This is the second time I quit social media for 30 days. At the beginning of February, I handed my assistant my accounts and asked her to do the following:
- Change all the passwords and don’t give me access.
- Connect tools like Buffer, so we could share content to our fan pages.
The one and only post that made it to my personal feed was about the 10 lessons from 10 years of running Unmistakable Creative.
- I didn’t even log in to post it. She did.
- Forgetting to log out on Safari was a mistake. But occasional peeks lost their appeal.
Anytime I asked my roommate if I’d missed something, he said “no.”
What Happened When I Quit Social Media For 30 Days The Second Time
After I quit social media for the second time, I’ve felt as if there was no reason to go back.
The genius of Facebook is that it’s a media company with billions of unpaid employees who create content for them all day long. If you’ve updated your status in the last 24 hours, you’re one of them.
Chances are, Zuck hasn’t invited you over for dinner for all the contributions you’ve made to his empire. Even friends you hardly talk to anymore send you a stupid Christmas card with a picture of their family. (Please don’t send me one).
Anybody who worked at a job where they weren’t getting paid would leave. But somehow working for Twitter and Facebook for free every day doesn’t motivate billions of people to quit social media.
Quit Social Media you Become Aware of The Connection Delusion
Intermittent glimpses into the windows and highlight reels of people’s lives are not a connection. They’re digital voyeurism. Hearts ,likes and whatever other meaningless metrics we use to artificially quantify our social lives cause us to confuse attention with affection. The only way you’ll notice this is to quit social media for a while.
The 24/7 Reality Show
People say reality TV is all made through editing. Our lives on social media are a carefully curated, intentionally edited, airbrushed version of reality. You are not a reality TV start, so why do you live like one? If our status updates were unedited, they would be things like, “Hey, I’m taking a shit. I just farted.”
Our digital lives would resemble idiocracy.
There’s one thing I’ve learned from having some little semblance of a public presence. It’s guaranteed that I will disappoint you, let you down and never live up to your expectations. It’s what Janelle Hanchett calls the fatal flaw of our humanity.
Behind closed doors, I say things that are a PR crisis in the making on a daily basis.
To my parents, I’m still the guy they sent to the grocery store to buy cilantro. My sister, being the smart one, realized I was there staring at carrot tops.
To the girl I eventually end up with, she’ll never judge me for the fact I listen to MMMBop when I snowboard.
Daft Punk said you don’t need to have your picture on the cover of magazines to make great music. And you don’t need to have your picture on the home page of your website to make great podcasts.
The way I’ve used social media for the last few years is the antithesis of something I quoted in the book I published. When I quit social media, I was realigned with my values.
A Potential Dystopian Disaster
To give a virtual echo chamber the same level of importance as the physical world is a dystopian nightmare in the making. I have nothing to gain by telling you all this.
But I’d encourage you to give some thought as to whether the time you’re spending on social media is a deliberate choice. Or is it a default behavior on autopilot?
Quit Social Media and You Become Aware of The Causation vs Correlation Problem
Spend enough time searching for advice about anything on the Internet. And you’ll convince yourself that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.
- People crowdsource answers to their most pressing issues.
- Unsolicited advice from unqualified people fills our news feeds and messages.
- But as Ozan Varol says in his book, “You can’t copy and paste someone else’s path to success.”
The Problem with Advice on the Internet
One of Benjamin Hardy’s most popular articles is 8 things everyone should do before 8 am. If you’ve just pulled a night shift at a hospital, the only thing you should be doing before 8 am is sleeping. And why the hell would you consider getting out of bed before 8 am if you’re getting laid? I sure wouldn’t.
Loss of Objectivity
When we spend too much time on social media or certain websites, we lose our sense of objectivity. We engage in delusional optimism instead of rational optimism. We mix up causation and correlation.
Meditation cushions are not the recipe for a 7-figure income or best-selling book. It’s easy to believe that when you’re scrolling through Instagram and mixing up reality with curation. Staying inside an echo-chamber stifles creativity, reinforces cognitive biases, and causes us to stop questioning authority.
