Inverting the Distraction of Social Media

There are plenty of articles out there that rail against social media. The trouble is not that they’re inaccurate–most hold valid points. It’s that they’re often a laundry list of complaints without any real takeaways, other than “social media sucks” or “regulate Facebook.” At best, you get a call for moderation. 

A more effective approach is to invert the problem. How does the ever-present distraction that is social media present an advantage for you?

Most people aren’t going to dedicate their time to reading, writing, creating, training, or reflecting. Each of these are difficult things to do. It’s much easier to turn to Snapchat or Instagram as a crutch to waste away the hours. 

If you train yourself to do the difficult work that others avoid and ignore the distractions that others can’t resist, you put yourself years ahead. 

But this requires mental toughness and an ability to suffer. Most people panic at the first sign of discomfort. You’re sacrificing immediate for delayed gratification. If you’re able to master this impulse and embrace discomfort, you provide yourself more opportunities for growth. 

We distinguished the excellent man from the common man by saying that the former is one who makes great demands on himself, and the latter the one who makes no demands on himself…
— José Ortega y Gasset

In the age of distraction, there’s no greater differentiator than establishing yourself as a stalwart of focus and creativity. 

This comes from allowing yourself to sit with something, even if it means getting stuck. Nail Gaiman, author, uses a similar technique when he sits down to write. He gives himself permission to either write or do nothing. But everything else is off the table. Sooner or later, staring off into the distance gets boring and the only alternative is to write. 

In many ways, distractions are a training ground. Social media is just the latest culprit. If you’re able to resist the easy thing within reach and focus instead on the more challenging task, that translates across every aspect of your life. 

Most people think they can wait around for the big moments to turn it on. But if you don’t cultivate ‘turning it on’ as a way of life in the little moments – and there are hundreds of times more little moments than big – then there’s no chance in the big moments.
— Josh Waitzkin

You can either complain about the distraction that is social media or you can use that energy to turn in to your advantage. And it’s a tremendous advantage for those able to ignore the noise and create more

Are you going to sit down and do the work? Or are you going to be a sucker for another quick hit of empty recognition that comes from someone mindlessly scrolling through their feed and tapping on your status? 

Let other people wander towards distraction. Social media should be just another test to hone your focus and practice tuning out the noise. 

The more time you spend creating, the more fulfilled you are going to be. History belongs to those able to overcome the incessant distractions of their time.