Limiting Distractions

fb-status-07-Jan-2018

Last December of 2017, I tried manually sending private messages (as holiday greetings) to over 1,200 individuals in my Facebook friends. Facebook eventually alerted me upon reaching a certain threshold and prevented me from what I was trying to accomplish. And just a week ago, I thought of doing it again. My idea was to get hold of my friends’ updated email address or phone number, so I can touch base with them, even outside of Facebook. Given the constraints of private messaging, I resorted to the above post. I originally intended to keep the said Facebook status on my timeline until the end of January 2018. With the hopes that my friends will get to see it, and be made aware of my planned experiment.

Earlier, of that same day, we attended a Sunday service closer to our place in Laguna. Which is unusual, as my wife and I consider our Makati (where we previously reside) church as our home church. We just decided to take advantage of a rare occasion, when our church’s founding coach was the guest speaker, as announced on our church’s Facebook page. My wife and I share a liking for the said coach, as he’s a natural in catching your attention and keeping you awake. During the service and as part of his message, he shared a video of former Facebook executives who were concerned with the way social media is impacting our society. In between clips, as our coach was sharing his thoughts, I caught myself reminiscing about those times when social media is still nonexistent, and how he (well, I believe he said “we”, referring to the more mature or adults in the audience) was able to exist without it. Our coach was blissful that he never needed to be distracted by these things we call “social media”. He also pointed out the real challenge of being exposed to it, especially to us Filipinos (being the top social media users and world’s number 1 in terms of time spent on social media).

Personally, I can relate to what our coach was sharing, when he said that they were able to survive without social media. Technically, I used to be part of the “we”, as I’ve witnessed the era before social media. Going back to our coach’s Sunday message, he clearly stated that he does not condemn the technology. He even acknowledged that his children have social media accounts, and it’s his personal choice not to have one. He highlighted how useful and helpful a tool it can be, just like any other technology. However, he emphasized on the real threat that these tools or technology possess, if we let it, get a better grip of us. As an illustration, our coach shared that he only access his cellphone, once he decided to use it, and not when it’s calling for his attention. He doesn’t allow the tool or technology to distract him, by taking the steps necessary (like putting it away from him) and made sure that he is the master of the tool or technology, and not the other way around. That specific remark instantly made an impression in me.

Social media’s distracting effect truly bothered me. Simply because it’s very accessible and it’s very effective in what it’s trying do. Now that I’m a parent, I can visualize how strenuous it can be for kids or students to focus these days, while being exposed to highly effective and innovative technology or tool of massive distraction. The reason I’m saying that is because, I can recall my time in college, even before the advent of social media, I was already guilty of being distracted with a technology called PC Games. And as a young adult, I savored the early years of social media. I was at fault for sending spammy game invites and wasting an awful lot of time playing Facebook games, such as Mob Wars, Farm Ville and Texas HoldEm Poker. Thankfully, I was able to get them out of my system. Unbeknownst to me, the creation of the “like” button will once again derail me from my real intentions. Instead of using “the tool” as a way of keeping in touch with family members and friends, I’ve noticed a desire for my status posts or updates to be “liked”. Rather than nurturing my existing relationships, I got more concerned with growing my number of “friends” or “followers”.

These realizations burdened me, but at the same time, it encouraged me to push through with my experiment. I can sense that if I prolong my exposure to these things that can uncontrollably occupy my mind, and cause constant distraction, it will eventually affect my long-term productivity. And if I’m really trying to learn from my past experiences, paying attention to what’s in the present and in front of me, then I should start protecting my precious time. I’ll be the lab rat of my own experiment. Part of that experiment is to pull the plug on my social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), as an attempt in limiting distractions in life. I’m not sure if I can do it or if I can make this experiment last? But knowing that I’m not alone, is a start. Thank you for reading and your time.

Update: As of 09 February 2018, and after pondering for over 3 weeks, I took a second look on what I really wanted and needed to accomplish when I decided to pull the plug on my social media accounts. Two things are clear, I need to “limit distractions” and “increase productivity” in my life. And I came to the realization that you can accomplish such, not by “discarding” the tool, but by “mastering” it.

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