follow us unless we: post daily to the grid/feed, do stories, post video content, and basically create content to MAXIMISE THE AMOUNT OF TIME PEOPLE SPEND ON THE APP – so they (you, me, we) can be advertised to and more broadly manipulated into having our personal information, tastes and preferences banked by their databases.
In Stolen Focus, Hari speaks to a visual that has stuck with me for days.
He talks about seeing Mark Zuckerberg at the front of a room, speaking to a group of people who are all wearing VR headsets, and thinking: this isn’t the future, this is happening right now – and it’s the tech people who’ll be reaping the cash benefits of mining our attention spans, while we remain largely unaware of what’s happening to our brains.
Also worth noting: when the tech bros (and sisters, although it still is mostly bros) who designed these platforms aren’t actively using them, and indeed ban their children from using them – you know there’s a major issue we ALL need to be cognisant of (just watch The Social Dilemma for more information on that!).
The other day a close friend spoke about her young toddler recently being given her ‘knife’ licence (meaning she could now use a metal knife to chop things) and it got me thinking – we probably need something similar for social media usage.
A crash course and licence in what is ACTUALLY going on when we innocently flick to that little pink or blue app, how these platforms are deliberately designed to steal our attention and keep us online – but also how they can be used safely and to our advantage.
Because most of us are completely unaware of what’s going on in our brains when we are incessantly being drawn to these apps. For instance, we apparently only deeply focus on things for approximately 3 minutes a day. You may think you’ve been thinking deeply about your task, but with your browser or app open, you are likely flicking between content and distracted. It takes approximately 20 minutes to get into a deeply focused state and flow state.
This is scary.
We need to know that these platforms will harm us if we’re not careful and aware of the ecosystem we head into every time we choose to venture in during our days.
These platforms are like well-sharpened chef knives.
You can use them so effectively for many ends that AREN’T nefarious or horrible or lacking in good faith (like easily chopping tomatoes – WINNNNNNN!).
But if you don’t pay proper attention, and know what you’re doing – you WILL very likely harm yourself and maybe even others (sliced finger and a trip to emergency anyone?).
Currently, it seems like the only options for dealing with ‘the focus / socials dilemma’ are all or nothing: either ignore concerns about our inability to focus & think deeply, or unsubscribe from socials entirely and go cold turkey – which many have, including close entrepreneur friends of mine.
But I would like to propose a middle way, although this does require a combination of: personal awareness of the seductive pull of surveillance capitalism, and ultimately a commitment to YOUR one wild and precious life.
First up, as I mentioned this is not just an individual responsibility – and I am supportive of movements like Centre for Humane Technology and Detoxify the Algorithm (to minimise the amplification of hate speech on social channels), but having said that, this is how I currently minimise my distractions and use socials/my phone (the primary way I access socials):
– I have DO NOT DISTURB settings on my phone most of the time (which is why my mother gets annoyed when I don’t respond to texts right away – soz Mama!). This means I can also use my phone as a clock and not see notifications when I do.
– I’ve turned off vibrate as a notification setting.
– I deliberately choose when I go on to my phone for anything – e.g. I batch respond to my client voxers and client groups, rather than constantly being pinged.
– I mostly create and distribute content – but the content I do consume is usually health-oriented, bookstagram, comedians, writers, or political and nature related content. If I notice a scroll happening I gently throw my phone across the room and away from me (luckily I have a lot of carpet).
– I also don’t follow many accounts (and I choose to deliberately go and find the content, rather than passively consume it).
– When I feel the pull to get a dopamine hit, I allow myself to feel it and not act on it – oftentimes it’s because I’ve hit a point of resistance in my creating or thinking process, and I’ll become curious about why that is.
– I’ve had the ‘kill news feed’ extension on my facebook for YEARS and it still serves me very well.
– My phone is outside my bedroom at night (I don’t use an alarm, but for those who need to, an old-fashioned little clock will do) – or set the alarm on your phone but leave it outside your room – so you have to get up to turn it off.
– I have the kindle app on my phone so that I can read if I get bored somewhere waiting in line. Or I challenge myself to look up and around me at my surroundings, without needing to hide away, buried in my phone.
Now – as a content creator, who truly wants you to take what you need and leave the rest, i.e. I want your brain intact and THRIVING, here are some thoughts on how I would love for you to engage with my content (but also you do YOU, babe):
– Intentionally seek my (and other’s) content out when you need it, not be an inadvertent passive consumer of it. Maybe take it out to nature and consume it there?
– Definitely do not become more interested in my life/anyone else’s life than you are with your own (yes this is a marketing tactic that’s actively used, and no this reality tv trend isn’t disappearing any time soon).
– Use it as a reflection point, a moment for pause, and an invitation to dive deeper and soar higher in your own life, however you feel called.
– Consider exploring my longer-form content: like hopping on my mailing list, reading the content on my website, or subscribing to my podcast to receive the full transmission of what I (and others) create.
– Join a program or buy a bundle to get much deeper knowledge than you get on shorter posts!
– Be more off your phone/computer than on it! Your inspo will be right there waiting for you when you return. FOMO is a furphy.
While I value these platforms for all they are great for (they really can be such a fun outlet for creativity, connection, education and awareness-raising) – they are a tool that will USE US if we don’t use them correctly – with our full CONSCIOUS intention and awareness.
I refuse to partake in encouraging an ecosystem where we become mindless automatons being strip-mined for our attention.
My content will be here for you when you need it.
Your focus and attention are precious.
And our world needs your ability to consider critically and analyse deeply now more than ever before.
I hope you’ll take what you need from this and see how it fits into your own life, biz and world.
In a world where everyone’s trying to ‘hack the algorithm’ to be seen, I’d love to see you reclaim your precious time, focus, and attention – living an amazing life and creating the epic legacy you’re here to live out – at a time when our world needs it the most!
PS. Is it time to gift the world with your sharpest focus and most ecstatically juicy, light-filled self? (Yes, it is!)
Your new energised quantum soul business & life is here, waiting for you to claim it.
Click here now to learn more and apply to work with me in my 3 month 1:1 Illuminate Private Mentoring Program!
In this episode of the Lead With Your Light Podcast:
- This episode is a reflection, not a demonisation of social media [3:38]
- The behind-the-scenes look at the life of a content creator [6:18]
- The future is now – what is it doing to our brains? [8:04]
- Why we need to be responsible with our social media consumption, but it isn’t solely an individual problem [11:21]
- How I minimise social media distractions in my own life [13:46]
- How I want you, my dear listeners, to healthily engage with what I (and others) put out online [20:10]
Don’t miss an episode!
If you loved this episode of Lead With Your Light and you want to dive into some more light-filled goodness, head on over to iTunes to follow, rate and review the show – your feedback is so welcome! The show is also available on Spotify and Soundcloud. Or subscribe to receive episodes straight to your inbox.