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Insights from the Distraction Detox

“How different would the world look if people spent as much time listening to their conscience as they did to chattering broadcasts? If they could respond to the calls of their convictions as quickly as we answer the dings and rings of technology in our pockets?” - Ryan Holiday, Stillness is the Key

In this article, I’ll outline 2 false beliefs I held that caused me to become entrenched in the use of social media. I’ll also summarize 4 benefits I’ve experienced as I have established concise boundaries in my current use of these tools.

"An hour and thirty minutes, two hours, an hour and forty five..." I read as I scanned through my average screen time on my phone. It was week one of my implementation of the Built Method and I was completing my first weekly screen time evaluation.

I continued through each day, "one hour and thirty six minutes, one hour and fifty minutes." As the hours began to accumulate, a sense of frustration and clarity came over me. I finished averaging the time from all seven days.

An average of one hour and forty five minutes per day.

On Instagram.

I looked at my vision for my future, my ultimate goals and phases. Then I looked back at the average time I was spending on Instagram.

“Two hours a day” I thought.

“How many hours is that per year?” I questioned.

I did some quick math. “730 hours a year.”

“That’s 30 full days.” I realized in awe.

My next question, “If I spend 8 hours a day working, how many workdays is that?”

More math.

The answer, “90 full workdays.”

The realization of how much time I spent on that one social media platform hit me like a punch to the stomach.

I was missing out on an entire QUARTER of opportunity, productivity, and progression.

Instead of leveraging Instagram to grow my business, the platform and companies monetizing it were leveraging me.

The words of The Code of a Built Athlete immediately came to mind, “I will not waste time, time is precious.”

I felt a deep fire of anger and motivation start building in my mind and heart.

I realized I had been freely giving away my most precious resource. More precious than cash, stocks, all of my savings, precious metals, and more.

I had been giving away my time. The most powerful resource I possessed. The resource that if used wisely could allow me to create the life of my dreams. The resource that could make my vision a reality.

The decision that happened next was natural and immediate.

I deleted Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and all other social media platforms from my phone.

That was over one month ago.

I have only re-downloaded a platform when I publish a piece of content. In the past month, I have spent less than 1 hour on all social media platforms combined.

I’ve experienced unparalleled increases in productivity, focus, and my ability to live in the moment. My stress and anxiety have decreased. My sense of well-being has increased. I am sleeping better. I am retaining what I learn at a higher level. There have been absolutely zero negative repercussions from my decision.

In addition to those benefits, I’ve been studying the Attention Economy and the role of technology in our lives. I have gained a deeper understanding of the forces at work to capture and monetize our time and attention. This understanding has only motivated me to continue to refine my approach to my relationship with technology going forward.

I find myself asking, “How did I become so entrenched in the use of those platforms?” And, “what beliefs did I hold that caused me to begin using them and continue using them?”

The answers to those questions and others have become more clear as I’ve established distance from the constant use of the platforms.

False Belief #1 | “I must be highly active on social to maintain social connection with my network and open up opportunities.”

This false belief was the catalyst for me creating accounts on various social media platforms and maintaining activity on each of them. I’d use phrases like, “if I didn’t own my own business, I wouldn’t be on _____ app. But I have to if I’m going to grow.” I also believed that if I wasn’t on social, I wouldn’t be able to maintain connection with my network. I spent time scrolling, “checking in” with folks by passively passing over life events and offering a “like” or short comment on whatever the algorithm fed me.

What I’ve learned:

  • High activity on platforms can be valuable. However, limited and precise activity is superior if one desires to maximize focus and attention.

  • True growth of one’s relationships should be founded in meaningful 1-1 communication. Calls, personalized email, letters, in-person meetings, and texts.

  • Social media tools are not designed with our relationship’s best interest in mind. They are designed to monetize our relationships and the basic human desire for social connection.

False Belief #2 | “Social media is a passive tool that I can use freely.”

