The Real Reason We’re Addicted to Social Media

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Yesterday, this is the number of times I checked the following applications, whether on my phone, tablet, or laptop:

  • Facebook: 9
  • LinkedIn: 5
  • TweetDeck: 17
  • Instagram: 4

Now, let’s say I spent an average of 4 minutes on site every time I checked one of these social media platforms:

35 x 4 minutes = 140 minutes = 2.3 hours

Unbelievable.

Now, let’s say, on average, I can produce $1,000 in revenue with an hour of my time if I’m working on the right project.

That means I lost $2,300 in revenue in a single day in order to check social media platforms that generated a return of exactly $0 for me. This does not even begin to account for the time I waste click on the link bait I find via Twitter and LinkedIn, or the time it takes to switch tasks and move in and out of a flow state (which is when all of us do our best work). 

I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this, you struggle with a very similar issue. Even if you aren’t tracking the time you spend on social media, you probably suspect that it’s too much. I’m guessing you feel like it’s wasted time, too. 

But, even intuitively knowing that, most of us don’t do anything differently. And I think it’s because we aren’t addressing the reason why we are so addicted to social media in the first place. 

We don’t constantly check these platforms because it’s a purpose-driven activity. And often, we aren’t really checking them to see what else is going on in the world and with our friends, even if that’s the excuse we dole out.

We check them because they fulfill a core human drive for connection and meaning. 

When we go on these sites, our underlying drive is to satisfy that innate need to connect to others. It comforts us and fulfills us to know that we are not alone. Unintentionally (but unavoidably), we also use what’s going on in other people’s lives to create context and meaning for what’s going on in our own. Social comparison is a real and dangerous thing.

That’s why so many research scholars are reporting on the correlations between social media usage and low self-esteem or depression. We all want people to see the best sides of us, rather than all sides of us. It’s like an ongoing, inaccurate first impression of how perfect we all are that just isn’t aligned with reality. So there we are, all looking at each other’s highly curated snapshot lives, and judging our own realities accordingly (usually as “less than”). 

We’re also addicted to social media because we crave meaning—feeling like we matter to those around us. To be totally honest, ever since I started writing daily blog posts and sharing it with the world on Twitter and Facebook, I check both platforms more frequently. It gives me internal comfort and satisfaction to know that what I say matters; that I’ve had a positive impact on those who read my writing.

In some weird, twisted way, we associate “likes,” comments and shares with self-worth. 

This is not good. 

It’s not good for a host of reasons:

1.) Everything we process and put out into the digital ether is merely a perception. 

We enable people to create mental constructs about who we are that aren’t fully accurate or representative of our hearts, souls, triumphs, and struggles. They aren’t representative of our humanness.  And it surely distorts our reality—not just about others, or others about us, but also how we view ourselves.

2.) It distracts us from real work. 

The math above says is all. Wasting literally hours on an activity that has been shown to decrease self-esteem, cultivate gross feelings like jealousy and envy, and generate an ROI of $0 for us personally? That’s outrageous. And it distracts us from doing the really incredible work we’re all capable of producing and shipping every day. We are able to create incredible stuff to make other people’s lives and the world at large better…and instead, we squander our time to feel some short-term, shallow variation of connectedness and meaning. 

3.) We start to believe it’s all about us. 

But here’s what I think is the biggest problem of all: the overuse of social media perpetuates our focus on self. It trains us to make snap judgments about others, as well as our own self-worth in context of who we paint others to be. 

It’s time for us to step back—physically, emotionally, intellectually—and realize that no matter what our minds are thinking or feelings are feeling, we’re not on this planet for self-validation.

Honestly, think about that:

You’re greatest purpose on this planet is not simply to validate yourself.

And if you believe it is, you are grossly underestimating your potential and limiting your capacity for genuine joy. 

I truly believe that those who lead the richest, most meaningful lives spend the least amount of time focusing on or worrying about themselves and what everyone else thinks of them. Basically, they engage in behaviors opposite of the behaviors we engage in when we’re processing the world via a social media platform.

Obviously, we’re human. None of us are perfectly efficient or rational. I’m not going to turn around ban social media from my life, and I know you probably won’t either. There is true value in it—these platforms can be a source of genuine offline connection and understanding if used appropriately. But deriving value from these platforms doesn’t require 2.3 hours (or more) of my day. Spending that much time immersed in an illusory world is simply not healthy. 

