Blog > 5 Ways to Mindfully Consume Social Media

5 Ways to Mindfully Consume Social Media

Protect your attention
Businessman on social media

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How much do digital distractions impact your focus and productivity? It might be more than you think.

Digital distractions — particularly social media distractions — are everywhere. Just a quick look at your phone’s daily usage can reveal shocking data on how much time you spend scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. All those brief minutes of multitasking, catching up on DMs while you make dinner, or keeping the Twitter tab open while you answer emails first thing in the morning add up.

All this usage correlates with declining attention rates and a cycle of quick fulfillment that can make enhanced concentration even harder. According to The Standard, between 2004 and 2023, the average attention span on a screen has decreased by 103 seconds. Additionally, in one study, 44% of respondents said they commit “phubbing” at least twice a day — the act of interrupting conversations and other personal interactions to check their phones.

The underlying cause for this shift in attention spans is straightforward. The brain releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, in response to engaging with social media, whether it’s through quick entertainment or swift social interactions. This dopamine release is often more appealing than focusing on a challenging work task or enduring a dull conversation. Consequently, the dopamine hit conditions our brains to divert attention from less appealing activities. This tendency increases over time to the point where it can intrude on activities that would have previously held our undivided attention, such as enjoying a movie without distractions.

While this pattern is negative overall, it can be especially concerning for financial professionals who rely on their concentration and focus to make business-savvy decisions, often in fast-paced, demanding, stressful environments.

So, what can you do? Here are a few strategies for maintaining concentration in the age of social media.

Understanding the Distraction Dilemma

It’s first important to understand the distraction dilemma. Social media platforms are designed to offer instant gratification — repeatedly, the more you scroll. Social media algorithms learn what you most like and what’s most likely to hold your attention and then feed you more of the same (it’s why, if you’ve ever stopped to watch a random video on Instagram, that’s not normally something you’d be interested in, you suddenly start seeing more and more videos of the same).

Why are social media platforms so adept at capturing our attention? They operate within the attention economy, fully aware that our attention is a limited commodity that can be monetized, particularly through advertising. These platforms are strategically designed to seize and retain our attention, ultimately turning it into profit.

To gauge the impact of this phenomenon on your own life, you can examine your smartphone’s settings to access app-specific usage data. On average, individuals spend approximately 2.5 hours on social media daily.

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The Cognitive Costs of Social Media

As alluded to, all of this comes at a cost. Studies have found that “excessive digital media use is associated with poorer cognitive control, including attention and inhibitory control.” Additionally, reports have discovered that heavy social media use also correlates with poor sleep, decreased overall well-being, increased stress, lower moods, increased anxiety, lower self-esteem, relationship issues, and addictive behaviors.

These can be particularly detrimental when working in the financial industry, where precision and analytical thinking are paramount.

Strategies for Mindful Social Media Engagement

However, there is a way to mitigate the effects mentioned above without eliminating social media from your life. Engaging with social media mindfully involves intentional use that minimizes its adverse impacts, rather than indulging in aimless scrolling whenever the impulse strikes.

Let’s explore the strategies for achieving this.

Strategy 1: Schedule Social Scrolling

Consider scheduling specific times for social media use to prevent constant interruptions. For example, you could look at your phone for 30 minutes after work or 30 minutes before work, and then put it away completely.

This allows you to avoid the dopamine cycle that social media often puts our brains in while allowing you to better focus on the tasks at hand, increasing productivity and improving time management.

Strategy 2: Curate Your Digital Environment

If you frequently fall into a social media rabbit hole that leaves you scrolling for hours, consider curating your digital environment to mitigate this. Block certain accounts, hashtags, or keywords that you know will lead to distraction. This can reduce your overall cognitive load and help you maintain your focus.

Strategy 3: Embrace Single-tasking

Multitasking has been proven to be ineffective, so do away with it altogether. Set aside blocks of your time to work on just one task and then do so. Leave other tasks for later, no matter how small (like looking at your Facebook “just real quick”). This can help you work more effectively and with deeper concentration.

Strategy 4: Utilize Technology Mindfully

You might also consider enlisting a tool or app that can help limit social media usage if you can’t stop yourself from going back to Instagram again and again. Certain tools and settings on your smartphone can completely lock you out of your favorite social media apps during specific hours or even days to ensure you remain focused on more important matters.

Strategy 5: Adopt Mindfulness and Meditation Techniques

If you still struggle to maintain focus and concentration, consider adopting mindfulness practices, like meditation, to help enhance focus while reducing distraction urges. You can incorporate simple techniques into your daily routine, such as a 5-minute mindfulness session at your desk or a mindfulness walk during your lunch hour.

The Bottom Line

If you notice a decline in your ability to concentrate, adopting mindful social media engagement practices may be beneficial. This approach can enhance your focus at work and enable you to make swifter, more informed decisions.

Test the techniques mentioned to discover which ones align with your unique needs and routines. Additionally, consider exploring how partnering with an Arootah Executive Coach can assist you in developing more effective focus-enhancing habits. Get started by scheduling a complimentary results call.

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Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

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