In Deep Work, a book about the ability to focus, Cal Newport argues against the use of social media because it distracts us and can lower our general ability to focus fully. Cal doesn’t argue that everyone should quit social media, but that we consider whether the benefits of social media clearly outweigh the downsides, and only use social media if it does. He then suggests that one stop using social media for 30 days and then ask oneself two questions: 1) ‘Would the last 30 days have been noticeably different if I had been able to use this service?’ 2) ‘Did people care I wasn’t using this service?’ Only if the answer is ‘yes’ to both questions, should we go back to using a particular service.
One of the hardest things to do is to ask the right questions. If you’re not asking intelligent questions, you’re probably not getting intelligent answers. Lacking good questions with respect to my use of social media services, I never got any good answer. I used to ask myself ‘is there any benefit to using this?’ and because everything has some benefit, I used different kinds of social media daily: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Instagram. But now equipped with more intelligent questions, I noticed that none of these services really offers any substantial benefit, despite considerable downsides.
After deactivating my accounts for 30 days, I decided to only keep Instagram, which I don’t use as social media: I post my photos without following anyone or looking at other people’s photos. I use it as a handy cloud-storage space where I can finalise and quickly post the good photos I take with my phone.
I encourage you to do the same: experiment. Delete your accounts for 30 days and see what happens. First, I tried to open the programme habitually a few times a day, but after a few days this was gone. After a week I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t using these services anymore; it’s shocking how irrelevant these services are once you stop using them. Deleting the accounts gave me more time and peace of mind, with no downside. Go ahead, try it. Ask yourself the intelligent questions.
Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. Hachette UK.