Cal Newport on Measuring the Value of Connectivity

This is my second week of trying to abstain from all social media, and I have been failing gloriously.

I can’t seem to take my hands away from clicking that app icon.

I have uninstalled apps only to reinstall them. I am finding reasons to go back to Facebook or Instagram, because my mind tells me I have to share this one insight or reach out to this one person, or share this one thing, the message or communication of which [I apparently believe] can only be served through the means of “x” Messenger chat device.

I’ve turned off notifications, giving myself what I thought an acceptable and reasonable amount of distance and constraint.

I am a victim of connectivity.

How have I, along with potentially many of my peers found ourselves to be this way?

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A month ago, I finished reading a book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, written by Cal Newport. It unpacks the professor’s studies on deep work and deep work’s place in our modern world of connectivity.

As Newport shares mind-opening insights in regards to facilitating deliberate practice and deep work, he questions whether social media and its perceived benefits are truly beneficial to one’s life and proceeds to ask us all to contemplate on whether it actually inhibits our ability to do significant and qualitative work.

In my support for his argument on social media not being beneficial, I am not claiming that one must do everything and justify it solely for its industriousness, its productivity level, or its potential for adding value to our society (That’s where the case for pleasure comes in, for pleasure’s sake.). However, his arguments were compelling enough to give me pause and think deeper about this waves arms around situation.

So, inspired as I was, I decided to embark on a personal project to apply the claims and suggestions I found to be relevant for my life.

For October, I set for myself the goal of abstaining from using all modes of social media for a month. I haven’t not tried this out before, but the cool thing this time in re-embarking on a [Social] Media diet was that Cal Newport’s proposal for  quitting social media suggests we mentally approach this trial period as a means for observation, rather than see it as a time in which we make the drastic decision to quit forever and live a Luddite life for the rest of our lives.

I’ve outlined for you some salient notes that I found key to embarking on this low-commitment period of self-exploration—it’s already yielded some valuable personal insights for me and hopefully you will find this helpful to you too:

Allez vous!

Cal Newport suggests the following guidelines for measuring the value of our connectivity:

“Set a 30 day goal for self-imposed network isolation. After those 30 days, “ask yourself the following two questions about each of the services you temporarily quit:

  1. Would the last thirty days have been notably better if I had been able to use this service?
  2. Did people care that I wasn’t using this service? (p. 205)”

“The Any-benefit Approach to Network Tool Selection: You’re justified in using a network tool if you can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything you might possibly miss out on if you don’t use it.” How do you perceive the value of the tools in your life in relation to this?

After two weeks of following his suggestions, I came to certain, undeniable revelations about myself. I determined I have a very dependent relationship with certain media devices. I also apparently have more of a lack of self-control than I had previously thought (whether this characteristic is exacerbated from being a millennial or being genetically pre-disposed, I do not know). And most importantly, I’ve realized just how distracted I could be as opposed to seeing how focused or not distracted I was. This project was intriguing to me because although I’ve long developed a wariness towards the effects of technology and its byproducts, I was seeing things in a whole new light thanks to Newport’s tips & tweaks.

Ending notes: 

Sometimes, social media tools are very necessary to me, and I find Instagram in particular as a very enjoyable way to spend some portions of my day. But is the amount of time I dedicate to these platforms truly necessary, and ultimately even healthy for me et mon existence as a huuuman?

That is something for me to continue thinking about.

For more, hit up Cal Newport’s post on September 21 on quitting.

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