Let me ask you a quick question: How many hours a day do you spend on social media? One? Two? Three? Not sure? According to statista, the worldwide daily average usage of social media in 2017 was 135 minutes. Here’s an easier one: How many social media platforms are you on? According to GlobalWebIndex, the average person has 7.6 social media accounts. Social media is here to stay. People using it to catch up on the latest gossip, stay in touch with friends, network with professionals in the same line of work as you or to advertise your latest product or service. Used properly, social media can have a positive impact on your life. It becomes a problem when you allow social media to take over? If you’re always itching to refresh your newsfeed or constantly thinking about the posts you haven’t seen, then your productivity is definitely being affected.
Picture this scenario. You have a report that is due tomorrow. You sit down in front of your laptop and open the word processor. After a few seconds gathering your thoughts together, you receive a popup notification from facebook. You know you should be working but surely it can’t hurt to sneak a peek at your bestie’s latest profile picture. One hour later, you have watched three videos, liked 5 posts and commented on 4 others. Meanwhile, that report still hasn’t gotten written.
It’s not just office workers that get pulled into this trap. Ask any student who has opened a textbook on a weekend morning hoping to study for the upcoming test next week only to still be on page 3 two hours later. The culprit: the student kept their phone on top of the book and opened whatsapp.
The temptation to always stay connected and the fear of missing out on important information is making a lot of people stay glued to their social media accounts. It can’t be helped. In an era of so much information, no one wants to feel left behind. Yet if social media is starting to take a toll on your productivity, it may be time to take a step back and honestly analyse what you’re using social media for. Don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest you do something as radical as delete your facebook account and get a dumb phone.
If you are spending time on social media instead of working or studying then you have a problem. Same goes for you if you check your newsfeed while hanging out with friends, on a date or in a meeting. How often have you been guilty of this?
The first thing you need to accept is it’s impossible for you to ever get round to seeing it all. You can’t read every post, watch every video, like every new picture or reply to every group post. If you have ever done the infinite scroll on twitter, you get new tweet notifications before you get caught up on the tweets you missed. While it might seem despairing, you should also realise it’s impossible for you to miss anything really important. Information you are not supposed to miss has a way of getting back to you. Someone will check back with you if they really need your input on something or want you to RSVP an event. Chats will be waiting for you when you have the spare time to reply. You just need to take control of the anxiety that comes with not being connected.
The next time you have a report to write, some studying to do or a task that has nothing to do with your facebook page, the best thing you could do for yourself is turn off your mobile data. There are also apps that allow you to block other applications during certain time periods so you can focus on what needs to get done. Trust me, you will achieve more in two hours of focused work without social media breaks that you ever would in five hours of work with social media breaks (or is that social media with work thrown in between).
It may sound difficult at first but give it a try for a few days and monitor the results. Compare how much you got done before and after you decide to work without social media distraction. You will be amazed at the result. You can also try designating certain hours of the day as social media free hours so you can catch up on work, studying, run errands or just spend quality time with your loved ones. Regardless, what you do, a social media break is a good time for you to focus on the moment and recharge your mind.
An exception to this rule might be those who work in customer care, manage social media accounts for companies or maintain their business’s social media profiles. In that case, it might not be as easy for you to take a few hours away from social media to work because for you social media is work.
What are your experiences with social media as a distraction? Do you have trouble unplugging from the system? What has worked for you? Why don’t you share your experience below?