Social media has undoubtedly contributed to a culture of constantly needing to prove oneself, making it so easy for us to lose ourselves in the process of seeking that external validation. Do you struggle to focus? Has your attention been stolen for profit? Are you feeling conflicted about social media and its impact on mental health? Don’t miss out on this episode as Whitney Lauritsen answers these questions and more! She reflects on the illusions of connection presented to us by our relationship with social media, diving deep into its negative impacts—from comparison to FOMO to feeling overwhelmed as well as the struggles we face to maintain control of our own attention span. As we fight to stay connected despite it all, Whitney reminds us of the importance of self-care, self-awareness, and self-compassion. Join her as she imparts the importance of reclaiming that self-worth away from the metrics set by the online world. Reconnect with your purpose and meaning and dig deep into your relationship with yourself and others.
Listen to the podcast here
The Illusion Of Connection: Do You Still Matter Without Social Media?
I did an episode about how I’m conflicted about social media. Shortly after I did that episode, I started reading a book called The Myth of Normal and the following week’s episode or the solo episode, mind you, because, on Mondays, I do a solo episode, me talking about life, thoughts and experiences. Fridays are my days with guests.
The following Monday after that episode about being conflicted about social media, I followed up with it because as I started reading The Myth of Normal, I started to gain some more clarity. I was so into that book. I haven’t finished it yet because, as this is typical for me in my reading style, I started reading several other books. I was thinking, “Why do I struggle to finish a book?”
I use this amazing free tool called Libby, which is owned by a company called Overdrive. It is amazing. I’m so glad that more people are using this tool because it allows you to borrow books digitally from your library if you have never used them before. It is one of those things that I would feel devastated if I didn’t have access to anymore. You can have multiple library cards and multiple libraries around the country.
I don’t know if it is just for the United States. There is at least an equivalent in Canada because I know someone who uses that there too. Libby is nice because you go on, you can search for books and borrow them. With popular books, you often have to wait, sometimes several months. I’m constantly going on there and putting books on hold. They arrive and I feel a sense of urgency to read them.
That is a system I still have to figure out for myself because I have noticed how it interrupts my flow. That is a little behind-the-scenes if you are ever wondering why I skip around and talk about many books. I go through a lot of phases where I’m reading a lot. I listen to a ton of audiobooks and I’m trying to read more. I’m trying to read more physical books and that ties into this topic. It is all related to social media. Books and social media will be a big theme of this episode.
Before I dive into those topics, a little update on life is I’m recording this a few days before the end of 2022. A ton of anxiety reminds me of how I felt right after Thanksgiving 2022 when I felt so much heaviness. I started feeling a similar sense the day after Christmas, which I celebrated. It was a little bit different because I didn’t have nearly as much social stimulation on Christmas as I did on Thanksgiving.
If you didn’t read that episode post-Thanksgiving, I mentioned how being around a ton of people for a holiday was wonderful but extremely draining for me. Christmas, I felt like I approached consciously. I tried to tune into what was going to make me feel my best. I spent so much time thinking of gifts for my close loved ones and felt nourished by that. I also came up with a list of gifts I would feel nourished by. I received some of them, plus some amazing surprises from loved ones who gifted things to me. Christmas felt extremely generous. That was fulfilling to me.
I also spent time thinking about how I went to spend the day and on Christmas Eve. I stayed in Los Angeles instead of visiting my family in Massachusetts, which brought up some emotions that felt a little surprising. I don’t know if the depression I was feeling. Anxiety has been there. I also felt depressed. That was unexpected because I’m fortunate not to feel depressed that frequently. I felt low moods a lot but it felt more like depression and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I wondered if I was sad that Christmas was over.
That morning of the holidays, we spend so much time in society culturally gearing up for the holidays and all of that. I have this cool Christmas tree set up with lights and decorations. I was playing Christmas music. I have my holiday candles which smell like fresh cedar and all those plants. Now that it is over, I feel uncomfortable. 2023 is a few days away at the time I’m recording this. I feel some pressure to celebrate that in a certain way. I’m afraid. What if I have another day or two or several after New Year? That feels intense. I have been trying to be mindful of how I can support myself.
This might have been the case last time. I will have to go back to see, using my tracking software, which I also want to share with you before I get into our topic of social media and books. I have been intentional about tracking. It is inspired by my therapy sessions, where I have been doing so much work around some of my explorations around neurodivergence, which helps me understand myself much better. My therapist and I spend a lot of time exploring my sleep challenges.
I have talked a little bit about I may eventually do a bigger episode on my sleep disorder, which I’m still trying to get to the root of. I did an MRI, EEG and sleep study. 2022 has been a deeper dive into my sleep issues. I started tracking my sleep closely. My favorite Christmas gift is along that line and I’m going to hold it up for the eventual YouTube version of it.
For those reading, it is a device called the Whoop. It is a wearable device that tracks your heart rate and other biometrics if biometrics is the right term. It measures you throughout the day. I also wear the Apple Watch. It looks a little interesting because I have an Apple watch in one hand and my Whoop in the other. Part of me is connected to all this tech, which is going to be a big theme of this episode.
Whoop is something I have been thinking about for a while. My sister got one and was raving about it. She wanted to look at her sleep. She also is an athlete. She was measuring her activity and she wanted to learn more about taking good care of her body. I was considering the Oura Ring, which is something I have been thinking about for years. I felt a little bit leaning more toward the Whoop. I went with that. It is a hard decision because I have heard great things about the Oura Ring too. I’m tempted if I should get that as well. I don’t think wearing three pieces of tech measurements is necessary, nor might not even be beneficial.
