Offline is the new luxury (6)

Time spent on your smartphone: how could you pass it more wisely? And what exactly does it do for you? Each Friday, Irene, who together with Astrid is the founder of Flow, writes about this particular issue.

To social media or not to social media, that is the question. And it’s a question I ask myself more and more often these days, especially after having read an interview with mathematician Cal Newport in the [Dutch newspaper] De Volkskrant a few weeks ago (August 31, to be exact). Newport has written a book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World about the importance of concentration, and his message is this: we should “practice more downtime”. And that means time when we do nothing. Time that we seemed to have a lot more of in the past, because now, when we find ourselves with nothing to do, we so often reach for our smartphones. In his book, Newport explains that it is simply a matter of training: our brain wants to be distracted, we can’t do much about that. According to him, we are constantly looking for the reward of distraction; our brain is programmed to detect new things. He tackles the matter really well, too. Instead of using stern words, he tries to tempt us into behaving differently: “I don’t focus so much on whether distraction is a good thing or a bad thing. What I do is try to convince people to see the attraction of the opposite: of continuous deep and concentrated thinking.” And in the newspaper interview, Newport said something that really stuck in my mind: “I have deliberately chosen not to have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account. I have made a conscious decision to ban these distractions from my life and I feel good about it. Stop surfing, do away with social media. You’ll get used to it. I believe we’ve become more agitated because of it, more fearful. Go spend some time in nature instead, talk a walk. It’s much better for you. And it enables you to reflect on things, too.”

Oh, yes. This really made me think of all the time I spend drawn into the force that is social media and what it does not bring me. My goal for next week: to try a leave my smartphone at home for an hour and wander off into the dunes every evening for a walk. But to abolish all social media? I don’t think I’ll be doing that. And I hope you won’t either otherwise no-one will be there to read my little blog or check out our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages. I reckon Newport will let you make an exception for things that make you happy 😉