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An entrepreneur’s last attempt at regaining productivity: Ditching social media in 2021

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Do I consume social media or is it slowly consuming me? This blurred line has garnered increased attention due to recent documentaries like The Social Dilemma, which popularized deeply unsettling questions about the impact of social media on our mental health, politics, even free will.

Yet many of us have our reasons for staying in the game. I’m sure there are some prolific entrepreneurs and writers who have no problem managing their social media usage, but that’s not my experience. I find these platforms consistently distract from my most important work. It’s a huge cost that I just can’t ignore anymore.

I’ve attempted on several occasions to rise above the addiction, placing heavy restrictions on my daily usage. Good intentions only got me so far. Somehow I’ve always been pulled back into social media’s gravity, using it the way it demands to be used (i.e. obsessively).

That is, until a few weeks ago. I have finally decided that social media steals too much of my time and attention to warrant continued investment. For 2021, I’ve chosen a more clear-cut approach to handling social media: network-cutting.

The opportunity cost of social media

On a sunny day in the late 2000s, Mom snapped my photo and uploaded it to her computer. There I was, a freshman, grinning and backlit in front of her blinds. Not candid or stylish — just a grainy placeholder photo to help me complete my Myspace profile. Months later, I adopted Facebook as well, and within a couple of years, I had signed up for Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Unlike most hobbies and habits I picked up in high school, this one stuck. The longer I was on social media, the more weekly time I invested in each platform. I recorded photos from backpacking trips, learned about important causes, shared my own articles and short stories, and networked to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars for my copywriting business — all thanks to social media.

But the benefits did not come without their costs.

The most obvious cost was my time. According to Statista, the average daily social media usage was 144 minutes in 2019. Assuming I’m fairly average — a safe assumption — that means I spent almost 900 hours browsing social media websites in one calendar year. Since high school, that adds up to several months of my life in accumulated scrolling, liking, posting, friend requesting, and meme sharing.

But on its own, sunk time doesn’t directly equate to a lack of value. What I gained for all that time on social media — and whether I could have gotten greater value for my time elsewhere — is harder to quantify.

I think the most apt analogy I’ve heard is that social media is like cognitive junk food. These sites emphasize headlines and hot takes rather than depth and nuance.

Like fast food, social media plays on my weaknesses by maintaining a close enough appearance to substance — so much so that sometimes I can ignore the difference.

The problem is, I don’t want a mere passable substitute for tackling big ideas, understanding the news, and connecting with friends. Just give me the real thing. Give me depth, substance, and real connection.

And what about creators who only use social media to spread and publish ideas? Instant publishing offers many clear benefits — but it also offers a dangerous shortcut for anyone who desires to produce work that lasts.

Author and economist Tim Harford put the opportunity cost of his social media usage in exact numbers: “My Twitter habit is more of a problem. I have 145,000 followers, gently persuaded over 10 years and 40,000 tweets to follow me — that’s about 10 books’ worth, or 20 years of weekly columns. This alone was a reminder of just what an effort Twitter could be.”

How I got here

I’ve never taken more than a single month off social media since my freshman year of high school. And even those few breaks wouldn’t have happened without first discovering the work of Cal Newport, author and professor of computer science at Georgetown.

Newport writes at the intersection of professional development and technology. From late 2018 through 2019, I read three of his books in rapid succession, with one idea rising above the rest: deep work. Here’s a definition from his website:

The Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to concentrate without distraction on a demanding task (what I call ‘deep work’) is becoming more rare at the same time that it’s becoming more valuable in the knowledge sector. As a result, those individuals and organizations who put in the hard work to cultivate this skill will thrive.

Newport’s Deep Work Hypothesis caused me to reconsider how I organize my day, what I value in work and leisure, and my relationship to social media.

As a copywriter, deep work is how I make my living. Unbroken, focused attention is what pays the bills and moves my business forward. The more time I dedicate to the craft and business of writing, the better I become and the more work I produce. When something gets in the way of writing, it interferes directly with my earning and career potential.

And nothing pulls me away from writing faster than Twitter, Facebook, or even LinkedIn. What began as an innocent high school hobby now steals so much of my time and attention. I knowingly bleed productivity every week.

*wakes up and looks at phone*

ah let’s see what fresh horrors await me on the fresh horrors device

— Miss O’Kistic (@missokistic) November 11, 2016

The alternative

Maintaining a social media presence — especially for writers and entrepreneurs — often feels non-negotiable. The choice isn’t whether you use social media, but how.