The Process of Developing Wisdom
Wisdom doesn’t come from reading status updates, tweetstorms and blog posts. All that is just information. It only becomes wisdom when you contemplate it, reflect on it and question its validity. What we’re consuming all day on social media is information. But, our most resonant creative work is the result of wisdom.
Tim Urban COMPLETELY ignored almost all of the advice you’ll find about how to build a blog. And his blog is one of the most popular on the Internet. You can’t stand out in a sea of noise by following in someone’s footsteps.
Quit Social Media and You Become Aware of The Perceived Status Problem
Vanity metrics create a perception of status. They cause us to overlook the impact someone could have on us. When we assess a person’s value based on the size of their audience, we do so to our detriment.
My most influential mentor had 100 followers on Twitter when I met him. I’m where I am today because of him. The friend who helped me raise my first round of venture funding is practically invisible on the Internet.
With tools like the Internet, ANYONE can create the illusion of status with nothing to back it up. If you don’t dig deeper, you’ll overlook opportunities and people that might change your life.
Quit Social Media and You’ll Stop the Endless Comparison
Chris Brogan once said to me, “Nobody ever won a race by looking sideways.” I’ve been trying to write a proposal for a book about success on your own terms. But that’s hard to do when you’re using social media every day. You’re always looking sideways.
At some point, all of us, myself included, traded in society’s life plan for the illusion of our own definition of success.
- The 4-Hour Workweek is Tim Ferriss’ definition of success.
- The Art of Non-Conformity is Chris Guillebeau’s definition of success.
- The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit is AJ Leon’s definition of success.
Whether you join Chris’ tribe of non-conformists or AJ’s band of misfits, it’s not success on your own terms. This is not a criticism of them. AJ has had a profound impact on me. But the goal isn’t to become the next version of someone else, it’s to become the one and only version of you.
Quit Social Media and you’ll see you have a Diversity of Inputs Problem
Nataly Kogan once said to me, “Happiness is an input into a great life, not a bonus you get at the end of one.” But this doesn’t just apply to happiness or emotional well-being. It applies to every piece of information you consume.
What You Consume Influences What You Create
Every status update, post that you “like” and piece of content you become aware of is input into your life. The walled garden of Facebook increases your input. But, it also reduces the diversity of it.
Look at your “friends” on Facebook. How many of them are coaches, online marketers, and “influencers”? If that makes up the bulk of everything you consume, you’ll have a hard time developing a compelling point of view.
Diversify Your Input
The best thing I ever did for my writing was to stop reading books about online marketing, blogging, or anything of the sort. Alex Bloomberg was the instructor for the only podcasting course I’ve ever taken. Without diversity in the content you consume, there will be no diversity in the way you think or in what you create.
Treat The Word of Influencers as Guidance Instead of Gospel
If you follow someone else’s map, the only place you’ll get to is where they are. If you ditch the map, you’ll increase the likelihood of something interesting and unexpected happening.
Spend all of your time and attention in a virtual echo chamber and you’ll struggle to stand out in a sea of noise. That’s exactly what Facebook is. It’s a virtual echo chamber that turns you into a sheep that treats the word of “influencers” like gospel.
It might sound insane, but I even told the people in my mastermind to consider the possibility that everything I’ve taught is bullshit. Why would I say that? Because it will reveal things they wouldn’t see otherwise.
Tina Seelig says that discovery is predicated on curiosity. But if you blindly follow the advice of “gurus” and “thought leaders” without considering context, or questioning them, it’s the opposite of curiosity. Instead of expanding your sense of possibility, you limit it. You avoid asking “what if” which might illuminate a number of paths that aren’t currently visible.
Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom
What we consume is information. It becomes knowledge when we capture it. It evolves into wisdom when we apply it to our lives and modify it. But for this to happen, you need time to reflect and contemplate.