I started using Whoop to track my sleep and better measure my daily activity, which I have been measuring on my Apple Watch for quite some time. I love tracking how much I exercise stand and how many calories approximately I’m burning, not from a weight standpoint but making sure I’m getting enough activity and movement from my overall health. That drastically impacts things like anxiety, depression and stress.
Through tracking, I have been able to make better decisions for myself and I’m learning to discover patterns. With the neurodivergent side, I have been able to pay more attention to how I’m feeling throughout the day and how certain things impact me. I also use an app called Bearable. I have mentioned it in the past.
You can use Bearable for free. The Apple Watch and the Whoop cost money. They are more premium. I was excited to get the Whoop for a Christmas gift. I didn’t have to buy it myself. I want to be transparent that some of these tools are expensive. That is why I have waited a while to get them. That is why I haven’t gotten the Oura Ring. The Whoop and the Oura Ring start around $200 to $250-ish, depending on all these things. You sign up for monthly membership. It is a little bit of a drag. The device itself is “free” but you pay a monthly or yearly fee for it. The gift that I received was for a whole year, which is cool. I will keep you posted in 2023 when I have done the full year and see if I continue using them.
It is amazing. It tracks sleep in a way that I have never seen with my Apple Watch. I’m trying to figure out my sleep disorder through that and also see the connection between my anxiety and stress. I’m trying to see what is going on with my cortisol and hormones. All of these things are becoming bigger parts of my life and not from biohacking or health hacking. Those terms trigger me a little bit. It is ironic. This will slowly start to get me into our topic around a specific book.
The subject of social media and technology is that I have been very drawn to measurements and simultaneously turned off by them. I sometimes wonder why personal development appeals to me so much. I feel like I’m trying to find the answers and sometimes getting some great clues through the books I read.
The Myth of Normal is a great example because in that book, as I talked about in my follow-up to social media, I wonder if my feelings around social media are tied to the desire for validation and childhood trauma. That is something I’m also thinking about a lot as I explore with my therapist. I wonder if there are some hidden traumas in my life. Am I neurodivergent or did I experience some trauma that I have buried deep that I don’t even recall it?
That is a whole other subject and I don’t know if I will ever get the answer fully to that because I don’t know of any. Sometimes that is scary. It was in The Myth of Normal episode that the difference between Capital T trauma and Lowercase T trauma. It is in The Myth of Normal that explores how most of us have experienced some Lowercase T trauma. That is not to minimize the two. They are different in terms of how we respond to them.
These are the things that I’m discovering and exploring constantly. I do see quite a connection to social media. With my other updates aside, tracking myself through tools and technology is useful. You certainly could do a lot of this by journaling. My therapist has been recommending that I journal sleep like my dreams and sleep how I slept.
If I wanted to, I could probably track all of these things by hand. I wouldn’t have the data that something like a Whoop device gives me in which I’m able to see my heart rate overnight. That is extremely helpful. Given some of the drawbacks of technology, I’m starting to explore in a deeper way that my career is no longer as connected to. A huge part of my career is done through technology. All of it is, now that I think about it. That is probably where a lot of the conflict comes from.
My well-being coaching I’m leaning more into is done virtually. I don’t know if doing in-person sessions is something that I would want to do. There are many drawbacks to that. It is not as accessible. Using virtual tools and tech has been the cornerstone and the foundation of my work and career. I’m also willing to explore it on a deeper level. I wouldn’t be talking to you now if it weren’t for technology. You wouldn’t be reading this if it weren’t for technology. I have felt a deep love and curiosity for tech my whole life more than a lot of people, if not most people I have known.
I have always been someone who has been a little bit more fascinated and passionate about computers since more so than most people in my life. I could geek out about tech software and hardware. I used to work at the Apple store. That job brought me much joy because I was immersed in it. I was learning constantly. Even at the Apple store, I was someone there that seemed to have had more enthusiasm and knowledge than a lot of my colleagues because, believe it or not, to work at Apple store, at least over the period that I was there, they would generally hire you based on your personality more than they would your knowledge of tech.
Back in the “day,” it was incredibly competitive to get a job at Apple. Around the time I was hired there, it was harder to get a job at Apple than get into Harvard. When I got in, I was like, “Whoa.” I was new to using Apple products regularly. I used them when I was in college and also throughout my education in elementary school and high school. I remember going into working at Apple feeling like I didn’t know a ton. Over time, I learned a lot and expanded because I was interested in it.
That is a big part of my journey with social media too. What I love about Apple products is they are made for creativity. Creativity is the foundation I have always felt about Apple. They are not exclusive to that but a lot of creative types use their products. They feel intuitive. They have been designed to be different and that has always appealed to me too.
In the past, I’m not sure how much they focused on this now but the core of the marketing angle with Apple was around being different and I have always felt different. Neurodivergence is an alignment with that too. There was a lean into social media felt a lot throughout my time with Apple. There was some correlation. Looking back at the history of Apple, there are a lot of parallels between the history of a lot of the big social media platforms. It is interesting how I felt drawn to all of that.
