Social time – Align Your Priorities for Creative Output, part 8

8. Social Time

We are social beings. We live in groups. To that end, social time is important. Our social nature is also something that is exploited by social media to suck our time and attention away from other matters, and this is something you must be aware of.

Depending on your stage of life and personal attitude, social time is something that can be either minimal or all-consuming. It’s also an area of life that few people are really honest about when it comes to acknowledging their preferences. Very few individuals are actually a lone wolf.

Some people are by nature extremely social, preferring a large quantity of time spent on social interaction. In my experience, young people are more social than older people, and probably for good reason, since a well-established friendship or marriage from youth will provide support throughout life.

As people get older, they tend to focus less on social interactions and more on family (if they have one), which is also natural, as children can require intense amounts of effort and attention to be healthy. A nursing mother can easily attest to this reality.

I find that budgeting social time (as we used to think of it) is not such a difficult thing now, but it once was, and potentially still could be for some people. When I was a music student, I wasted copious amounts of time socializing. It was very easy to, as the music department and Fresno State was full of tables, benches, foyers, and other gathering spaces.

That was great for comradeship, and even building professional relationships relating to performance, but it was bad for productivity. Once I figured out that too much social time was a time sink, and spent some effort developing some self discipline, my productivity skyrocketed. Even then, I didn’t really have it figured out until I was more than two years into the program.

I became a truly prolific composer and performer during that period (and I also wrote my first novel, which was awful). I gigged every week with a band, learned hours of solo repertoire which I performed regularly, and composed hours and hours of music.

It really was my social time holding me back, but I never abandoned social time. I just held it in check to meal times, between closely scheduled classes, and parties. Any chuck of time more than ten minutes I spent practicing or working on new music.

It was great, but I don’t think I would have done as well these days. Social media has changed everything.

Social Media

Social media has drastically changed the way we approach social interraction.

When I was young, we had to call each other on the phone or else be physically present with one another to communicate. Even text messaging was new and (mostly) annoying when I was in college and the smartest phone was a flip phone.

Now, calls are a rarity, and social media substitutes for a great degree of social interaction. Sites like Facebook are designed to hijack the social reward centers of our brains and feed us small dopamine rushes throughout the day, turning interacting with the site into a habit, or in some cases, an addiction.

It’s possible to waste huge amounts of time on social media every day, and people are largely unaware of it. If you took a day to legitimately track the time spent on social media, you might be shocked to see how much time you have wasted. Some surveys I’ve seen have said more than two hours!

If you are jumping at the chance to reclaim two hours for creative work, slow down. The thing is, a lot of that time is spread out into little bite-sized chucks – time that would likely be lost in the flow of the day anyway. However, social media’s omnipresence also means that it occupies head space and is a constant distraction.

While you are checking facebook, you aren’t thinking of your project. That’s time lost.

It also can affect your mindset – what if nobody liked your post? Why is everyone else successful besides you? CNN SAYS THE WORLD IS ENDING. Facebook’s filtering mechanisms ensure that you see things which engage you (most often fear-mongering news or hot-takes, since fear and anger are the most immediate emotions) and that users only post positive highlights – leading you to believe that your life is worse by comparison.

The problem is, the contemporary artist needs to be on social media. It’s the best and cheapest method of attracting an audience and building professional relationships in your field. As a creative, you actually cannot pull the plug without significantly harming your business.

So what to do?

Here’s my suggestions. You can do all or some of these:

  1. Set a time for actual social media interaction. Do not exceed the allotted time I usually answer YouTube comments only at one time per day, for a limited number of minutes. This ensures that I actually interact with my channel and that I also focus only on responding to comments that really are worth responding to. Good times would be when waking up and after getting home, or when using the bathroom.
  2. If you feel bored, read instead of looking at social media. Ebooks are very cheap, and blogs are free. You can be learning or reading a great story instead of flipping through photos of people you don’t talk to anymore.
  3. Turn off all notifications on your phone. This will ensure that you are not distracted and, if you are going to look at social media, it is because you at least have actual time for it.
  4. Develop an actual social media strategy for your business. This will focus your interaction toward customers and other professionals. Are you posting about music? Are you talking about books? Are you passing out hot-takes to get attention and actually using the follow-up to promote yourself?
  5. Spend time with real people.

For me, a great part of my social time each day is virtual, and this is how it has to be. My social time with real people is limited because of my intense schedule, but I do my best to at least have lunch with my a friend every once in a while.

I almost never look at Facebook now. I’m on twitter all the time. I’m on YouTube the most, as that is where most of my audience is.

Check out this 2 hour fantasy read

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