This false belief wasn’t as readily apparent to me as the first. It surfaced as I studied the Attention Economy. I realized that when I downloaded and created accounts on each of the platforms, I wasn’t fully aware of how active each platform truly was. By “active” I mean that the platform itself is designed to actively capture attention and drive engagement. Powered by vast amounts of user data and machine learning, these platforms are designed to adapt to each user. They “learn” the interests of each user and supply content relevant to those interests. A “passive” tool would be akin to a pencil or pen. It has incredible potential to impact and create but is fully inanimate. And although we can essentially make our phones “inanimate” by completely eliminating notifications etc. it is impossible to make an Instagram feed inanimate. Every single feature of the design of the platform is intentional. The colors, haptic feedback, and auto-play features, and more are all non-negotiable if we are to use the tool. Thus by using the platform, we are actively putting ourselves in an environment designed to distract us. An environment so powerful, the creators themselves intentionally limit or avoid their exposure to it.

What I’ve learned:

  • Removing social from my phone except when I publish has created enough space from the environment of distraction that I no longer desire to go to it when I may get bored.

  • If I am passive in my use of the active tools, they will eventually win and gain control over my focus and time. If I am active in my limits and use, I can control them and leverage them to my advantage.

Now I will detail the positive effects I’ve experienced since establishing concrete structure of my use of social media and my tech.

Benefit #1 | Increased Productivity and Focus

An obvious benefit of opening up weeks and months of time, increased productivity has been a natural byproduct of not spending time on distracting applications. I should mention that during the past month since I’ve eliminated the distracting apps, I have been intentional in my implementation of the weekly protocols I’ve set for myself in the Built Method. So not only am I eliminating distractions, I am actively pursuing productivity and focus. The combination of these two has led to the increased productivity.

Benefit #2 | Living in the Moment

Prior to deleting social, I found myself drawn to my phone subconsciously. It was usually always nearby and I would find myself checking it automatically. Even though I didn’t have any notifications on for my social media, I would bypass that and go straight to each app, refreshing it to see if I had any new DMs, likes, or comments. I would do this habitually. And although I had some sense of decorum in social situations, I’d still check too frequently. Once the apps were deleted, and after a few days of adjusting, I no longer check my phone frequently. I am more present and mindful in each moment. I experience life in greater detail and remember those details more clearly.

Benefit #3 | Lower Stress and Anxiety

If you would’ve asked me while I was using social at the 1.5/2hr a day frequency if I had heightened levels of stress and anxiety I would’ve dismissed the notion. I would’ve responded that I wasn’t feeling any higher or lower levels of either. However, the past month has revealed to me that while using social at that frequency, I was experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety. Since eliminating social, I am experiencing more silence and solitude. My mind has room to recover and reset. I am not exposed to the 24/7 stream of political, economic, and public issues and the threads of emotional charged comments surrounding them. I am informed but not inundated. I am less anxious about the future and more at peace with my past. I am not exposed to the comparison and competition that can exist in the highlight reel feeds.

Benefit #4 | Better Sleep and Recovery

One of the adjustments I made in tandem with the deletion of the apps was to remove my phone from my bedroom. I place my phone in my home office approximately 30-45 minutes before I go to sleep. This change, in addition to the benefits described in #3 have dramatically increased my sleep and recovery. I fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and wake up more refreshed. I am not waking up to my phone. I do not check my phone immediately upon waking. I am able to maintain control of my mind at the start and end of each day. I have noticed increased sleep performance within my Whoop data. Where I previously struggled to maintain 75% sleep performance, I am now averaging in the 90%’s. The increased quality of sleep has complimented my productivity, focus, relationships, training, stress and anxiety.

“I will develop and utilize the ability to focus. I will control my emotions and not allow them to negatively impact my decisions. I will take care of my physical and digital surroundings, keeping them in order. I will not waste time; time is precious. I know that the success I achieve in life is directly connected to my ability to set goals and achieve them through consistent and focused action.” Code of a Build Athlete - Focus

My story, the false beliefs I had regarding social media and other technology and the benefits I’ve experienced since taking control are becoming more and more common in our modern world. One need not look beyond their own network to realize how important it is for us to maximize our use of these tools through consistent and informed boundaries. I hope that as I continue to share my experience and the tools I've been utilizing, I can help others experience the benefits I have.

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