When I examined books like The Myth of Normal thinking, I was like, “Was I drawn to that because I felt different and I wanted to be accepted or was I trying to continue being different because that is where I got my validation?” Maybe it is both. I have wondered, “Why I’m an early adopter? Am I an early adopter because I love technology? I’m excited to try things and I don’t want to wait. I’m generally willing to try something new, whereas a lot of people want to wait and see other people do it first.” I’m drawn to the new, different and novelty. When something doesn’t feel new and it feels too crowded, I start to lose interest. I have been reflecting on that with my social media history.
Social Media And Our Stolen Focus
I want to share this book that I have been teasing about, the book that put my reading of The Myth of Normal on pause. This book is called Stolen Focus. It is my book obsession. If you haven’t noticed this about me, when I read a book I love, I can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it and referencing it. I get deeply curious about certain books and hyper-fixated on them. I don’t feel like I have the desire to focus or drop everything to read. This book is helping me examine why.
Let me start with a little preference or overview of this book. The full name is Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How to Think Deeply Again. It is written by Johann Hari. I don’t even remember how I came across this book. I wish I did know because of how much it is impacting me. It is a New York Times bestseller. I don’t know if that means too much to people but it makes sense because it is described as a groundbreaking examination of why our ability to pay attention is collapsing and how to get it back.
I have made it through about 50% of the book. There may be a follow-up episode to this as well as The Myth Normal. My goal is to finish this book because I feel like I’m getting many deep answers from this book. Here is the description. In the United States, teenagers can focus on one task for 65 seconds at a time. Office workers average only three minutes. Like many of us, Johann Hari was finding that constantly switching from device to device and tab to tab with a diminishing and depressing way to live.
He tried all sorts of self-help solutions, even abandoning his phone for three months but nothing seemed to work. Hari went on an epic journey around the world to interview the leading experts on human attention. He discovered that everything we know about this crisis is wrong. We think our inability to focus is a personal failure to exert enough willpower over our devices. The truth is even more disturbing. Our focus has been stolen by powerful external forces that have left us uniquely vulnerable to corporations determined to rate our attention for profit. Hari found that there are twelve deep causes of this crisis, from the decline of mind wandering to rising pollution, all of which have robbed some of our attention.
I will pause there. There is a longer description. It is heavy but it is incredibly well written. I remember how I felt when I first started listening to the audiobook. As I often do, I have been doing the audiobook and reading the written word and not even being in sync. I go on a daily walk. I meant to say this earlier but this has been part of my routine. It has made a big difference for me physically and mentally. I take my dog. We go for about a 1-mile walk around the neighborhood and I usually listen to an audiobook.
I remember exactly where I was. I was on the street on the block when I first heard this. This book begins with the author recounting an experience related to Elvis. It was such a great piece of the book because it seems to have nothing to do with it but it drew me in. His writing is remarkable to me. I’m constantly in awe of how he phrases things. I pulled up notes to share with you and could not believe it. Since I’m only 50% through this book, I have highlighted 227 lines in this book, which overwhelms me. Luckily, I have narrowed it down to about fifteen or so which is amazing to me. That is why I think this could be several parts and I will probably continue to reference this book over and over.
I feel like there are many visuals to it. He has written two other books. One is called Chasing the Scream, which is about drug addiction and Lost Connections. I remember my former co-host Jason talking about Lost Connections. I tried to read that book and somehow I didn’t get drawn in but now I’m like, “I can’t wait to read everything.” I believe also he has done a TED Talk. You could go down the rabbit hole. He has been in podcasts. He is someone I will add to my list of people to invite to this show one day.
This book has helped me reflect a lot on why I found social media to be conflicting as I have given the background to my interests in social media as well as professionally. I felt a lot of challenging, confusing emotions. I even hesitate to say this because it sounds a little extreme. I was going to say, “I want to step as far away from social media as possible but I don’t know if that’s true.”
One, because as the book has started to get to in the sections that I have read up to so far, there are a lot of benefits to social media. I don’t know how I would fully replace that. I have been experimenting with it because I haven’t been using it much. For instance, on the Wellevatr social media accounts, the only time I have posted in the past several months has been a few tweets and maybe some stories. I go on to Instagram for Wellevatr to see if their message is from readers like you and occasionally I get them there.
Even with that, I don’t like the container. I have been wondering if I should stop encouraging readers to reach out to me on Instagram because I don’t enjoy it anymore. I find it overstimulating, even to open up the app and go to the messaging section. I wouldn’t be surprised if I used 2023 to wean myself off of using that at all. Maybe I will turn off messaging and that feels scary because I’m cutting off an access point. As I have been looking at the cons of social media and weighing them out with the pros of it, I feel like I will be cut off socially from a lot of people, maybe even including you.
I felt the same about Facebook. I barely use Facebook. Even Facebook marketplace is not something that I enjoy selling things. That was of saving grace. In Facebook groups, they feel incredibly overstimulating and confusing. I don’t enjoy a lot of social media anymore from a personal level. Twitter was a place I enjoyed for a while because it was mostly text. You could pick up things in nuggets. There is a line about Twitter in Stolen Focus that blew me away and hopefully, I will get to that in this episode.
I have been noticing that it feels like not only is it stealing away my focus but it is contributing to anxiety and it’s not adding to joy for me. It doesn’t even feel fully necessary. That is probably the biggest thing I have learned since I started slowly distancing myself from social media in 2020. When I started my transition away from the Eco-Vegan Gal brand that I spent several years building, I noticed that it wasn’t that hard. I don’t feel like I’m missing out that much. Occasionally, opportunities come up but they are not even worth it from a career standpoint. They are not from a personal standpoint.
