Be Antisocial

by Justin Ahrens

It’s funny that I’m writing about this right now, because while beginning this post, without realizing it, I’ve been on my two Twitter accounts, played a word game on my iPhone, responded to a Facebook message, made a connection on LinkedIn, and texted someone a picture of where I’m writing. No wonder I’m surprised that time has flown by.

I love social media. I pretty much have accounts on every platform just because I find it profoundly interesting. At my company, we consult with our clients about the best social opportunities out there, so some of my interest is work-related, but the rest is just gadgety-social-nerdiness.

But here is the problem: This ever-increasing, engaging, and addicting social lifestyle pulls us further and further away from much-needed focus on ourselves and our work and toward intermittent breaks for real social interaction. It prevents us from having that sacred downtime that can help us feel “normal” again and not as though we’re flying at a million miles per hour. Online and mobile engagement is both beneficial and enjoyable, but we all need to habitually unplug.

The more you engage, the more prone you become to constantly checking your accounts for communications you need to respond to. Soon time has gone by—in many cases, time that was just frittered away . The things you intended to accomplish may be partially delayed, or you ran out of time because you were posting an update to your Facebook account and responding to comments rather than focusing on the task at hand.

It can be vital to use technology to help you manage things in your life where appropriate. But when you want to be more efficient at work or have more time, you need to look at the big picture.

One option is to regularly schedule parts of the day when you are unplugged. For you, that may mean forgoing phone, laptop, or tablet. For all of its advantages, overly accessible technology has affected us socially. The watercooler talk happens more often online now—unless of course you change that. Take time to handwrite notes, meet someone face-to-face, turn the phone off during a meeting, and concentrate on the moment. Being present makes us feel better connected than our latest status post. Start with any of the preceding ideas, especially regularly unplugging parts of your day.

This accomplishes a couple of things. For example, it has helped me to pay better attention to conversations going on in my house. You will be more fully aware of what is going on if you are not having conversions in your head with other people. Make sure you are fully engaged when you need to be. Learning to turn off technology is difficult, especially considering how accessible we all are now with the various mediums.

To see whether your focus and productivity increase, start a campaign for regular antisocial rallies. These can be attended just by you, or you can unionize your workmates—or your family at home. Either way, make a concerted effort to unplug and do something else. You might take a nap, exercise, work on your novel, or enjoy an uninterrupted meal for 30 minutes; any of these is a great start. Try hanging out with yourself, surrounded by pure quiet. When was the last time you did that?

What’s interesting is that, when you do plug back in, you realize that maybe you are a little late to some of the conversations but that nothing happened is preventing you from still participating. The more time you take to return to the physical world around you and engage there, the richer your days actually become.


Taking time to unplug from social media allows for renewed focus on creative work or other tasks at hand.

Image courtesy of Rule29

Quick Tips
Here’s how to start your antisocial campaign:
1. What times of the day are you most productive and tuned in? Choose those times to focus on the items you want to accomplish, whether it’s at work or after hours. Unplug before you start.


2. Read something—not on a phone or tablet. Play a board game or a card game. Draw. Paint. Do something that does not entail an electronic device. Dust off the Etch A Sketch?

3. Work-out and don’t check Facebook, talk on the phone, or tweet. Seriously.

4. If your phone or tablet is just too tempting, give it to a coworker or family member for a period of time. You can set aside regular, fixed times to have a no-device zone. This could be at morning meetings, at the dinner table, wherever. You might actually have some meaningful conversation!

Dig Deeper!
Check out Life Kerning, available October 25th.