Social media is wonderful, but I don’t need to tell you that. You’ve heard it all before and probably love it just as much as you love the next trending animated GIF.
I am here to talk about the larger question looming from our rapid and pervasive integration of all things digital and social: How do we disconnect?
A long vacation to a remote island or mountain range should not be the only occasion to embrace a world away from the digital space. For our own sanity, happiness, and, ultimately, productivity, we need to become pros not only at turning on engaging social strategies, but also at turning off the constant flood of information and our compulsion to wade into it.
Below are five excuses you should never use when you find yourself firing up your favorite app on your smart device when the real world is begging for your attention.
1. I’m going to miss something.
News travels fast, even outside social media, and if some event is that big and important, you will hear about it. I have never heard of anyone’s regret over missing a status update because they were too busy living. I can’t say the same of the reverse. Plus, all that you think you’re missing out on will always be waiting for you when you return.
2. People want to hear from me.
Sure, sometimes. We love to hear about the newborn on the way or see the pictures from the trip abroad. Even the occasional commentary about the newest episode of “The Bachelor” can be entertaining, but indigestion from this morning’s breakfast is fascinating to no one but you and your small intestine.
We are all guilty of the narcissism social media so easily lends itself to, but the compulsion to share even the banal moments of our existence with our communities is a nasty virus that wastes your time and everyone else’s attention.
Keep that not-so-riveting chatter to yourself, and you’ll win back the time you were devoting to crafting something “witty” in 140 characters. Your followers will thank you, too.
3. I’m just bored
Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote in “Outliers” that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, or just under three hours each day for the next 10 years. It seems like a big time commitment, but think about the minutes and hours spent each day scrolling endlessly through social media channels due to self-proclaimed “boredom.”
Putting that energy toward something more rewarding not only might make you a better painter or violinist, but diversifying your interests can also have positive impacts on your work by revealing new approaches and modes of thought.
Don’t worry if you need help reining in your aimless social wandering—there’s an app for that. Remember, everyone is more interesting with hidden talents.
4. It’s my only way to stay in touch.
Though this may be true for the high school friends you no longer see who have also mysteriously fallen out of your phone contacts—wait, let’s stop there. The ease of social media has built up our reliance on these platforms as a principal way to connect with one another, especially with those long-lost friends we still like to stealthily keep tabs on. But anyone will tell you that social media has its limitations in creating authentic and meaningful connections.
Social media can bolster and support efforts, but the real experiences are what we remember and activate around. Pick up the phone, have a real conversation, and remember what it is like to hear a voice on the other end. Your grandma will be tickled to hear from you.
5. I have to check my notifications.
In the world of instant gratification, nothing may be better than watching your community immediately engage with your posts. Look, I’m so insightful and clever. Great, but here’s some advice; turn off the push notifications every now and then.
Nothing is so important or intriguing that you need an immediate alert banner across your phone distracting you from the task at hand.
You could miss that left turn, a fly ball, or a question from the boss. So, let sleeping phones lie. If you must, save them all up to read at the end of the day—it’s like a social-media-sharing Christmas morning!
The digital world is here to stay, and it is our task to find new ways to let it enhance, not distract from, our lives. If we can do that, I think we will find we are better employees, neighbors, friends, and family members.
Alicia Herczeg is an analyst with Edelman Digital specializing in social campaign strategy and measurement. A version of this article first appeared on EdelmanDigital.com.