Capitalism And Superficial Connections
Let me go back to that because I feel like that’s a little bit more relatable since not everybody has a career using social media. I have noticed, in general, communication and socializing are hard. I don’t know if they always have been hard for me and I have done such a great job masking or something shifted in me and maybe socializing feels different all of a sudden. Some people say that about the pandemic and the shifts that have happened. I don’t know what the source is. I feel like it is different.
Most communication feels incredibly challenging and there is a very limited number of people that I feel comfortable talking to. Comfortable in the sense that it is like an ease and a desire. There are people in my life whom I deeply love and have respect for but I don’t feel that full of ease talking to them. It feels hard. I feel resistance. I have noticed this. Maybe the word resistance plays a big role in how I feel about social media. It is like noticing that I was doing it because it was fitting versus doing it because it brought me deep satisfaction and connection.
One thing that the book Stolen Focus touches upon a few times is how social media isn’t designed for us to socialize. It may be was in the beginning but with the end of 2022, the beginning of 2023, it has become centered around capitalism. That is where it is disturbing. Capitalism makes me feel uneasy. I’m grateful for the access to buy things and things that have been developed for all different types of needs in the world. We have an issue with our finances.Social media isn't designed for us to socialize. It's actually become very centered around capitalism. Click To Tweet
As the book Stolen Focus points out over and over again, people have learned some big manipulation tactics using social media to convince us to buy things we don’t need and use our money in a way that doesn’t serve us in the long-term. It has also pulled us away from deep connections with one another and driven us towards superficial connection as well as disagreement.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of reading this book was a section about how things like anger, hate, disagreements and negativity, in general, lead to more social media engagement. They are triggering something within us on a psychological level that almost becomes addicting. It is like a car accident on the street. We as human beings have a tendency to slow down to stop to rubber neck whatever when there is an accident. That leads to this long traffic buildup that none of us enjoy. This happened to me almost every time. I will sit in traffic for a long time and I’m frustrated but I continue to contribute to the traffic because I too will slow down. It is hard not to look at an accident.
The news has tapped into this. Much of the news is driven by the most awful things. The media is all sensationalized. Many of us spend a lot of time on social media so a lot of us are exposed to negative things that we probably don’t want in our life. It is hard to turn away from. Manipulation there that we are shown a lot of that because social media apps want us to spend as much time as possible on them. They can make money. This is a capitalism side of it. They can sell us things and show us ads. It is part of their ad model.Social media apps want us to spend as much time as possible on them so that they can make money. Click To Tweet
This book, Stolen Focus, is not the only one that talks about this. This is pretty common knowledge but not everybody is aware of it. It is easy to access information. Maybe it is not common knowledge but I wouldn’t say that this is a necessarily biased viewpoint. It is factual because I have been hearing this for years and turned a blind eye to it.
This explains to me why I feel uncomfortable about a lot of media, in general, like gossip and celebrity news. Much of it is centered around making fun of people, shaming people, pointing out their flaws, highlighting their mistakes and canceling them, “accountability” that isn’t accountability. I have witnessed this shift away from the social side of social media and away from the educational and the inspirational, which is what drew me into it.
Social media was a form of connection and expression. When I first started using that, when I signed up for Facebook, which was probably in 2004 or 2005, it was so much about connecting with people I went to school with. That is how most people use Facebook in the beginning. That is what Facebook has created for. I have read about the history of Facebook and I don’t fully know it all off the top of my head. I would be curious to see the evolution of when the money side started to come into play.
How early on did Mark Zuckerberg start thinking about how to make money from Facebook versus that tool of popularity? He wasn’t even using Facebook for good in the beginning. If you have seen the movie The Social Network or read about Facebook, he was putting pictures of people’s faces up. The first version of Facebook was about women that he went to school with. They were rating their appearance and checking in on each other.
I remember hearing about it and it was like curiosity about one another. It was a virtual yearbook but it was updated constantly. You could spy on people and chat with people. I wouldn’t say it was innocent but much more innocent than it feels. I started using Twitter a few years after that. There was news on Twitter back then and I was starting to experiment with the marketing side of it. It was promoting my Eco-Vegan Gal blog and YouTube channel.
That is where The Myth of Normal side of the equation comes in because I was starting to get validation. I was featured in some roundups of the top Twitter accounts to follow and that gave me all this validation. Once I started building and growing views, likes and accepting subscribers and followers, it was very validating. When that stuff slowed down, it was a big chip in my ego. This impacts people personally and professionally.
Everybody that has used social media has experienced the high of getting a lot of likes and attention because it has happened to virtually everybody. That is the way social media is designed. I’m sure there are some examples of people who have never received a like or a heart before but due to the way social media works, at least your network of friends is going to give you some attention. They are going to see your photos. They are going to think it is cute or funny. Maybe they don’t even like it but they are liking it to be nice and supportive or they are liking it to mock you. All this behavior has been designed to trigger us to feel good and continue doing it.
Our natural curiosity is to see what other people are doing and the observation and spy on them. That is tapped into our human tendencies. When my career was around social media, for me at the beginning, in addition to marketing my work, I started realizing people would pay me to teach them how to use social media. That was in still is, in some ways, part of my career. I’m reevaluating that because, to be honest, social media marketing is extremely complicated. It is positioned as being easy and hackable but it is quite expensive and not easy for everybody. There are many misconceptions. The cons of social media have outweighed the pros for a ton of people but it is hard to admit that because it is such a huge part of our society.