In the opening page of Invested, Charles Schwab writes, “The world of business, like the rest of life, is full of wonderful temptations, and making a choice about where you are going to devote your energy is often as much about dismissing things as it is about choosing something. A singular sense of purpose gives you focus and clarity.”

Cutting social networks from my life for the next year is my attempt to achieve a new level of focus — perhaps one that becomes an advantage. What will a return to focus mean for me this year? Maybe I’ll publish more articles in more reputable magazines than any year before — or earn a book contract. Maybe I’ll finish work early every day and have more time to read, exercise, or call up a friend.

Think about when was the last time you texted someone, “How are you?” Without the crutch of feeling like I know friends from updates from social media, I’ll have to be more proactive. I’ll have to ask. For now, I have many aspirations and I’m optimistic about what a year without social media could mean personally and professionally.

Of course, there’s a possibility that things go counter to my plan. Maybe a year without social media will change the way I see it. Maybe the benefits will become clearer to me and I’ll re-log on to each platform with enthusiasm at the start of 2022.

If I’m honest, I doubt that’ll be the case. I believe the internet is a better place to learn, write, and grow a business when I’m not competing for trivial achievements like a fresh new badge about a single retweet or like.

I have a hunch that I’ll never choose to go back to social media. Or maybe it’s a prayer. Either way, I’m out.

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Housebound Jordanian football fan a social media star

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Amer Abu Nawas was born with osteogenesis, or brittle bone disease, a genetic condition hindering normal bone growth that has meant he rarely leaves his home

Amer Abu Nawas was born with osteogenesis, or brittle bone disease, a genetic condition hindering normal bone growth that has meant he rarely leaves his home – Copyright AFP Khalil MAZRAAWI

Kamal Taha

Having spent most of his life housebound due to a medical condition, Jordanian Amer Abu Nawas’s love of football has propelled him to social media stardom.

Offering analysis of matches from the leading European football leagues to almost a quarter of a million followers, his Facebook page — “HouseAnalyzer” in Arabic — has grown into what he describes as a “big family”.

The 27-year-old was born with osteogenesis, or brittle bone disease, a genetic condition hindering normal bone growth that has meant he rarely leaves his home in Zarqa, 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Jordan’s capital Amman.

“It is true that I have never played football in my life, and have never attended any match, but for me football is everything,” Abu Nawas told AFP.

With no schools in the country catering to his needs, Abu Nawas grew up spending much of his time watching football matches, analysing the teams and playing football video games.

“This always made me feel like it is taking me from this world to a different one,” he said.

His relatives noticed his passion and encouraged him to publish his match analyses online.

In 2017, he launched his Facebook account, which now counts more than 243,000 followers.

– ‘Reach people’ –

Filmed on a phone in his bedroom, Abu Nawas’s videos usually feature him wearing a football jersey, excitedly commenting on matches and news from the world of football.

Discussing leagues from England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, he sometimes uses a football pitch-shaped board to explain tactical nuances.

One of Abu Nawas’s latest videos reached more than 1.4 million viewers and he has started posting on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.

He said he was grateful for modern technology allowing him to connect with so many people.

“From this room, from this small place isolated from the world, I was able to cross these walls, reach people, communicate with them, create content, and become what I am today,” he said.

He expressed sadness at sometimes seeing people attack each other in comments to his posts, and said his relationship with his followers was “like a family”.

“This family is growing day by day, and I hope it will reach as many followers as possible,” he added.

Abu Nawas’s own family do their best to provide him with a comfortable life.

He is the youngest of three brothers and his father is a doctor and his mother a pharmacist.

Inside his room are shelves with a PlayStation, a computer and plastic baskets keeping items he might need.

On his bed are phones, remote controls, headphones and a long stick used to reach distant items.

– ‘Not an obstacle’ –

“He has his own world, in a room with a temperature of 27 degrees to avoid cold and pneumonia. He can operate anything using the remote control,” his father Yussef told AFP.

He said his son has friends who occasionally visit.

“When he feels bad, they take him out for a tour in a minibus,” he said.

Abu Nawas lamented that in Jordan “nobody cares” about people with diseases like his, and said he wished he had had the opportunity to attend school.

“The conditions for people with special needs are catastrophic,” he said.

“I could not learn because there are no special schools for people like me.”

Last year, the organisers of the football World Cup invited him to attend the tournament in Qatar.