What I will suggest is that we take a lot of the time we’ve been spending on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, you name it—and instead, use that time to connect to the real reason we’re all here:

  • To love people as best as we possibly can. 
  • To honestly and vulnerably share our entire story with others, complete with triumph and tragedy, knowing that’ll give others the courage to do the same.
  • To show others and ourselves enormous amounts of grace in times of hardship and fallibility. 
  • To give a ton of love to situations and people, even and especially when it’s truly difficult to do so.
  • To understand that forgiveness is the profound capacity to recognize the innocence in everyone. 
  • And to be deeply compassionate and invested in the highest well-being of those around us, above and before the desire for our own self-validation.

If we did all of these things at least 2.3 hours a day, I can only imagine how exponentially more incredible the world—and the quality of our own lives—would become. 

If You’re Not Succeeding at Accomplishing Your Goals, This is the #1 Reason Why.

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Yesterday, we talked about how to plan and analyze the current way you spend your time. Once you know exactly what work and ongoing tasks you’re doing that generate the greatest return on investment (the 20% of work generating 80% of your results), it’s time to figure out how to do more of the stuff that’s making a difference through goal setting.

Goal-setting is a hotly and widely talked about topic. It sounds pretty straightforward: Figure out what you want to accomplish choose a specific goal, and then create some benchmarks so you can assess how you’re performing. Right?

Except that plan doesn’t work. How many times have you set a goal, and it just didn’t materialize? So, you’re sitting there wondering, “Is it me? Am I not smart enough? Motivated enough? Skilled enough? Do I need a bigger network? Do I need more money?” When you don’t hit your goals, you start to feel like it’s you that’s lacking something. 

And that’s because you are. 

But it’s not smarts, skills, or motivation you’re lacking. You’re lacking a roadmap. You’re lacking a list of extremely simple habits you can adopt every single day, one or two at a time, that will actually allow you to turn a dream into something real.

But more than any of that, you’re lacking authentic connection to what it is you really want to accomplish.

I can’t stand all the crappy advice out there. It’s like listening to a broken record on repeat. The same advice gets doled out over and over again:

  • Create a “big picture” of what you want to accomplish in life
  • Create a personal mission statement
  • Break down your big goals with smaller goals on a to-do list
  • Make sure your goal is specific
  • Make sure your goal is attainable
  • Give yourself a deadline
  • Make your goal public 
  • Ask someone to help keep you accountable

Maybe those are all useful components of goal-setting, but having tried all of them myself, I can tell you that no matter how smart, skilled, and motivated you are to achieve, this is not a comprehensive list—or even the right list—of what you need to do to achieve goals. 

I’m going to start in this post with the hardest part of goal setting. 

You need to have goals you’re truly connected to. Not things you kinda sorta want to do. Not things your parents or friends or bosses think you should do. Your goals need to be so close to your heart and spirit. People forget that “motivation” is not why people succeed. It’s not that successful people have more motivation than others. We all have incredibly lazy days. We’re human beings, not robots. 

The #1 reason people don’t accomplish their goals is because the goals are not tied close enough to that person’s sense of self—they don’t make someone think, “I was put on this planet to accomplish this goal.” If you don’t feel that connected to what you’re doing, you’re simply not going to thrive. Period. End of story. 

This applies to every single area of your life: relationships, work, hobbies, skills you want to acquire, health, etc. If you’re not super connected in the right ways to your goals, you may get by. You may even “do well.” But you’re not going to thrive. Thriving happens when you’re super-aligned with your personal purpose. You could make a mediocre relationship work. You could lose some weight. You could check off a bunch of to-dos at a job you don’t really enjoy. 

Why why? What’s the point in that? 

I can attribute every single goal I’ve accomplished or area I’ve thrived in to one simple reality: those things were all absolutely at the core of who I am and who I want to be.

Some of you may be reading this now thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s really easy for you to say that, Melissa. You’re single, and you don’t have kids, a car payment, or a mortgage to worry about. You can take risks that I can’t take.” 

Let me tell it to you straight: I think you’re lying to yourself. 

