I check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and both my email accounts before I leave each morning. I normally check Facebook again while I am walking to class. Then at 10:00 AM when I finish my morning activities, I find myself drawn back to social media. I spend three to four hours a day on one communication channel or another.
And I spend that time doing some really pointless stuff.
I did a miniature information audit of Facebook and LinkedIn. Here are the first three advertisements that appeared on each channel:
“Do You Really Love Food?”
“25 Jokes That Are So Stupid They Are Actually Funny. #14 Is Priceless.”
“Cameron Diaz Doesn’t Want Kids And Her Reason Is REALLY Straight-Forward!”
“Why People Check Email While You’re Presenting”
“Do You Think Like An Employee Or An Entrepreneur?”
“How to Avoid Interviewing Landmines”
Out of those six ads, there are maybe four that I would stop to read. If each takes five minutes to read, then I just lost 20 minutes of my day in one round of going online. I have to ask myself: do any of these articles actually add value to my life?
I feel as if my generation is becoming trained to respond to certain marketing leads online. The Buzzfeed-style lists and the provocative images give us gun-happy trigger fingers, and before we stop to think we are 20 points deep in “37 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Tulsa.” It’s a waste of time, but because everyone does it people feel obligated to stay current on viral topics for social purposes. We suffer corporately with information gluttony for the sake of current events.
And you have to ask yourself: do any of these articles add value to our lives?
I am a self-proclaimed information glutton who is trying to change his ways. I have a three-point plan of attack (adapted from principles found in the book The 4-Hour Work Week). Here’s how I will change my information consumption patterns on social media:
No Surfing Allowed: Go Online With Goals
The most time is lost online when we get on Facebook/Twitter/Youtube/Email or even the Internet at large to just check it. We want to surf. We aren’t looking for anything in particular, and therefore we will click on everything without scruples. I propose a goal-oriented approach to Internet usage; go online because you need to do A, B and C, but you can’t do A, B and C without the Internet. Do not let yourself surf until you complete your goals.
Limit Your Time
Parkinson’s Law tells us that the more time we give ourselves to do something, then the more time it will take to finish that task. The opposite is true: the less time we give ourselves to do something, then the less time it will take to finish that task. Don’t just go online with goals—go online with a time limit. You can use self-discipline, or you can use software that will lock you out of your browser. This will motivate you to complete goals upfront and quickly. It also gives you free time, which is important for step three.
3. Fill Your Free Time With What You Want To Do
I like to run, cook, and write posts for my blog. The less time I spend online chasing Buzzfeed articles, the more time I can spend doing the things that fulfill me. It’s important to replace your new free time with productive activity. Otherwise, you will go right back to surfing the web.
It will take me awhile to make this work. I have more than a decade of bad habits to beat. But I would rather spend time learning and doing things that are meaningful to me than succumb to another viral video. Funny cat videos don’t make my life better—living life makes my life better.
What would you spend more time doing if you could beat information gluttony?
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