04(09): Evolving views on social media

The main body’s text was originally published on 27 April 2022. However, my views on social media yet again and with respect to that, I published an update (on 1 May 2022) that can be found at the bottom of this post.

Frequent visitors to my site would notice that just a few days ago, I updated my website’s main page to include a number of icons which are essentially hyperlinks to my profile on various social media platforms. This is almost a complete departure from my previous stance which I held for a relatively decent amount of time (about 14 months), where I had been highly sceptical of the utility of social media platforms. Why the sudden change, you may ask?

Background

I’m on a journey of being intentional about my use of these platforms in view of my desire to engage in deep work as part of the ongoing pursuit of the deep life. To better comprehend the aforementioned italicised terms, check out two books by Cal Newport: Deep Work and Digital Minimalism. Both books have significantly shaped my views on how we ought to lead our digital lives, and work in a world where constant distraction and fragmented attention spans are the norm.

I had first gotten to know about Cal Newport’s views in December 2020 through a YouTube video where he had given a TED talk entitled “Quit social media”. I found his arguments so convincing that I made a radical decision to permanently delete my accounts on many social networking sites. At that point in time, I had never made an Instagram account; so, there was nothing to delete. I permanently deleted my decade-old Facebook account, and my Twitter account. Since I took those actions, I’ve remained sceptical of the utility of social media, given the widely-known adverse effects that it can have on individuals’ mental health and productivity at work and school. I was simply of the opinion that the drawbacks associated with social media use far outweighed their benefits.

An epiphany that I had after attending a leadership summit

However, my experience at a leadership summit in April 2022 has caused my views on this matter to evolve. I realised that I might have blindly taken Cal’s words as gospel truth and that trying to replicate what Cal does in his own life to a tee isn’t something I should necessarily do; we both lead rather different lives after all. At the summit, I had conversations with the other participants on this matter. I have also learnt of their journeys more broadly, and how social media played a part in their professional success. Strategies for professional success should be personalised. It was incredibly inspirational. As such, my views on social media platforms have now become more balanced and nuanced. Does this mean that I regret espousing certain views in the past or executing certain actions? No. The actions of the past have contributed to the person I am today. If anything, this just demonstrates that the process of learning and growing is a journey. For the sake of enhancing my ability to network, seize opportunities, and attain professional success, I now opine that social media can (but whether it should ought to depend on one’s specific circumstances) be used in a manner that allows me to capitalise on its benefits while minimising its drawbacks.

The only reason I even participated in the leadership summit in the first place was that I first encountered information pertaining to it on Twitter. If I hadn’t possessed a Twitter account at that point in time, it is likely that I would have missed out on the opportunity of participating in the event that ultimately enabled me to attend the leadership summit. In my next blog post, I will elaborate on the specific details on how this occurred.

The key to taking advantage of the benefits of social media while avoiding its downsides lies in intentionality, self-awareness, and discipline. For instance, two people can have an Instagram account but use it in absolutely different ways. One person could be responding instantly to virtually every minor notification and squandering his time on scrolling through news feeds mindlessly. On the other hand, another person could carefully curate the list of pages he follows and remain intentional and disciplined when using the platform.

As such, since the conclusion of the leadership summit, I have decided to re-establish my long-foregone social media presence (e.g. creating an Instagram page and recreating a Twitter account a few days ago) as I now firmly believe that judicious and intentional use of social media platforms can allow me to put my best foot forward and help me maximise my professional success by establishing my personal brand. With that said, I’m not sure how active I’d be on these other platforms though. For now, I mostly use those platforms as a way of redirecting people back to my personal website, which is my hub for my CV, blogging, and other information pertaining to me.

My views on social media will likely continue to evolve, but for now, I’m happy with what it’s currently at. I’m constantly learning. Please reach out to me if you have other perspectives that you would like to share.

Nic
27 April 2022


[UPDATE on 1 May 2022: Well, it’s been almost a week since I decided to start maintaining accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Today, I decided to permanently delete/deactivate my accounts on these three platforms. If all goes smoothly, then my accounts on these three platforms will be permanently deleted with effect from 31 May 2022. I think I’m going to revert to my initial stance after all.

The great thing about having had this week of experimenting with social media is that I am able to more objectively assess first-hand the benefits and disadvantages associated with social media use, as the initial hype associated with the weekend when the leadership summit had occurred would have dissipated.

So far, these platforms have not been able to persuade me to use them for the long-term. Perhaps, my mind will change for good some time in the future, but now is certainly not that time. These social networking sites have to be able to convince me that the benefits they offer significantly outweigh their current baseline stance as sources of mindless entertainment before I decide to turn to them again.

Some people might ask, “But Nic, what about the example you gave regarding being able to participate in the leadership summit in the first place because you encountered the information on Twitter first?” Well, the thing about that is that in reality, my medical school still reached out to me with information pertaining to that event. So, strictly speaking, I would have still heard about that event even without having a Twitter account. But even if my medical school hadn’t circulated such information, I would argue that I would still be be better off without Twitter and social media in general in the long run. This is because we must be wary of the any-benefit mindset (a concept I elaborated on in a previous blog post where I shared my favourite snippets from Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism) that is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s society.]

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