I still have my fair share of challenges—financial and otherwise—to work through. But honestly, what’s the point in being stuck there? Nothing good comes from telling yourself repeatedly about all of the things you can’t do. That’s a made up idea in your head. Plenty of people have found a way to thrive in various different areas of their lives even with kids, a spouse, a car payment, a mortgage, a lack of education, and a low-paying job. Trust me, you can find numerous people out there who worked through a more dire set of circumstances to accomplish huge, huge things. If they can do it, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t do it. 

We’ll do whatever we can to find an excuse, because that’s the easier thing to do. It takes a ton of hard work and reflection to decide what your goals are in the first place. We all want quick fixes. But here’s what happens: we rush to set a goal that doesn’t really matter to us, then scramble to try somehow to make it happen, and then we end up upset and demoralized when it doesn’t work out. 

Let me give you an example: dieting.

A lot of people diet. Some lose weight, most gain it back. Why does this happen? Obviously, it’s not for lack of information and diet plans, and psychological techniques out there. And it’s certainly not because of your circumstances. There are really wealthy people who want to get healthy and can afford a private chef, personal trainer, at-home gym, etc. And yet, that’s still not enough. And then there are others who have no resources at all and still bust their butts, get up every morning to run outside, and buy cheap produce and canned veggies. They make it work. 

If you notice, the people who lose weight and keep it off…there’s something different about them. And it’s that they are deeply connected to why they want to get healthy. If your sole motivation for getting healthy is losing weight so you can look good because you think that’s what it’s going to take to get people to fall in love with you, respect you at work, etc., you’re honestly probably going to fail. You’re going to fail because that “purpose” isn’t driven by your core internal desire for change; it’s driven by (1) doing something because that’s what friends, family, society expects, and (2) by a false belief about your self-worth. Your self-worth doesn’t come from your weight, and if you keep thinking that as you attempt to lose weight, even if you do, you’ll just be a thinner version of yourself left with nothing but the real problem that was lurking beneath your weight-gain: irrational and totally made-up self-esteem struggles. 

If, however, you decide you want to lose weight because you are in love with the feeling you get from going on a long run (no matter how hard it is in the middle of one), or you want to live a long and healthy life for your spouse and children, or you’ve learned that eating animal products and heavily processed food, no matter how delicious, is really bad for you and makes you feel nasty and you’re sick and tired of it (literally)…now we’re talking a totally different ballgame. 

Because now, you’re deeply connected to your reason for wanting to lose weight. When you have that connectedness, you elevate yourself above the normal stopping points for people (i.e. having unhealthy food in the house, being too tired to work out in the morning, not having a gym membership, etc.)

If you’re really connected, you’ll find a way.

You’ve literally got everything you need in that head and heart of yours to make your goals work.

So here’s the exercise I want to ask you to do today:

First, find a pocket of silence. Take one day this weekend to completely disconnect and just allow yourself the breathing room to think and reflect. 

Next, answer the question, “What do I feel like I was put on this planet to do?” Just freestyle write. Don’t worry about it making sense or being realistic. Just write everything down that comes to mind. What sorts of things have you always been drawn to? What are your most favorite activities? If you could do anything—no limitations—what would it be? What are your gifts? Strengths? Skills? What do you do better than everyone else you know? Write down absolutely everything that comes to mind. 

Finally, pretend this year was your last year. What one big thing would you want to accomplish? Just choose one thing. What’s the biggest thing you’d want to accomplish in the next year of your life? In 12 months, what would bring you utter joy to say you’d done? What would have made it a year worth living?

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to chase after that one big, amazing goal of yours. 

What I Learned From Gathering 15 Incredible Women in One Room.

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Last night, sixteen of the best women I know came over for ladies night. 

During my first year in Chicago, I met incredible women in very different circles, but a lot of them didn’t know one another. And I knew that needed to change. 

Women tend to hang out in pairs. Sometimes, they even hang out in groups of three or four. But, it’s rare to get a group of over a dozen women in a room together just for the hell of it. I’m not sure why, but it just doesn’t happen very often. I think the underlying assumptions that men and women make about women is that we’re all catty; we don’t know how to support one another without being jealous; we’re always playing the comparison game. 

I detest those assumptions. 

Maybe they’re accurate. But I think they’re accurate largely because we subscribe to them and call them truths.

