How to Do More by Doing Less

Have you seen the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall? In one scene, Peter, played by Jason Segel, takes surfing lessons from an instructor in Hawaii.

The surfing instructor, who calls himself Koonu, tells Peter that to learn how to surf you have to ignore your instincts, to try not to do anything, “The less you do, the more you do”, he says. Peter tries multiple times to correctly ‘pop up’ from the surfboard but each time Koonu insists he does even less. Eventually, Koonu gives up teaching Peter and takes him surfing where he hopes he’ll just figure it out along the way. 

Obviously, ‘doing less’ is pretty terrible surfing advice. But when it comes to social media, Koonu has a very good point. In fact, doing less on social media may be the best advice.

With mass information and networking at your fingertips, it’s easy to tune out of the real world and become absorbed in liking, sharing, commenting and tweeting online. But did you know that social media can be bad for your social life?

Numerous reports estimate that 18-to 34-year-olds spend as much as 3.8 hours a day on social media, 35- to 49-year-olds spend three hours on social media sites per day and Facebook reported that the average American spends 40 minutes a day just checking their newsfeed.

That’s roughly 21 hours a week or 45 days a year that we spend on social media platforms and almost 245 hours a year on just Facebook alone.

A study printed in the journal, Public Library of Science ONE, showed evidence that Facebook is associated with declines in well-being.

Participants of the study reported feeling dissatisfied with their life the more they used social media, while in contrast, volunteers who socialized in the real world, felt positive about their lives the more they stepped away from digital media. 

Social media definitely has its perks, so you shouldn’t ‘do nothing’, but like Koonu suggests, the less you do on social media, the more you’ll do in real life.

So how do you do less on social media? Here are four easy ways to get started. 

#1 Live Instead of Like

Best friend on a ski trip. Like. Cousin sipping wine at the new restaurant downtown. Like. Coworker got the promotion you wanted. Why is there still not a dislike button? 

Why does it seem that everyone except you has fun and fortunate lives? Probably because they’re out living instead of liking…or they use an exceptionally good filter on their photos.

This year, make it your goal to get out and live life more. In the forty minutes you save from not liking photos on your newsfeed, you can: scuba dive in the Caymans, have a quick lunch with a friend, hit the slopes, take a new course to further your career or education, read that bestseller everyone is tweeting about, take your dog on a walk in the neighborhood or go surfing.

The more you interact and engage in the real world, the more satisfied and accomplished you’ll feel about your life. 

#2 Care Instead of Share

There they are. The photo of the sad, wilted, mangy face of a puppy at the local shelter. The video of the thin, emaciated body of a young boy starving in Africa. And the snapshot of the young girl who won’t meet Taylor Swift unless you share her photo.

Sigh. Share, Share, Share. Giving back is hard work.

Social media is a great platform to raise awareness. But those causes you plaster all over your social media pages don’t run on thumbs-up fuel. They require the hard work and dedication of real volunteers and real advocates of change.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show volunteering is at a 10-year low, with only about 25% of Americans volunteering. The larger fundraising events are trending down as well with a 2.5% decrease in donations in 2013.

Instead of sharing that photo of the homeless puppy, head down to your local shelter to volunteer, foster a rescue or even adopt the puppy. If you’re really passionate about feeding the world, then donate to a cause or start a food drive to end hunger right in your back yard (and let’s just not fret about that Taylor Swift girl).

There are plenty of opportunities out there that will fit your passions, skills and wallet. Take time this year to discover one cause you can really care about and act on. 

#3 Connect Instead of Comment

My favorite meme is the one of Michael Jackson munching popcorn. That’s exactly how I feel when I read the comments of a trending news article. I often bypass the article just to read the well informed, grammatically correct responses (is that the sound of dripping sarcasm?).

Sure, everyone has an opinion and is entitled to their opinion. But because of the ease and speed of typing out a quick, anger-driven response to a hot topic, our opinions are usually uninformed and often irrelevant. 

Before you chime in next time, try connecting first. Don’t just read the article, read around it. Find other sources of information to confirm the facts and to develop a stronger stance.

Then, step outside of your comfort zone and experience the other side. It doesn’t matter which side you’re on, but have you taken the time to find out why someone opposes you? What motivates their opinion? What are the facts behind it? How does it compare to the facts behind yours? Is there a middle ground solution? Do you really have the authority or experience to speak on this?

Finally, if you want to comment, then comment, but back it up with action. Join a rally, participate in a protest, or become a member of an organization.

In a few hours, the comment you made on Facebook will circle down the drain into the pits of Facebook history; a bottomless black hole of no return. But the protest you led will go in the books, the leather-bound ones, and leave a lasting mark on your life. 

#4 Tune In Instead of Tweet

Did you know that J.K. Rowling conceived the idea of Harry Potter while waiting for a delayed train for four hours?

Instead of creating the bespectacled boy, the stony Hogwarts castle, or the magical spells that would pave the path of Harry’s adventure, Rowling could’ve pulled out her iPhone, logged onto Twitter and complained about the unreliability of mass transportation. Or possibly update her status on Facebook that she’d be arriving late to London. Followed of course by a quick train selfie--with the Mayfair filter--to post on Instagram.

Opportunities could be passing you by because you’re spending too much time on social media and not enough time on living your life.

Tune in. Not to just what’s around you, but also to yourself. The less time you waste on mindlessly looking at social media, the more time your mind has to discover the real you, your goals and how to achieve them. Maybe that book you’ve always wanted to write is just waiting for a few minutes of your attention while you’re standing in line at the grocery store?

Your break-through business idea could be staring you right in the face if you delete that tweet and stare back at it. Quick, stare contest.

The inspiration for your next painting is probably in the sunset you’re missing because you’re too busy taking a photo of it.  

Do Less Than That

Social media is a great tool to engage, connect and learn from others, but it’s not a replacement for real, meaningful life experiences. Taking a step away from the digital world will improve your overall quality of life and satisfaction.

Surveys say that millennials will increase their time even more on social media this year, but we can change the numbers by making better choices with our time.

So, how will you choose to spend your social life in 2015?

Written by Rebekah Olsen

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Hard times don't create heroes. It's during hard times when the "hero" in us is revealed. Bob Riley