I recently read that the average person spends 36 minutes per day on Facebook. If you are average, you spend 219 hours a year scrolling a site designed to keep your attention for as long as possible, and one using every psychological reward system available to do so as the foundation of their business model.
It takes about 6 hours to read an average book. In the same time, you could have read 36 books.
Cal Newport told me that the research shows that the average person spends two full hours a day on social media. That is 730 hours a year, a year in which the average person will work something like 2,080 hours. Those 730 hours make up 35% of a work year, and if I had to venture a guess, people consume a good portion of those 730 hours at work (It is possible to go to work without going to work to work).
It’s impossible to say what you might be able to do with 730 hours. A smaller list might be what you couldn’t accomplish in 730 hours.
What Are You Giving Up
On January 19, 2010, I wrote a post called: Focus and Attention: The New Currency of Effectiveness. I had only been writing this daily blog post for 22 days, but my observation at the time was as follows:
“As this societal change continues, those who are able to discipline themselves to give their ideas, their projects, and their tasks their full focus and attention will have a strong competitive advantage.”
I wrote that statement before the social sites started gaming your attention, making it more accurate now that it was then. Your life is made up of what you give your focus and attention.
You know all those things you say you would do if you had more time? You just found the time.
Aren’t You Bored Yet
I’m bored. I still read a lot of blog posts. I spend more time listening to audio on YouTube or podcasts than I do on social apps. I don’t spend very much time on the other social sites, even though I still like Twitter a lot, and I wish we were still having conversations there.
If you are honest, you have to admit to being bored with social sites and apps. Aren’t your scrolling faster, searching harder and longer, and still finding nothing worth your time or attention?
Is there ever a time when you say to yourself, “Man, that was a great use of my time. I am so much better off having scrolled through all the social sites? I’m so happy I didn’t invest that time in some meaningful outcome!”
Remove the temptation by removing the social apps from your smartphone (There is nothing smart about a tool that steals your time or apps that make you work for them instead of it working for you). If you view the social sites on your phone, log out when you finish, and make it more difficult to scroll.
Narrow the number of people you follow and friend and link with, so the time you spend on social sites is with people or ideas about which you care deeply. I am right in the middle of this process.
Set up an RSS reader with the sites you scan, so you don’t have to go to the web to browse. I use Feedly, and I tend to subscribe to blogs and sites that synthesize or curate. I follow the people who study areas where I have an interest, and I allow them to do the work of searching for things worthwhile, so I don’t have to spend my time scanning and scrolling.
Recognize the price you pay for being distracted by the trivial. Your life is going to be made up of what you give your time and energy and attention to, which means if you want purpose and meaning, you can’t waste your finite, non-renewable resources on trivialities.
I promise you were not born to scroll.