Disconnection And Multitasking
Let me dive into the quotes from Stolen Focus and how I have been reflecting on all of this. I’m probably going to move at a slower pace as I read through it. There are over 200 highlights so far. I will be pulling out some of the phrases that are giving me food for thought and perhaps you food for thought too. The first highlight I have in this book is a reference to that section about Elvis, which will make more sense if you decide to read it.
The author says, “It was like that person had broken into smaller disconnected fragments. He struggled to stay with a topic of conversation for more than a few minutes without jerking back to the screen or abruptly switching to another topic.” This is something I have noticed. This book isn’t just about social media. It is heavily focused on that. That section reminds me of technology and how it has disconnected us from one another.
As I talk about all these tools that I’m using to monitor myself, there could be ways in which that is distracting me. I’m like, “Am I too focused on meeting the number of steps I need?” Anyone who has an Apple Watch has probably experimented with this activity monitor. On mine, I have it on my screen. Every day I try to meet the minimum. It has become almost this obsession, this desire to hit my streaks. Streaks, for a lot of us, can be a bit distracting and it is easy to obsess over them.
I am trying to be mindful because I have noticed how uncomfortable I feel around people who are having a conversation with me while simultaneously looking at their computer or phone. It is such an unpleasant experience because you don’t have their full attention or their focus. They are maybe waiting for the conversation to be over so they can get back to their phone or computer and check their email, look on Facebook or check their text messages.
They are trying to have a conversation with you and multitask at the same time. Multitasking is a part of this book. Since I’m not going to get to every section in detail, the point made is that many of us believe that we have the ability to multitask but technically we don’t. Our brains aren’t wired that way. Multitasking is a phrase taken from computers, which I didn’t think I knew before I read this that computers can multitask and technology can do things that we can. We are trying to, in some ways, join ourselves with technology.Many of us believe that we have the ability to multitask, but technically we don't. Our brains aren't wired that way. Click To Tweet
I’m using the Whoop device because it can do things that I can’t. I can’t remember what my heart rate was and keep track of it in the same way that this can. I’m not able to track myself when I’m unconscious and sleeping. Technology is supporting me with t. Technology can multitask but it can support us to multitask because we are unable to truly multitask, yet we try to do it constantly.
Society and culturally, we have been conditioned to believe that we can do things like this or misled perhaps to believe that we can. When you are holding your phone and scrolling through it while having a conversation, you are not focusing or paying attention to either the conversation or the device but that has become culturally acceptable. That is the first section. Elvis doesn’t have too much to do with the quote I read but if you do read the book, you will see. That is a little teaser for you.
The same section is talking about how it is hard to gain any traction in our minds through this and how we have lost our capacity for concentration. He said in one of his eloquent phrasings, “It is as if it was a friend who had vanished one day at sea and never been seen since.” That is heartbreaking. That is why I got drawn into this book.
There is one person in my life who I don’t want to call out publicly. I won’t give any details about who they are. It has been an ongoing struggle with many people in my life because I’m sensitive to things like this. I like to have deep, focused, connected conversations. I don’t like small talk. I understand distraction because I believe I am likely someone with ADHD, although still on my journey toward a full diagnosis of that.
I know what it is like to get distracted, feel understimulated and be seeking out more stimulation. That is why phones and tech are great. They stimulate me. I love my Meta Quests VR Headset. It is so stimulating. I can notice when I feel understimulated and my desire to get some stimulation but I’m practicing being mindful of that.
It is ironic that in the middle of a conversation, many of us don’t feel stimulated. That says more about the conversation. We need to seek out more stimulating conversations versus trying to get stimulation from something else and have a conversation at the same time, which dulls down our human connection. It leads to that feeling of, “That person is checked out. They are not with me. They have vanished into the sea. I will never see them again because all I’m having are surface-level conversations with them.” That is my worst nightmare.We need to seek out more stimulating conversations versus trying to get stimulation from something else and have a conversation at the same time, which actually dulls down our human connection. Click To Tweet
There is one person in my life. It is an ongoing argument that has been for years. I remember when texting was becoming a big part of our communication styles. I was a bit resistant to texting because it was expensive at the time. Most phones were unlimited depending on your age range. It was probably pre-2010. It costs a lot of money to text. Eventually, the phone system services started to switch over to unlimited and that is the standard.
In the pre-unlimited text, I would be careful about how many texts I send out because I don’t want to pay extra for them. I was like, “I will have a phone call.” Now I’m the opposite. I much prefer texts to phone calls. Texts are less stimulating for me. I don’t want to be overstimulated by communication. This is why this is all complicated. It depends on the setting. There are times when I want to sit with someone, make eye contact and be engrossed in a deep conversation. Other times, where I want as little information as possible.
As text messaging was becoming a standard communication forum, this one person in my life would be distracted at the dinner table texting away. I would think, “That seems rude to me. Here we are trying to have a meal together.” I participated in this with the rise of social media. I remember the opposite happening when I would go out to eat a meal with somebody and be focused on taking a great picture. I would check into the locations.
People still do this but back in the day, there was this app called Foursquare, which I don’t think exists anymore. I became obsessed with it. I wanted to check in everywhere I went. Every restaurant I went to, I would want to write a review of it and take a picture. I still do that but not in real-time. Back then, it was real-time. I wanted people to know where I was. That was part of how I got validation. I’m like, “Look where I’m eating and what I’m doing.” It was all this looking at me and finding ways to brag about the things that I was doing. People would be upset with me for doing that. They felt disconnected from me and I would try to justify it all the time.
