I have written about Cal Newport’s important book Deep Work. I’m a subscriber to Cal’s blog, where he writes about ways to cultivate the habits necessary to ditch the electronic distractions of our age and focus on sustained concentration. One of Cal’s chief recommendations is to dump social media for a period of time (optimally, forever).
In a recent blog post, Cal shared some great (and comic) insights from Aziz Ansari from his interview on the Freakonomics podcast (something I also subscribe and listen to). Here is an interesting thought experiment from Aziz – who is definitely a deep work kind of guy – about why he doesn’t have social media apps on his phone:
“Like, here’s a test, OK. Take, like, your nightly or morning browse of the Internet, right? Your Facebook feed, Instagram feed, Twitter, whatever. OK if someone every morning was like, I’m gonna print this and give you a bound copy of all this stuff you read so you don’t have to use the Internet. You can just get a bound copy of it. Would you read that book? No! You’d be like, this book sucks. There’s a link to some article about a horse that found its owner somehow. It’s not that interesting.”
I don’t have a scorched-earth mentality when it comes to social media. If someone swears off social media entirely so that they can make the world a better place, then I respect that. But that “respect” is kind of like the respect my Mom seemed to have for the rare families we knew who didn’t allow a TV in their house. On one hand, she held them up as models of virtue. On the other hand, she liked watching the news and football games, so much like mine, her respect was of the distant and theoretical sort.
Social media can be great. But it’s good to think of Aziz’s idea. Are you using social media during specific times of the day for specific purposes (and “entertainment” is a purpose)? Or are you poke, poke, poking every time you have a free couple seconds?
I recommend Cal’s book, and I recommend we all think of the quality of our printed and bound surfing habits. That said however, I know that I’m not giving up visiting my favorite satire account on Twitter.