IT’S OFFICIAL—Excessive Internetting, Smartphoning, and Social Media Make Us Miserable

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excessive internettingEvery week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Blake Snow. Blake is an author with over a decade of experience who has written and published thousands of featured articles for half of the top twenty U.S. media, including CNN, NBC, USA Today, Fox News, Wired Magazine, and many other fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. In this book Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, he passionately, succinctly, and sometimes humorously explains how to hit refresh for good, do more with less online, live large on low-caloric technology, increase face time with actual people, outperform workaholics in half the time, and tunefully blend both analog and digital lives with no regrets. You can learn more at http://blakesnow.com/.

SmallBizLady: Do you think entrepreneurs spend too much time online?

Blake Snow: Yes. I believe we live in the most distracted, bottomless, demanding, opportune, and noisiest time in all of human history. That makes finding offline (or digital) balance very hard indeed. It’s a great time to be sure, and we’re all empowered with more life-changing tools than ever before (i.e., internet, smartphones, work from anywhere). But we must deliberately harness these powerful tools with measured boundaries. Otherwise, they can dictate how we live our daily lives rather than consciously choosing how we want to. But offline balance isn’t just about good health—it’s the key to greater income, growth, fulfillment, free time, and lasting relationships. That’s what my book puts forth in a short and very prescriptive 100 pages.

SmallBizLady: Why is online addiction a growing problem?

Blake Snow: While online addictions certainly existed in the desktop and laptop computing days, they didn’t go mainstream until the smartphone era, about a decade ago. To compound the issue, the more information and entertainment that gets digitized, the easier it is to get lost in the bottomless search for distractions.

SmallBizLady: How do excessive internetting, smartphone, and social media negatively affect our lives?

Blake Snow: The last decade of research shows that excessive internetting, smartphoning, and social media make us miserable. There are two reasons for this. First, online abuse stifles our individual and collective creativity and productivity. Secondly, it keeps us from bonding and connecting with others in more meaningful ways. That is to say that social media is mostly the illusion of relationships. True relationships develop largely offline, though facetime, human touch, body language, and shared presence and experiences. While social media can sometimes facilitate that, it mostly isolates us. In fact, in-person meetings have dwindled in the social media era, as opposed to being boosted by it. This all matters because all of us want to contribute and all of us are social creatures.

SmallBizLady: What are some successful strategies for limiting time online?

Blake Snow: The first, if not biggest, step is turning off all beeps, buzzes, and visual alerts on our default phone settings (save for voice calls from very important people such as spouses and our boss). That way we can choose to use our phones when we want to rather than having our day interrupted by them every other second. As radical as it sounds, I’ve done this for the last nine years and my professional, personal, and social lives have dramatically improved as a result. True story!

SmallBizLady: How can work-related online use be balanced?

Blake Snow: Set the expectation with bosses, coworkers, and clients that you’re revising your online use for greater productivity and fulfillment. This starts by ceasing to answer emails on nights, weekends, and vacations. Obviously, emergencies happen. In that case, tell those you work to please call you. But remember, in most cases, legitimate emergencies are rare. Either way, 99% of people are understanding because they want the same thing in their own lives. If you happen to have a boss in the 1%, it’s probably time to start looking for a new job.

SmallBizLady: Are there benefits of online time? If so, how can we avoid going overboard?

Blake Snow: Certainly! I wouldn’t be where I am today without the internet. It truly is a wonderful thing, the greatest human invention since Penicillin. I say as much in both the opening and closing chapters of my book. That said, the internet isn’t going anywhere. The sooner we all realize this, the easier it becomes to take more regular and healthy breaks from it (i.e., on nights, weekends, and vacation) without getting sucked into and distracted from the overwhelming amount of noise taking place online. It’s all about using the internet, our smartphones, and social media with purpose as opposed to the default and unhealthy “all the time.”

SmallBizLady: Can “Logging Off” fix your business?

Blake Snow: Yes! Better focus, revenue, mental recharges, and personal fulfillment all play a contributing role in running a successful business. Although “Logging Off” is no substitute for ABC (always be closing), it’s a powerful program that permeates and improves virtually every aspect of your business.

SmallBizLady: Can you still have a positive content marketing presence after logging off?

Blake Snow: Yes. Most content marketing is constant but forgettable. You just need regular content that’s good to make an impact. And ‘regular’ doesn’t have to be up to the minute, second, or even the day. It just means at least once or twice a week and it will reach more people if it’s really good, say an original idea or perspective rather than a regurgitated, predictable, or trite ideas that often populate social media or blogs. To learn more, please read What 12 Years of Content Marketing Taught Me.

SmallBizLady: What’s the best approach to setting boundaries with my device?

Blake Snow: Default settings don’t work. They are put in place by phone and app makers to distract you, so they can make more money from you (mostly with advertising) rather than you making more money for yourself, your family, your business, and your community. Instead, you must turn off all audible and visual notifications unless they’re from a few very important people (spouse, kids, bosses). That way you can set well-defined boundaries with your phone, social media, and internet, and only reach for them when needed, rather than them telling you they need you. When done this way, you are planning to win.

SmallBizLady: What’s the best way to stay focused?

Blake Snow: There are many ways, but I’ll offer one that has really helped me. Accept that it’s okay to have diversions, distractions, and breaks from concentration. In my research, I’ve found that the high-producing creators break for 15 minutes after an intense 90-minute work session. They don’t grind for full mornings, afternoons, and certainly work days without several healthy breaks. That said, it also helps to reach for diversions that have an end or bottom, like a book, or gardening, or other analog experience. The problem with the internet, social media, and smartphones is that they are largely bottomless, which sends us down a black hole and ruins our focus. So reach for diversions with a clear finish instead.

SmallBizLady: Can being well-rounded improve my business?

Blake Snow: Yes. Early in my career, I was rather one-dimensional and wholly consumed by my work. That determination led to some successes, but it also resulted in me spinning my wheels in the mud a lot more than was healthy. Since then I’ve tried to foster seemingly unrelated talents outside of work with the books I choose to read, the outdoor activities and adventures I engage in, and the non-professional relationships I attempt to foster. I can’t tell you the number of “Eureka” moments I’ve had during those times which directly resulted in a great business idea. Moral of the story—being well rounded helps you make even better business decisions because it gives your conscious mind a break and it lets the subconscious mind do the heavy lifting for you.

SmallBizLady: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Blake Snow: “It’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”—Unknown

If you enjoyed this interview, please join us live on Twitter every Wednesday from 8-9 pm ET. Just follow the hashtag #Smallbizchat, and don’t forget to follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Click here for directions to join the weekly conversation. 

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