But due to travel difficulties linked to his condition, he arrived late and missed the matches he was scheduled to attend.

Even so, Abu Nawas said it was “the best 10 days of my life”.

“I know my condition, I learned to be content, and I will remain so,” he said.

“Disability need not be an obstacle to success.”

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Stand Out in a Crowded Market By Focusing on Organic Growth

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Stand Out in a Crowded Market By Focusing on Organic Growth

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

My partner and I have seen the power of organic growth, even in a significantly competitive market like fashion. Our company, named BJ Positive Wear, was able to create something captivating to our customers within the last two years. I saw a complete transformation of our business in that time, all due to organic growth and the philosophies that we used to succeed.

Even though we had no idea what to expect, we decided from the very start to go in with organic growth being the ultimate goal. We did not benefit from outside help, so we chose to do this. We knew it would take longer, but in the end, every action brought us one step closer to where we are today.

I believe everybody could benefit from focusing on organic growth in a competitive market. If you’re unsure where to start, I will share with you what we did to achieve our success today.

Related: How Thinking Like a Designer Can Unlock Organic Growth

Why organic growth matters

You might not think much of it, but organic growth is the ultimate powerhouse for success. Organic growth is an important area of focus because it encompasses various areas of outreach and focuses on genuinely connecting with the audience you want to reach with your business.

Back in the days before the internet, organic growth was increasingly difficult. People had to do traditional marketing, create posters, billboards and more. Today, my partner goes on social media and shares content.

Social media has so much power, and many people I see and talk to in the business world don’t even grasp the full potential of it. For our firm, social media was what ultimately made us powerful and gave us the organic growth we wanted. You can have the same, and it comes with a few specific steps that we took as we embarked on our journey to success.

Create conversation

One of the essential tips is to create conversation. Organic growth is about engaging with the audience and making them feel a part of what you are doing. Your customer is the ultimate source of direction as a business. Even if you start with an idea for a specific product, you need to listen to the customer and see if what you have to offer is going to benefit them or not.

Create these conversations, and focus on what they say. Even if it is entirely different than what you might have expected, your customer is the ultimate tool for you to spearhead any decision to allow you to further expand and experience growth as a business.

Present value and transparency

Transparency is one of the most valuable tools in any business. If you want to succeed and capture any audience demographic’s attention, you need clarity in your messaging. You must lay out the value for your specific product or service to the audience. Customers like honesty. This is something that I have come to appreciate as a co-founder.

People want to hear exactly what you have to offer. So, don’t leave a mystery. Instead, present your value and be transparent in your messaging. This is what ultimately creates organic growth, but it also leads to another essential aspect of how we were able to achieve our success.

Related: How Transparency In Business Leads to Customer Growth and Loyalty

Differentiate and remain competitive

One of the ultimate tools people often do not tap into is the potential for every social media user today to understand their competition. Everything is publicly available, and there are no surprises. If you find yourself in a position where you are genuinely struggling to remain competitive, point out where you think you can defeat your competition.

When we were focusing on creating our clothing business, we wanted to create something meaningful. Additionally, we wanted to create something that would ultimately stand out compared with every other company we’d seen in the industry. This eventually led me to differentiate and focus on innovating what was already in our market. If you want to succeed, take it from us: You need to determine and figure out what your competitor offers that you can beat and defeat.

Organic growth accelerates when you become a creator

Organic growth is ultimately the most meaningful because it allows you to create conversation and value while remaining competitive with your competition. But there’s something else that many people often forget.

There are multiple kinds of organic growth facilitators in this world. Some people stick to diversification, while others focus on offering something of value that is a necessary product to people. Finally, some people, like our business and myself, become creators.

Why creators stand out and defeat the competition

You can choose any path you’d like to accelerate organic growth, but ultimately, I see the most value in becoming a creator. As a creator, our business built something that truly did stand out compared to other competitors. We focused on innovation first, then differentiated and ensured that there would be immense value offered in whatever we did in the industry. As a startup, I can offer you so much advice, but this is ultimately one of the most important: If you want to see success, inspire people, and become a creator of your own.

You have the power to create value

Creators are essential and stand out because we build value with our products. We value each service we offer, and new business models will be created. We create a massive following and see our company take off in ways we never thought possible. Organic growth accelerates when you are a creator, and this is because you find a way to inspire people.