As is the case with anything else, if you want to create a different result, you need to do something different. And in order to do something different, you need to think differently about how life is and how it can be. 

So, I decided to put all of my favorite women in one room to prove those common assumptions wrong.

I had no idea how ladies night was going to turn out. Would they all get along? Would they like each other? Would everyone have fun? I suspected they would because of how amazing they all are, but you never really know until it’s actually happening. 

And I was blown away by what happened. We all began to connect. Not about surface stuff, but deeper stuff. Fears, bold dreams, friendship, love, energy, the past, the future. It was one of the best, most memorable nights I’ve had in a long time (which probably also involved my roommate crashing ladies night with 8 of his guy friends—a total accident, I’m sure). 

As I looked around at all of the amazing women in my life connecting and getting to know one another last night, I realized this:

It’s up to all of us to curate the experiences we desire. 

Whatever you want to make happen, go make it happen—whether it’s a ladies night, a guys night, a better understanding of politics or faith, a habit you want to cultivate, an event you want to throw, a trip you want to go on…

No one is likely to do it for you. You’re here on this planet because you can think up amazing things in your head. But with that comes a responsibility for making those things real. 

So stop waiting. Go curate something amazing. 

Because, as I learned myself, the result will often be better than you ever could have imagined. 

We All Push People Away Out of Fear of Getting Hurt. And It’s Time to Stop.

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Every time I travel, I usually meet incredible new people. They walk into my life, and if I have the opportunity to get to know them for a little while, I find that they almost always make my heart warm, my brain light up. 

The thought that saddens me most is knowing, once I leave that new place, that there’s a chance I may never see those people again. It’s this bittersweet feeling in the pit of my soul—that the people whose lives intersected with and had an impact on mine, however briefly, are people I may never see again. 

But that thought leads me to one of the big decisions we all have to make in life:

Are we going to insulate ourselves from getting close to others because we’re afraid of losing them? Or are we going to be vulnerable and go out into the world with an open mind and an open heart, ready to embrace others? 

After careful observation, I’m convinced that most of us, most of the time, choose the former option—even if we do so in very discrete ways.

Sometimes, this looks like us sticking to the group of friends we know and not making an effort to get to know other people around us. Other times, it looks like not opening up about who we are when we do finally have a chance to interact with someone new. And every now and again, it’s blatant—us pushing people away because they’ve gotten too close. We can’t control others, and because we care for them, they have the ability to hurt us. So, we do the one thing we can control: we dismiss them or distance ourselves from them. Sometimes, we’ll even sabotage situations with our own behavior so that they really stay away. 

Now, I’m just going to go ahead and say it so you have confirmation of the truth that’s already in your head:

It’s a jackass move to push people out of your life out of fear. Actually, it’s a jackass move to do just about anything out of a place of fear. 

It’s time to think about our relationships with other people differently. Stop constantly worrying about when and how they will hurt you. Stop sabotaging your ability to foster incredible, meaningful relationships with others. If you want a life full of awesome relationships, put your heart on the line first. Be the example. Let others know they can trust you, because they’re struggling with the same fears, too. We all are. 

If you want to go meet someone new at a party, go. If you want to reconnect with someone you used to be close to, do it. If you have the urge to mend a severed relationship, there’s no better time than right now. 

Because I promise you, if you keep pushing everyone away to avoid getting hurt, you will massively regret it later on in your life. 

I can’t stand it when people say, particularly about romantic relationships, “I don’t need someone else to be complete.” 

Screw that. 

I don’t know about you, but my life is definitely more complete because of the people who’ve entered it. It’s true that we can’t expect others to give us our happiness. Rather, we have to consistently generate personal joy so that we can give our best to others. But the idea that we don’t need other people to be more complete? It’s bullshit. 

So if we can agree that relationships really matter, the choice becomes obvious:

Let go of the fear and just love others as big as you can. Love yourself enough to let others in. Embrace everyone you meet. Look for the lessons in every relationship, and also know when a lesson has been learned and it’s time to let someone go.

Life is made meaningful based on the people we meet, the relationships we nurture, and the cool stuff and experiences we create with those people. 

When you invite people into your life, that’s when you’ll see its meaning and purpose expand exponentially.