Reconnect With Something That Matters
I have seen both sides of it. I have seen how other people and I have disappeared. I have seen the long-term impacts on some of my relationships and it is fighting for it, fighting to stay connected. Going back to Stolen Focus, the next highlight is the phrase, “Reconnect with something that matters to us.” That is what I’m on a journey to do. That is why this book drew me in. I recognize that I do feel disconnected from myself.
As I mentioned in that conflict about the social media episode, I feel confused about social media. I feel confused about my role in it. A few people I know in my life don’t use it. I can see myself getting there more. I’m slowly backing away from it. In full transparency, I still consider social media marketing tools that I am exploring and understanding for clients because that is how I generate most of my money. I have clients who hire me to help them with marketing.
My desire is to find an ethical way to market and find a way that doesn’t feel too rooted in capitalism but there is some conflict and I’m still navigating that. It is not perfectly clear to me because I want to generate money for myself and I still feel drawn to social media. It is still an interest of mine even though I don’t want to use it that much personally or directly with my work.
One thing I have been thinking about a lot is I have been reading Stolen Focus is what if I didn’t use social media at all for Wellevatr or the show? Is it necessary? Honestly, I don’t think it is necessary. I don’t want it to be necessary because I haven’t found how it could bring me joy. That is why I put so much social media and pause. It doesn’t bring me joy. It feels like a stealing joy but it is scary to fully step away from him.
I have this one friend who ironically met through social media. I have met several great people. You have read through many guest episodes if you have been reading those. I find incredible people through social media. TikTok is a great place. I have been pondering my usage of TikTok. I’m slowly trying to wean myself off of using it as much as I historically have. I’m afraid of losing out on those connections because I cherish them.
Fear Of Missing Out
What would life be like without making those connections? If my goal is to connect more and not less, how do I do that? Can I still achieve that in these meaningful ways without social media? That is what I’m trying to figure out. Books like Stolen Focus are giving me these clues. I promise I’m not reading these quotes before I make these statements but they are somehow all lining up because the next highlight in that book was you are afraid of missing out. That is why you are checking your screen all the time. By doing that, you are guaranteeing you are missing out. You’re missing your only life. You can’t see the things that are right in front of you, the things that you have been longing to see.By checking your screen all the time because you’re afraid of missing out, you guarantee missing out on your one and only life. Click To Tweet
That quote in the context was related to the author being frustrated in that Elvis context. This is all still part of that same section of noticing people who were at Graceland, where Elvis lived and how people at Graceland were on their screens looking at information about Graceland versus being at Graceland and looking around the physical place. How that experience opened his eyes to people’s use of tech and looking at these screens? I feel that frustration.
Social media introduces us to things. That is where the struggle is. For example, I talk a lot about how I find places to visit through social media. I use TikTok videos to find new places to travel. I mark them down, go to them and experience what they’re like in person. I have minimized how much I use social media during my travels. I rarely ever post about my travels anymore on social. I mostly talk about them here on the show. I don’t want to be someone that is taking photos for Instagram or making videos for TikTok because that takes me out of that moment.
This idea of the fear of missing out is hard because, to the author’s point, by checking your screen all the time because you are afraid to miss out on what the screen offers you, you guarantee you are missing out on what is beyond this screen. It is almost like you can’t have both. Part of the challenge is wanting both. I have been wondering about exploring in my life where that balance is that makes me happy and brings me joy, where that balance is for my clients.
One thing I think about and part of my deep interest in these subject matters is that many people have a surface-level understanding of social media. People aren’t even aware of what social media does to them and why they are drawn into it. If you are interested in that, I couldn’t recommend Stolen Focus enough. I have only skimmed the surface of the book so far because it goes deep into how social media and a lot of techs, in general, are designed. Without that understanding, you may be using it almost like a puppet. You are the puppet moving around without realizing their string is controlled by somebody else. That is how I view it.
Having stepped away from a lot of it, I looked at it and reflected on the pros and cons of social media for myself, I see many people making decisions on social media that don’t seem conscious. When I’m hired for social media stuff, I see people wanting things I don’t believe they can get. I mentioned on a previous episode that one of my clients is looking to hire somebody to help with social media in a capacity that I am not doing for them. My role will be to guide this person in executing some things.
I work a lot in that capacity. I’m not sure how much I have shared this but my two main clients have other employees and teams. I direct some of them and edit things. I’m involved with the whole process. I have seen how people approach it. My role is often to come in, add my approach to it and have it up to a certain level.
I have seen that surface level of people doing things almost templated, going through the motions and using formulas. It is like technology. This is what I have seen a lot on social media. People are taking a mathematical approach to it. If this, then that. This plus this equals this. Through my deep experience and research on social media, I have a strong feeling that this plus this doesn’t always equal that.
If you look at it from a mathematical equation, a lot of people are not getting it right. The formula is flawed, yet as pointed out in Stolen Focus, many of us take the blame and internalize that without even realizing that the formula is flawed. We don’t think the system is broken. We think we are broken. We think that we are doing something wrong. If we keep trying the same formula, we will finally get the result that we are being promised.
That is where the manipulation has taken place. This is where having my history and evolution with social media and seeing it evolve along with my personal development is intertwined. My brain was still being formed as social media was being formed. I was drawn into the trap in a lot of ways through my desire for validation and connection. All of that pulled in and it continued to change. It is almost like entering into a relationship and you think it is going to be the same. Over time, you realized, “No, the relationship is changed but I have continued to be in something based on what it was in the beginning, if this makes sense.”
