Posts tagged #productivity; joy;

Giving Up TV and Social Media - Fourteen Months Later

As I have gotten savvier with my website analytics, I learned (much to my shock) that my article about giving up television and social media has been the most popular content since I published it last January. Apparently giving up television and social media are popular topics among people all over the world. Given all the interest, I thought I would do a one-year update on this experiment.

In a world that continues to increase its television and social media consumption and to broaden this audience to people younger and younger, I found the interest in the antithesis of it both surprising and encouraging. While social media can be an effective channel to share information, and television can be a way to share stories and connect people over similar interests, I have seen that - as in many things - the danger lies in the excess. The mindless scrolling through social media and the inevitable comparisons that result from wanting what someone else spotlighted in their feed. The television on in the background for noise and companionship rather than true interest in the content. And finally, the trade offs that are made, leaving less time for family and friends, fitness, work, goals, hobbies, or projects.

After going cold turkey by giving up television and social media in late 2017 when I was preparing to return to work after maternity leave, I have continued my plan with three exceptions: one TV show (This Is Us - thanks to my mom who got me hooked) and Instagram, along with starting to use social media to share content from this site (note: because of my experiment, I am a novice and appreciate your input on this site’s social media presence). I have had to be vigilant about these parameters, as my personality works best with black and white rules rather than an “everything in moderation” approach. For me, trying to moderate social media usage it is like eating a chocolate cake out of the pan. You take a bite of cake - or a quick peek at Instagram - and tell yourself that it will only be one bite (or a minute). Thirty minutes and the equivalent of two slices later, and you are baffled at how things went downhill so fast.

Through my experiment and my observations of others via Instagram or comments from my husband (he checks social media periodically), I have become much more perceptive about the role of social media and television in our world. As people put more and more of their lives on social media and become more comfortable with filters and editing, there seem to be fewer and fewer people who hesitate to post every detail of their lives. Beyond the productivity benefits that I have experienced, it has led me to wonder - why do we feel the need to share these monotonous details of our lives with strangers? Why is there such a psychological rush when we track our likes, friends, and followers? What prompts us to binge-watch a Netflix series on a Saturday afternoon rather than enjoy being outside with our kids or drink wine with friends?

I decided to investigate. Turns out, the addiction is real, and it’s psychological. The combination of humans being social creatures - wanting to be connected to others - with our need for validation and the “carrot” of having a method to boost our egos through attention, and we become immersed in social media. Add in FOMO - the fear of missing out” - and we keep coming back for more and more.

Over the past few months, I have started to use the “screen time” feature on my iPhone to help me regulate my “moderation” approach. At first, I was in shock of the statistics every week, particularly in spite of my tight parameters on screen time. While there were a few factors that artificially increased my screen time (my baby monitor and fitness app being the biggest offenders), the data was enlightening. Seeing my weekly screen time and comparing to previous weeks held me accountable to do better. I no longer felt any justification for mindless scrolling at the expense of something else - there was always a better trade off of something else to do than watch pictures and videos that other people are posting. It did not make me feel connected to them and it did not further any of my goals; in fact, it kept me from spending time on the things that were most important to me. Trying to use it as a relaxation technique before bed did not work, but reading a book certainly did.

My experience has shown me that eliminating these activities from my life has not only increased my productivity, but that either elimination or extremely moderate usage has also continued to make me more joyful. I no longer compare my life to what I see on social media, or multitask while watching a random television show. Instead, I find myself living in the moment more, making real connections with people around me and feeling like I belong in real, physical communities rather than online, virtual ones. When I find myself feeling a sense of discontentment, it usually stems from something I saw on social media or television. While I cannot predict or control how social media and television will be part of the world in the future, my plan is to continue with my current approach and to encourage others around me to try it, too.

So - are you up for the challenge? Try giving up social media and television for 30 days, starting April 1. How much time does this free up for you? How does it change your perspective? And, what do you do with your time now?

Posted on March 25, 2019 and filed under Career Insights.

How Giving Up TV and Social Media Made Me More Productive - and Joyful

As I prepared to return to work in October after maternity leave, I wanted to find ways to be more productive.  I've read a lot about productivity in the past as I have tried to be more effective at work, and am decent at putting first things first and not multitasking.  What I wanted now was to free up as much time as possible to be most effective during the day at work and present with my family at night and on the weekend.  

As I evaluated where I spent my time, I realized that I was multitasking more than I realized.  For example, I often had the television on in the background while I was making dinner or cleaning; or I scrolled through social media while getting ready for the day.  While I never considered this to be multitasking before, these distractions resulted in the task at hand taking longer.

I also learned of studies on the effects of television on the brain.  I read a terrifying outlook on television in Fast Company:

A lot of research has been done around TV viewing and children, and Adam Lipson, a neurosurgeon with IGEA Brain & Spine, says one of the best studies is from Tohoku University in Japan. “They noted thickening of the frontopolar cortex, which is related to verbal reasoning ability, and also correlated with a drop in IQ in proportion to the number of hours of television watching,” he says. “In addition, they noted thickening in the visual cortex in the occipital lobe, and in the hypothalamus, which may correlate with aggression.”

If that isn't enough of a reason to limit or quit television, I don't know what is.

A fan of extremes, I decided to eliminate all television and social media for a month.  I deleted social media apps from my phone to avoid the temptation of aimlessly scrolling when I had a few extra minutes.  And while I did not take as extreme an action with the televisions in my house, I still committed to avoiding them.  I anticipated that cutting out television would be easier for me; I went six years without setting up cable after college to save money and do not watch much tv anyways (except Law & Order SVU - that was tough to give up).

Three months later, I am proud to say I not only survived my productivity experiment, but have also continued it.  I'm more productive -- but more importantly -- I am a happier, more joyful person as a result.


Social media has been touted as a means to connect people across geographies and all walks of life.  And it is - through social media, you can efficiently share and view glimpses of life with friends and family.  These glimpses are snapshots in time, and are often cropped, edited, filtered, and captioned to create an image that is a shiny, polished version of reality.  Depending what you are watching, television can be similar.  Even "reality" television is edited with a slant for what will attract an audience.

For me, spending time seeing images and videos of other people living a different life than I was in my postpartum days created a sense of discontent that I was not okay with feeling.  I hated the fact that I felt envious of a friend who took a trip overseas, or another friend whose baby was a few months older and made being a mom look so easy on Instagram.  In reality, I was in a different season of life and wanted to enjoy that rather than look back to life before baby or look ahead to when baby was older.

Eliminating the source of my discontent - social media and (to a lesser degree) television - helps me to be more present in the time I have at work and with my family, which has translated to greater productivity as well as (and more importantly) greater feelings of contentment and joy.  I relish actual moments of life and accomplish more of the things that are important to me (family time, work, hobbies, running, etc) rather than comparing my life to what I see online or on tv.  And I have more moments to relish because I am not scrolling through Facebook when I have a quick break during the day or flipping through channels to find background noise to fill the quiet at night or on the weekends.  

I'm learning to appreciate, and even crave, quiet.  


Posted on January 21, 2018 and filed under Career Insights.