Quit Social Media and You’ll See The Private Interest Problem
The business of commercial media is to attract, harvest and sell people’s consciousness to advertisers. – Nolan Higdon + Mickey Huff
What Victor Frankl referred to as “man’s search for meaning” requires us to pause between stimulus and response. But the steady stream of engagements, weddings, babies and “influencers” who are “crushing it” ensures that we keep mindlessly scrolling and clicking “like.” This erodes our ability to pause between stimulus and response and in turn, our ability to discover deeper levels of meaning.
Clicking or commenting on a person’s post is a reaction, not a response. Without critical thought, and evaluation of context, we type whatever is on our minds. But unless we have the courage to question authority and poke sacred cows, nothing will ever change.
Private interests influence the news feeds of every creator you follow (myself included).
The person who says everyone should start a podcast sells a course on how to do it.
The same goes for writing a book, and just about anything else you’ll find in your news feed.
If there’s one thing I learned from my conversation with Douglas Vigliotti, it was how cognitive biases cause us to overlook private interest.
In 2013, I took the attention of my “friends” on Facebook to the bank. I used status updates to write a Wall Street Journal best-seller and eventually land a 2-book deal with a publisher. You might have enjoyed the status updates, but I definitely got the better end of that deal. It was selfishness disguised as generosity.
Productive and Prolific
In case you’re wondering what this does for your productivity, these are just a few things I finished:
- A documentary about the Women in my Family Who Make Amazing Food with Zero Recipes.
- A trailer for the Unmistakable Creative Podcast.
- The ROI of Creativity at Work (a free e-book).
- At the moment, we’re finishing layout and design on a new project called The Unmistakable Book of Wisdom.
I’m more productive and prolific than I’ve been in a while.
Owning vs Renting An Audience
Whether you have 5000 friends or a fan page with a million fans, you don’t own your audience. You are renting it from Facebook. You pay for it with your time and attention. And when the landlord (aka the algorithm) decides to put your store in a strip mall that nobody visits, your revenue vanishes. The only real purpose of an asset that you rent is to promote an asset that you own.
Did I miss a few things worth knowing about? Sure.
Christina Rasmussen interviewed me for her podcast. It’s linked below.
My friend, Ashley Ambirge, who has one of the most Unmistakable voices on the internet, published her first book. I didn’t click like on the pictures she posted.
When I went to Barnes and Noble, I discovered it at the bookstore and did the most useful thing anyone can do to support their friends who are authors. I bought a copy.
One person noticed that I was gone. But, seeking attention on Facebook is the least valuable thing I could do for myself and them. On the flip side, paying attention to my creative work is the most valuable thing I could do for myself and for them.
When I interviewed Robert Greene about Mastery, he said, “The analogy is biodiversity. The more species you have in an ecosystem, the richer that ecosystem is.” Our news feeds give us more of what we “like” and connect us to people we agree with. Our inputs become homogeneous and the ecosystem of our minds goes from fertile to sterile, rich to poor.
THE 6TH UNSPOKEN REGRET OF THE DYING
Most people are familiar with the 5 regrets of the dying. If those people lived to see the role that social media has come to play in our lives, they’d have a 6th regret. “I wish I’d spent less time on social media.”
If you need to find me, I’m sure you’ll figure out how. But life is much better when I create and it sucks when I consum… Perhaps we’ll cross paths again in the distant future.
For now, the cave is calling. People who I prefer to meet in real life are calling. I’m spending as much time as I can experiencing my life rather than documenting it. I’m creating more than I’m consuming. And getting back in touch with creating for an audience of one. At the same time, I know I may or may not ever reach an audience of millions.
For the seeds of information to bear the fruits of wisdom and knowledge, we need time, reflection, stillness, and solitude. But excessive use of social media robs us of these essential nutrients.
As Ryan Holiday said to me:
“Wisdom makes my life better; information distracts me. Information is a commodity. Wisdom is a sort of priceless resource.”
Which one are you going to spend your life pursuing?