It is no longer what I signed up for on social media. It is no longer giving me the benefits. I’m changing too and my self-awareness has grown. What makes it hard is seeing that not everybody’s self-awareness is at the same point. Not everybody has dug into the research. That alignment with a book like Stolen Focus is interesting because a similar thing happened to the author who stepped away, did the research and suddenly went, “I don’t know if I want to be part of this anymore. I don’t know if this benefits me anymore.”
I’m going to wrap up the episode soon but I want to make sure to hit on it in case I don’t deeply cover this book again because I feel like I haven’t even. Many of my thoughts and experiences got woven into it, as often happens in these episodes. I want to read off those fifteen super highlights. When I’m highlighting a book, I will sometimes add a star next to my favorite highlights and there were fifteen stars. I am going to go see how quickly I can pull those up. I wish I could read you every single highlight because that is how much I want to geek out but it would probably take me hours.
Depth Takes Time And Reflection
The first one I gave a star to is, “Depth takes time and depth takes reflection. If you have to keep up with everything and send emails all the time, there is no time to reach depth. Depth connected to your work and relationships also takes time, energy, long time spans, commitment and attention. All of these things that require depth are suffering. It is pulling us more up onto the surface.” It is pulling my mind on how I’m speaking about things. The next quote I read feeds into that.
This is the thing people tend to want to move through social media quickly and get these big results. I can tell you, after all my experience on social media, I saw that social media results take time. You do have to get results. As he is pointing out, if results are connected to depth, you have to know that depth takes time and reflection. If you are trying to keep up with everything all the time and go fast, there is no time to reach that depth. If you are trying to build relationships, that takes time. That in itself is hitting me deeply.If you're trying to build relationships, that takes time. Click To Tweet
Where my greatest wound with social media is that it is surface level, it doesn’t feel like a relationship but people are trying to get to a result quickly. That is going to be my next big pondering at speeding through. The wounds of people who have been trying to quickly get to things. I can’t remember if I talked about this on the show but I was reached out by somebody who found an episode and wanted to collaborate on something. I thought they were trying to give something to me. It felt genuine in the way they approached me. I thought, “That was nice of them to offer this.”
Once I said yes, I realized they didn’t want to give something to me. They wanted me to give something to them but I didn’t know them yet. My intention was to get to know them through what they were giving me. I’m not sharing the specifics because I want to keep this private but I was taken aback by it and almost felt like they wanted it to be reciprocated. I thought, “I’m not ready to reciprocate yet. I don’t want the expectation because you give something to me that I should give something back. That triggers me.”
I love giving things to people and being generous but not the condition like if this then that again. The fact that this person quickly asked something of me before even giving something to me had happened made me feel like I couldn’t trust them and made me less interested. I didn’t even want to receive what they had offered to me in the beginning anyways. That happens so much and it has broken my heart truly.
I signed up for connection and validation, didn’t most of us? We couldn’t say it is her connection and maybe for someone, that is the only reason but social media promises validation, more it has over time. In the early days of social media, we didn’t realize that it was going to be validating or harmful. It is interesting the manipulation I have experienced through it on a personal level but also the overarching level.
Awareness Separates Us
The next quote I highlighted is, “If we don’t change course, we are headed towards a world where there is going to be an upper class of people that are aware of the risks to their attention, who find ways to live within their limits. There will be the rest of society with fewer resources to resist the manipulation. They are going to be living more inside their computers, being manipulated more.” That part struck me too.
This section was coming from someone that the author was studying with or researching. This wasn’t just the author’s view. This was coming out of another conversation the author had with an expert and it struck me as disturbing. We are already separated by class and most of us are unhappy with that. Unless you are in the upper class, the high level, you probably feel some frustration, sadness and resentment because you are seeing other people get something or have access to something that you don’t have.
We are used to seeing that from a financial standpoint but what if there is also an upper class of people based on their awareness? What if awareness separates us? What if it already is separating us? I have noticed. I’m not trying to put myself in the “upper class” by saying this but self-awareness is one of my skills because I am interested in that. I enjoy being aware. I continue working on that every day and I want to see other people be aware too.
It is like The Matrix, taking the pills and choosing what path they are going to take. Maybe it is because it is a reference to The Matrix, which has already been happening for a long time and that makes me sad. It is like the Disney movie WALL-E. I like to rewatch that. I remember the themes of the earth being destroyed, people sitting on a floating ship, being on their devices all the time and that is all they do, living more inside their computer and being manipulated more. If you choose that path because you are aware, that is different from not choosing that path because you’re unaware.
More Speed, Less Comprehension
The third quote out of fifteen is, “The faster you make them go, the less they will understand. More speed means less comprehension. We could be manipulated because things are happening fast. We are being encouraged to go fast. There is a benefit to the people behind the machines controlling the strings if you want to look it that way because they recognize that we are less powerful if we are less aware and have less comprehension. We are more prone to making mistakes and being controlled if we are going too fast to be able to pause to think about it.We're more prone to making mistakes and being controlled if we're going too fast to be able to pause to think about it. Click To Tweet
Slowing Down In A World That Is Speeding Up
The next quote is, “There is a maximum limit for how quickly humans can absorb information and trying to bust through that barrier simply bust your brain’s ability to understand it. Instead, how do you slow down in a world that is speeding up?” That is one of my big questions. This one is a little out of context where the author is talking about a money-obsessed Meiser checking the status of his stocks and finding he was slightly richer than yesterday. It was as if I was saying to myself, “See, more people are following you. You matter.” I didn’t miss the content of what they said. I missed the raw numbers in the sense that they were growing.