Be an underdog and stand out

People like a success story. Everybody wants to root for the underdog, and quite honestly, my business was the underdog, but we were also extreme innovators in what we were able to do. If you want to see success in the industry you are part of, then I urge you to consider what you can create to stand out.

Related: 4 Surprisingly Simple Ways To Stand Out From Your Competition

Revisit your ideas and improve them

If you have already begun a product, differentiate yourself and re-envision what you’ve already done. I guarantee you that when you think of something impactful and creative, others will see it and flock to you and your business. They will believe in your mission and see you as inspirational.

Focus your success on your organic growth

No matter your path, you need to consider certain factors if you are a startup. Remaining competitive and finding a way to differentiate yourself honestly is the ultimate goal of organic growth.

For us, especially with how significantly our business grew in such a short time, we don’t owe anybody anything, and it’s a risk we took. We chose to put everything into creating something nobody had ever done, and even in the end, it was far more tiring and more prolonged than we ever envisioned. Still, I promise you that the journey will be worth it in the end.

Hopefully, I provided you with the insight and inspiration needed to take that leap and take a risk. No matter what business you run, I hope you present something nobody has ever seen before, but also attempt to inspire people to follow you, no matter where your journey takes you.



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Elon Musk Says That Twitter Will Continue to Offer Free API Access to Good Bot Accounts

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

It’s honestly difficult to make any assessment of Elon Musk’s time in charge of Twitter as yet, because while he has made some bad decisions, he’s also reversed course on most of them, and while he continues to try things that seemingly have no chance of working out, he’s also not taking past precedent as definitive.

Which is maybe a good thing?

In the latest example of Musk’s shoot first, ask questions later management style, Elon has seemingly reversed the unpopular decision to charge for all usage of Twitter’s API, at least in some applications

As per Elon’s tweet, Twitter will continue to allow ‘bots providing good content’ to access Twitter’s API for free, which looked set to be one of the key losses of Twitter’s recent decision to paywall all API access.

Though much of the angst in this case came down to poor communication – last week, Twitter announced that, starting February 9th, it would be cutting off free access to its API, which is the key connector that many third party apps and Twitter’s bots use to function.

That triggered a strong response from the developer community, though a day later, Elon further explained that:

This wasn’t an official announcement, nor was it communicated via the Twitter Developers account. This was Elon, in an exchange with another user, randomly providing valuable context that would have avoided much of the angst and concern that came with the original Twitter Dev statement.

Now, the bigger question is whether $100 is any disincentive to spammers, who likely make way more than that from bot activity. But regardless, $100 is likely affordable for most of the third-party apps which looked set to lose the most from this update in policy, so it’s actually nowhere near as bad as the first announcement seemed.

It’s just bad communication, and given that Twitter no longer has a comms department, that makes sense.

But it’s also the perfect microcosm of the Elon experience, which he both benefits and suffers from, though maybe not in equal measure.

The key thing to note is that Elon loves attention. His one undisputable skill is that he knows how to make headlines, how to get people looking his way, which is why his main money maker, Tesla, has never needed a comms department either. They just let Elon say whatever he likes, good or bad, and the press comes running – and in this respect, you can see how his approach to such announcements at Twitter actually helps them get wider coverage and awareness, as opposed to them being outlined through regular channels.

But is that a good thing? Getting the developer community offside seems like unnecessary collateral damage, while the negativity this creates also seems less conducive to functional working arrangements with external partners and suppliers.

It seems like that could be harmful for his companies, long term – but then again, the more transparent nature of such, and his willingness to change course in a responsive way, could also be beneficial. Maybe?

Essentially, what we’re getting with Twitter 2.0 is a window into Elon Musk’s ‘hardcore’ management style, which is not entirely reliant on internal debate and decision-making, and also takes into account audience response, and factors that into its process.

Which is actually, probably, better, at least in some ways. I mean, Twitter, in times past, took months, even years to gain any traction on updates, before rolling them out, then it was forced to stick with them, even if they were unpopular, due to the amount of time invested.

With 70% fewer staff, Musk doesn’t have that luxury, but he has repeatedly shown a willingness to listen to the case for and against each update, and shift tack accordingly.

So while he has made some bad decisions, and will continue to do so, Twitter is moving fast. It’s breaking things too, but it’s still running, and Musk seems confident that he can convert it into a revenue positive business sometime soon.

And now, your weather bots, your system updates, your automated accounts that let you know what you want via tweet, will continue to operate. Unless Elon changes his mind again.



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