Digital technology has made many things possible that were unthinkable before while providing loads of incredible tools for improving productivity. Imagine a world without social media. Thanks to the plethora of digital platforms available, people can chat, share content, and collaborate via text, voice, or face-to-face, from opposite sides of the world at any time of the day or night.
Swings and Roundabouts
Change brings threats as well as opportunities, challenges as well as advantages, complications as well as ways to make life simple; and social media has proven to be just as much of a curse as it is a blessing. The benefits are obvious – communication has never been easier, the world is a much smaller place, and the scope for connecting with people, learning new things, and collaborating with others is unimaginable.
What about the downside – social media addiction, increased levels of anxiety, stress, and societal polarisation, not to mention the negative impact it can inflict on productivity?
The good news is that many of the threats of social media can be avoided by adopting some simple rules of thumb. These will not only enhance your online experience but will also greatly increase your productivity.
1 – Manage Your Time on Social Media
When I was growing up in the seventies and eighties of the last century, you could count the number of television channels on one hand, and you had to show up at the right time to watch the things you liked. Even the most die-hard procrastinator would struggle to use the television as an excuse, especially on Sunday evenings!
Our smartphones give us 24/7 access to the world through Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many other platforms. We can watch or listen to whatever we want when we want, where we want, and for how ever long we want. If you want to kill your productivity, just download another social media app, stick it on the front screen of your smartphone, and turn on notifications.
If you don’t set limits, you can easily waste many hours of your day doing nothing.
Set aside times for using social media but be realistic. Initially, all you are trying to do is to bring consciousness to the activity. Use social media because you are choosing to rather than on impulse. Once you get into the habit of only checking in to social at key times, you can gradually reduce the time you spend on each session. Less time scrolling on social media means more time being productive. Setting boundaries will supercharge your productivity.
2 – Don’t Feed the Trolls
If you are a content creator, you must accept that not everyone is going to share your perspective or like what you have to say. Remember that you set the rules of engagement. I tend to reply to anyone who leaves a comment underneath anything I write on any of the social media platforms I use whether they are agreeing with what I’ve written or not, but I don’t have to, and neither do you!
Some people can have an argument in an empty room, and no matter how you reply to them, they will bounce back with something else, again, and again, and again. Don’t let trolls steal your time and energy and destroy your productivity.
The art of reason and argument seems to be on the decline and the internet is full of people who mistake opinions for facts. They will present no evidence to back their opinions and are not interested in checking the veracity of any evidence they do provide.
“Social media made you all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it.”— Mike Tyson, Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion
Love him or hate him, Mike Tyson was bang on the money when he spoke about people’s propensity for being rude on social media. If someone I have no relationship with comes to any of my posts with a comment that includes unnecessary digs – “That’s nonsense,” “You clearly haven’t researched the topic,” or as one imbecile, who demonstrated that they had not understood an article, said recently, “It appears that you haven’t read the article that you wrote” – I delete the comment and block them. That’s my choice.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Would this person say this comment if they were standing in front of me?
- If this person made that comment to my face, how would I react?
- Do I want to continue any kind of relationship with someone who thinks it’s OK to communicate in that way?
Don’t feed the trolls. Don’t let them control you. You can block them, delete them, or ignore them. Alternatively, go for “The Jesus” method – “Thanks very much for reading and commenting on my post. I appreciate you.” On platforms such as LinkedIn, anyone who comments on your post is helping to boost the reach. Bear this in mind every time they bounce back.
Take back your time and improve your productivity by ignoring the trolls or, if you must, answering them politely first.
3 – Try Scrolling
The larger your network becomes, the busier your feed will get, and that increases the likelihood of people posting stuff that doesn’t sit right with you. We don’t all share the same view on life, and any rules about not discussing politics and religion have been thrown out of the window.
Society is becoming more polarised by the day – think about perspectives on the pandemic, climate change, Trump, Black Lives Matter, Brexit – and then add all the stresses that come with the rising cost of living, grossly inflated fuel and energy costs, various wars going on around the world and how they are impacting us all. Ticking time bomb, right?
When you see an update that you don’t like, you don’t have to engage with it. You can scroll on by. You can delete the contact if you find their opinions unpalatable. They have an opinion. You have an opinion. Sometimes the other person is right and, yes, that means that sometimes you are wrong. You might both be right or wrong depending on your perspective.
Let’s imagine we’re sitting opposite someone at the table. We both have a table mat with the number nine written on it. The other person’s table mat will look as though it is displaying a six. From their perspective, our nine will also look like a six. Perspective is everything.
