My good friend Tim Sanders often talks about being wary of what you feed your brain and how putting too much of a bad thing (i.e. negative information, etc.) into it can have truly tangible effects. I was starting to notice that I was getting out of shape- mentally- so a couple of months ago I went on a social media diet. I’ve already lost 3 pounds of aggravation, gained significant brain muscle tone and I can fit back into my Mensa membership.
Here’s why I went on my social media diet and why you might want to consider doing so too, as well as a few social media dieting tips.
Over-Exposure to “Stupid”: While there are clearly many fabulous people online with interesting, clever and thought-provoking things to say, the law of averages is also in play, meaning that there are many more that are not up to snuff, so to speak. Part of my diet was pruning these people out of my social media streams and being more selective about what I read. If you are getting frustrated, annoyed or angry on a regular basis, or finding your eyes rolling more than usual, cut back on who and what you are reading and how often.
Also, Tim Sanders suggests that you don’t go online first thing in the morning and that you instead start your day with some positive, nourishing information for your brain to set the tone for your day. That’s helped tremendously.
Needing a Grease & Oil Change: Social media takes multi-tasking and maneuvering to a whole new level. At any given moment, you may find that you are scanning information, clicking links, reading headlines and moving back and forth between tasks. This made my brain go haywire. While I clearly know the difference between and the proper usage of their, there and they’re, I found that often, my brain was so overloaded that it was pulling the wrong word out first. Words like “think” were being typed as “thing” and vice versa and the grammar in some of my tweets was so abysmal that I still cringe when I read them. So, I cut back on the multi-tasking to help restore my brain to a better state of functioning.
Going Broad but Not Deep: Remember when the low-fat diet craze came about? Food manufacturers took out healthy fats and real foods and substituted them with more sugar and chemicals to make them “healthier”. That doesn’t work and I feel the same about social media. Social media has substituted cogent, insightful information for headlines and quick facts, which may make you feel full, but aren’t really good for you. I am being much more selective about what I am reading and carving out more time for long-form reading, like books and full length articles, to go deep into subjects. During my diet, I have read The Black Swan and Too Big to Fail and re-read Liar’s Poker, allowing for some truly insightful thinking and analysis.
Priorities Need Prioritization: Getting enraptured in social media means less time to spend with those individuals who are important to you- family, longstanding friends and colleagues and even social media friends that deserve more than 140 characters. It’s important to strike a balance. It’s claimed that you become an amalgamation of sorts of the six people with whom you spend the most time, so choose carefully and be aware of where and with whom you are spending that time.
Now, dieting doesn’t mean starving or eliminating, it’s much more about moderation. However, moderation has never really been “my thing”- I am more of an all or nothing kind of gal, a nice way of saying that I have an addictive or highly consumptive personality. If you can relate to that, you may find that like me, you need to fight that natural tendency when it comes to social media. So, here are some quick things you can do to help you with your social media diet:
1- Stop following or interacting with anyone who irks you- regardless of whether they may have some good information from time to time; implement a no-asshole rule, even if the asshole might be clever every once in a while;
2- Try to avoid going online first thing in the morning or last thing at night before bed;
3- Set up a schedule with when and for how long you are going to use social media;
4- Before reading any link, ask yourself whether the information is really potentially useful or entertaining;
5- Go back to reading more long form information, like books, and have thoughtful discussions about them or take notes and really analyze and apply the information; and
6- Spend more time engaging offline or in deeper ways with your most valued friends and contacts
Like with any diet, results will vary, but if you commit yourself, you too can have the body mind that you always wanted.
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is currently an on-air contributor for the national cable television station CNBC, the pre-eminent name in business news, and the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country. Carol multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics.
Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011 &2012) and has her own action figure.
If one is on the mission to make a dent in their universe, a primary question to ask often is "What are you doing when you're not doing what you need to be doing?"
In this day and age, I think that if social media addicts can be honest with themselves, the answer would be, "messing around with social media".
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make with Social Media is not setting up times dedicated purely for that activity. So instead of working, they're on Facebook trying to make people laugh or trying to look cool or talking shit about Chick-Fil-A or whatever else the media is raging on.
So what happens is that even though they're having a good time, if they have any ambition to better themselves at all, they've got these guilty pangs because they know they should be doing something else that moves their life forward.
I've found that if I dedicate a defined 30 minutes of my day to just consuming hilarious brain dead information/connecting with friends/catching up on headlines via social media, I get a lot more done during my day and I have zero guilt about the time I'm spending there.
It's also helped me massively to only allow myself this privilege if I've met a list of certain things I wanted to make happen that day.
And oh yeah Carol, I too am a huge fan of Tim Sanders. I took notes on his "The Likability Factor" presentation and wrote a blog post around them.
What a fantastic article! You are on point with everything.
In particular, I love this statement: "Stop following or interacting with anyone who irks you- regardless of whether they may have some good information from time to time; implement a no-asshole rule, even if the asshole might be clever every once in a while"
To me, the most challenging thing about social media is people. I can't believe what some write or say sometimes.
Loved this statement "Social media has substituted cogent, insightful information for headlines and quick facts, which may make you feel full, but aren’t really good for you."
My perception is that what is missing from many interactions and many individuals is the ability to analyze. A great title and quick reference doesn't always (and frequently does not) tell the whole story, let alone the truth of the matter.
I've also seen a degradation of quality related to postings, especially in Linked In. There were several groups that I use to love to visit due to the high quality of dialog. At this point, there are more marketing and fishing expedition posts than anything useful.
Related to this concept, I've also put down my Nook and gone back to reading paper books. I've noticed that my approach to reading is different using different media. Plus it also gives my eyes a break from digital pressure. Both my eyes and brain are saying thank you.
P.S. I took time away from much of the media this summer and actually spent it with my kids. Longer term benefits for the investment of my time. Face-to-face conversations seem to be a lost art.
Hi Carol - great post, and glad to hear the "Diet" was successful. Last year, I culled through who I was following on Twitter and got the list down to the people I really want to hear from, find inspiring, or entertaining. The list was cut from 2,000+ to about 100. Made a HUGE difference in how I interact online, and the quality of that interaction.
Also, I love your number 5 Bullet Point about exposing yourself to more long-form content. This is something I need to remind myself to do, but am always grateful for a finished book or essay that can dive deep on a subject instead of broadly touching it.