About once every six weeks or so I come across a person asking the world how to best limit technology. It’s a common question these days. We’ve all had that experience where we sit down to check in on the world after a busy day and find ourselves, 90 minutes later, still chuckling at cat pictures on social media. I’ve never really known what to say when folks ask for tips. I’ve tried to limit social media in various ways. For me, social media platforms can be like having a bag of candy in my pocket. I consume it because its right there.
I don’t have any moral quandaries about social media use. I’m just wondering if it makes me slothful. After a time, it feels like consuming candy and its instant sugar surge as opposed to more edifying things for my mind and soul.
I recently read a book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. Newport is a business professor at Georgetown University. He’s also a young father and husband who wants to see his family at the end of the day. Ask any college professor and they will tell you that work/life balance is a hard target to hit in the field. Newport had to rearrange his work day in order to keep all the balls in the air. For him, the answer lies in long stretches of time working on important, hard to solve issues without the distraction of social media, email and even meetings with students. Newport has published four books in his short amount of time since completing graduate school and the only network tool he has used is a blog. It drives his publishers crazy but he’s making a great point. You can succeed and not get sucked in to the call for quicker and faster connection to your community. In the long run, you might even find yourself more fruitful.
I bring this up for two reasons. First, I finally feel like I have something substantive to say to people who ask for tips about tech use. I believe people are really asking this: How do I live well in a social media world? How do I contribute in a significant way to my family and workplace without getting sucked into this secondary world of people who are not actually present in my living room? My answer? I think you need long stretches of time when you shut the platforms down. I think you have to have faith that you won’t need to keep up with the current sarcasm trends to remain relevant. In fact, I’m starting to believe that people are so distracted these days that the person who’s the most present with themselves and other people will become the most relevant person in the room.
Maybe there will be seasons like Halloween where you join back up and reconnect with old pals. But likely, for the rest of the year, it needs to stop coming into the house. Afterall, if you’re anything like me, and there’s a bag of Kit Kats on the counter, you’re going to eat them. I’m saying all of this as a person who wants to get published one day. And still, I can’t get past the notion that my best work will come from long periods of time spent wholly in my own life.
All this helps me consider the problems and issues that I really want to put my hands to. For me, its my people and my writing career. I realized a few weeks ago that if I was to survive the summer with my kids, I would need to make a significant change in this department. I became far too reactive, specifically with my energetic three year old. I also realize that what’s most important in my writing career right now is to actually write. Yes, there might be a time when I need to share my work more regularly in a viral way. Social media tools can be helpful with this. But these tools don’t matter much if I don’t have anything of substance to share. So I made the decision to shutdown Facebook for the summer in order to go deep.
I’ll leave you with a quote from a great article on the topic: The Art of Focus by David Brooks.
“The information universe tempts you with mildly pleasant but ultimately numbing diversions. The only way to stay fully alive is to dive down to your obsessions six fathoms deep. Down there it’s possible to make progress toward fulfilling your terrifying longing, which is the experience that produces the joy.”
We’re all in different places in life, but perhaps you’ll find these thoughts helpful. How are you living wholly in your life right now? Are there ways you limit technology that you find helpful? Would love to hear from you.
The purpose of a man’s heart is like deep water
but a man of understanding will draw it out.