It is easy to become distracted by the things we see and read about on social media. Distraction is the enemy of productivity.
4 – Be the Change
Many people argue that discussion is important. One of the great things about social media is that it has provided a platform for tackling difficult conversations. We shouldn’t walk away from someone because they are saying something we don’t agree with.
So, while scrolling is an option, you could choose to engage with people who are sharing perspectives that you disagree with or even find offensive.
If you do engage, be the change you want to see:
- Don’t be aggressive with your language and tone.
- Don’t get personal.
- Don’t insult the other person.
- Take time to cool off before you respond to comments that trigger you.
- Consider the possibility that they are right, you are wrong, you are both right, you are both wrong, or that there is no right answer!
- ALWAYS ask yourself whether there is anything to gain from the discussion.
The list above is not comprehensive, but they all have something in common – interact with others in the same way that you would like them to interact with you; however, be mindful that just because you like aggressive sparring with your pals, someone you don’t know may not want that kind of conversation.
Remember that if you are using social media as part of a marketing strategy to build relationships and attract potential allies and clients, playing nice will go a long way. You can use social media to engage, discuss, learn, make new friends, and boost your productivity by working and playing at the same time.
5 – Choose Your Battles
We all have red lines, don’t we? I’d hate to live in a world where no one ever fought injustice because they wanted a quiet life. Society only evolves because people stand up for what they believe, and we still have a long way to go. But if you don’t apply a filter, you could literally spend every waking minute fighting online battles – another major blow to productivity.
Before you choose to engage, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does anyone care what this person is saying?
- Could anything good come from this interaction?
- How is this person likely to respond to a comment that challenges them?
- How will I respond to them?
- Could I respond more constructively by posting an update or article of my own, for example?
- Do I need or want to remain connected with this person?
If you are only entering the discussion to let off steam, to tell them off, or to feel better, it might not be worth the effort. Every moment is precious. Do you want to boost your productivity or stand in your own way? Do you want to spend the limited time you have doing things that will add value to your and other people’s lives, or do you want to get bogged down in pointless arguments that won’t lead to progress?
Pick your battles. If you are going to jump on someone else’s discussion, know why you are doing it, treat them as you want to be treated, and be ready to leave it if it gets messy and begins to look like a waste of time. Remember that sometimes, it isn’t about changing their minds but showing another perspective to them and everyone else who is taking part in and watching the discussion.
6 – Remember the Three Monkeys
This Japanese maxim is full of wisdom. The three monkeys are Mizaru, who sees no evil by covering his eyes, Kikazaru, who hears no evil by covering his ears, and Iwazaru, who speaks no evil by covering his mouth.
See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.
Your social media experience is the net result of your activities and the activities of all the people in your network. People joke about not being able to take back the time they spent watching a rubbish video or hearing a terrible joke, and many others quip about not being able to unsee what they’ve viewed on the screen, unhear what someone said, or undo the damage of a hastily written Tweet.
It is up to you to create the online world you want to be a part of. I believe the mind is like a sponge. Whatever you expose it to will lurk in there forever in some way. Ask anyone who’s been traumatised. Ask anyone who suffers nightmares. What kind of social media experience do you want to create – one that is filled with rants, stuff you wouldn’t choose to watch, arguments, bigotry, friction, or a refuge of peace, harmony, and creativity?
You are a unique individual, and so is everyone else in the world. It would be boring if we were all clones of each other. Strike a balance between building a network that is rich in personalities and differing opinions, and one that leaves you wanting to throw your phone down the toilet within minutes of going online.
It is your online world. Make it work for you.
7 – Gravitate Towards Goodness
This is the flip side of the last bullet point. People sleepwalk into unhappiness because their behaviour becomes increasingly habitual rather than consciously chosen. What kind of a world do you want to live in? What floats your boat?
The more time and energy you dedicate to doing the things you love, the happier you will become. I always say that happiness comes from within, and that’s true because you can’t control everything that happens around you; however, there’s nothing wrong with making time to do the things you enjoy. Focus on learning new things, novel experiences, spending time with loved ones and finding peace and harmony.
Apply the same principle online.
These seven principles for a happier online life are not rocket science, but they highlight one major problem. Take control of your online and offline life by making conscious choices. Running on autopilot seems like the easier option, and it is easy to slip into this habit, but sleepwalking through life only leads to more unhappiness, especially online.
Take command and treat social media as one part of a healthy lifestyle. If you use it mindfully, it will add tonnes of value to your life.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. You’ve come this far, so you must have recognised the potential for improving your online experience. Start applying these seven principles immediately and see how much head space you manage to free up.