Do You Matter?
When he took a break from social media, this was hard to add context but it was something around noticing that many of us are concerned about the validation, the follows, the likes and feeling like we matter. It is not about the content. It is about the numbers. The next quote is, “Text, Facebook messages and phone calls are all little ways in which the world seems to say, I see you and I hear you. We need you. Signal back, signal more.” Now that the signals were gone when he took a break from technology, he felt like the world was saying that he didn’t matter.
Mattering is part of what we sign up for. Do you still matter without technology? That is an interesting thing to ponder. There is so much here. I don’t want to blow through this too much. There is a section about Twitter. The author goes through the different social media apps, the most popular and what messages they convey to us.
He said, “The message at Twitter is that you shouldn’t focus on any one thing for too long. The world can and should be understood in short, simple statements. The world should be interpreted and confidently understood quickly. What matters most is whether people immediately agree with and applaud your short, simple, speedy statements. A successful statement is one that lots of people immediately applaud. An unsuccessful statement is one that people immediately ignore or condemn. When you tweet before you say anything else, you are saying that, at some level, you agree with these three premises.”
It is funny because I was saying how I like Twitter. It is changed a lot but when I read those premises, I didn’t feel like I agreed with them. Facebook was the next one. He shared, “Your life exists to be displayed to other people. You should be aiming every day to show your friend edited highlights of your life. What matters is whether people immediately like these edited and carefully selected highlights you spend your life crafting and somebody is your friend. If you regularly look at their edited highlight reels and they look at yours.” I don’t agree with that either. On Instagram, it is not surprising.
Meet With Like-Minded People
There are four premises of Instagram. 1) What matters is how you look on the outside. 2) What matters is how you look on the outside. 3) What matters is how you look on the outside. 4) What matters is whether people like how you look on the outside. It is certainly my least favorite platform for that reason. I want to end but there are a few more quotes. They are going in directions that I think don’t serve at this point. One that might end on a positive note is that a battery of scientific evidence shows that if you want to succeed in changing something, you should meet up with groups of people doing the same.
This is part of the reason I created Beyond Measure, which is the private community I have been developing and this book is adding more value to that for me. I look at Beyond Measure as its private community. It is a non-social media avenue and it feels more rewarding than social media ever did for me. If I decide to mostly or completely leave social media at some point, at least there is Beyond Measure.
When I was stating earlier what I would be missing out on, maybe I wouldn’t be missing out on anything because of all the time I have put into developing Beyond Measure. If you are wondering the same thing and you align with me and these messages, most of the members do too. The positive side of it is if you want to succeed in changing something, you should meet up with groups of people doing the same.
The core element of Beyond Measure is meeting up with people to talk about these things. We have in the past explored doing some group activism or volunteering and maybe that will become a bigger part of it because the book on leaning towards solutions, which is the part I’m getting into as I enter into the second half of it, is about how we can make a change.
We can improve. Social media doesn’t have to be the way that it has become. We can move it back to the direction that it used to be in or we can opt out of it and choose other avenues and communities. We do have that power. We don’t have to be in a place of not being aware. We can cultivate our awareness, avoid manipulation, opt-out and/or change things.
I hope that I can stay active and work towards that. It is a lot of energy but at least I will stay aware and I will share my awareness and resources. If you want to come to talk about it, Beyond Measure is the place I would like to have that conversation. For quite a long time, I have been saying contact me via email or social media. You can certainly try both but email and social media are hard avenues for me. Whereas Beyond Measure, we have a whole messaging system.
Beyond Measure is built on a community platform which is like Facebook because you can message people privately there. You can post publicly, have conversations and socialize. We meet once a week as a group. Everybody is welcome to join and be there on video audio or neither observes if they would like and hold this space.
You’re reading in 2023 or beyond but I was still recording this in 2022. I wouldn’t be surprised if I turned off messaging on Instagram and reduced my email communications and text communications and reserved phone calls and text messages to my super close friends and family and guided people toward the Beyond Measure community. If they are not interested, that is okay.
My desire with social media has been to be less concerned about those numbers. I don’t need hundreds of thousands of followers. I don’t even want that. I want deep connections, not just with myself but cultivate that between other people. It brings me great joy. That is a prediction of mine for 2023. I’m wondering if I can develop that sense of community deeper.
It is already there. Beyond Measure has an amazing group of engaged people who have formed amazing friendships with each other and support networks. I learn from them every single week. I’m deeply blown away, nourished and energized by it all. I’m going to continue to lean into that and invite you into that. The show will be here too if you want more of a one-sided, unless back and forth. That is the downside.
I’m going to leave it at that. If you want to come, check it out. Thank you for reading. I hope your 2023 is going great. If you are reading beyond, which feels hard to imagine, 2024 still feels so far away whenever you are reading. I hope things are going well for you and I love to connect with you if you feel compelled. Until next time, wishing you the absolute best with your life. I will be back on Friday with a guest and I hope to have you as part of that too. Bye for now.
- The Myth of Normal
- Oura Ring
- Stolen Focus
- Chasing the Scream
- Lost Connections
- Eco-Vegan Gal
- Meta Quests VR Headset
- Beyond Measure