Last month I read Deep Work by Cal Newport and what Cal had to say about work, focused attention, connectivity, email, and especially social media, had an immediate effect on my behavior.
Cal’s entire body of work centers around technology, social media, focused attention, productivity, and other related topics. Deep Work is his Big Idea book that articulates what I have experienced personally, perhaps on a subconscious level, but have never articulated. It’s this: the internet, and social media in particular, is chipping away at our capacity, my capacity, to focus.
I won’t try to argue that point here (Cal does a fantastic job in his book, anyway.) I will say though, that after reading Deep Work, my use of my preferred social media platforms (Instagram, sometimes LinkedIn) has eked to almost no use at all.
Prior to reading Cal’s book, my go-to behavior on my phone was the following: unlock the screen to ping my email server; then hop over to Instagram and check messages; scroll through feed.
Until very recently, I experimented with using Instagram to attempt to establish that elusive “author platform,” so I used to post a lot. But, while I read Deep Work, I wondered whether the brainpower I spent trying to create my author platform was actually counterproductive to, oh I don’t know, writing. I did what Cal said, I quit social media just to see what might happen.
Today, some two months after loosening my grip on social media, my attention and ability to focus feels more whole and continuous.
To play devil’s advocate, like many of you, I too have friends and connections on social media that I’d like to keep, so I don’t want to completely jettison all of the social utility that I get from it. I won’t be deleting my profiles any time soon, I’m sure I’ll post again at some point, but, aside from checking in on a very select few accounts, I won’t spend much time scrolling or posting or responding to DMs anymore.
Cal’s got a lot of other great stuff in Deep Work aside from this point on social media, and his ideas about email, open work environments, and Instant Messaging in a corporate environment strike a cord. Read it for yourself and see what you think. You might get sold on the whole Deep Work idea, too.