Reclaiming Sanity

by · November 19, 201129 comments

You hear a lot of people bemoaning the fact they’re “plugged in” too much. “I’m going off the grid this weekend! Need to unplug!”

Certainly, I’m in the circle of the oft-plugged-in and could use a little down time from screen time from time to time. But it’s not being plugged in that I think people grow tired of. It’s how they use their budget of such time.

Social media tools have allowed us to be incredibly schizophrenic in our daily communications. Maintaining an active Twitter account alone can eat up and entire day if you let it. Add email, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, instant messaging, texting and the like and, if you’re even a remotely social person, you burn an awful lot on just the churn of daily conversing.

Many of us multitask, further splitting our neurons from their more comfortable, focused paths. It’s not natural to do two or more things at once, especially with a brain that is already running all the subconscious systems of biologic equilibrium behind the scenes.

Plug

Image by Samuel M. Livingston via Flickr

Our brains get tired. And the more we throw at them, the more tired they get. Still, we overload our system with caffeine and sugar, loud music or adrenaline from a successful brainstorm or office pow-wow and jump right back in to the juggling act.

While it is true that unplugging, spending a little IRL R&R with friends and family can recharge our systems, it might also be that putting our systems on a singular, passive act may do the trick, too. When I want to reclaim my sanity, I pull out my iPad and watch TED talks, episodes of CBS Sunday Morning, live performances of my favorite bands and listen to bits and pieces of NPR coverage from the week. I read the latest articles from the New Yorker or The Atlantic or dig around for some lengthy bio or background pieces on celebrities or bands or business leaders I find fascinating.

I do it all while plugged in … using the Internet for a singular purpose: to entertain me. I don’t write, I don’t engage. In fact, I intentionally stopped using a bluetooth keyboard with my iPad so I would be less inclined to create content with it.

For a few hours it’s just me as a consumer, not a creator. No conversations. No responses. Just soaking up some new knowledge without the expectation of a response, comment or share.

And after, I’m back to sane. And often ready to create something quite impressive for others to chew on.

Yes – you should unplug from time to time. But don’t forget to do something different with your plugged in time as well. It may just keep you sane.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.twitter.com/unmarketing unmarketing

    Agreed! This is exactly what I use my iPad for: unplugging my brain while plugged in. Movies, shows, videos, games, music. Keeps me sane on planes/hotel rooms/Kentucky.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great minds and all. ;-) And I’m sure I’ll use mine more in Canadia, too. Heh.

  • http://www.shewearsmanyhats.com Amy

    So true. And I agree with Scott, my iPad is for magazines and other stuff that feeds me. I hardly use it for anything else. I’ve been feeling kind of slack because I haven’t used all the apps everyone touts for social media, but now I’m kinda feeling smart for not having done so. ; ) It’s like my fun zone. Thanks for the reminder. Going to check out the latest magazines I’ve yet to browse through.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Glad to be useful, Amy. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.shewearsmanyhats.com Amy

    So true. And I agree with Scott, my iPad is for magazines and other stuff that feeds me. I hardly use it for anything else. I’ve been feeling kind of slack because I haven’t used all the apps everyone touts for social media, but now I’m kinda feeling smart for not having done so. ; ) It’s like my fun zone. Thanks for the reminder. Going to check out the latest magazines I’ve yet to browse through.

  • http://www.shewearsmanyhats.com Amy

    So true. And I agree with Scott, my iPad is for magazines and other stuff that feeds me. I hardly use it for anything else. I’ve been feeling kind of slack because I haven’t used all the apps everyone touts for social media, but now I’m kinda feeling smart for not having done so. ; ) It’s like my fun zone. Thanks for the reminder. Going to check out the latest magazines I’ve yet to browse through.

  • http://www.shewearsmanyhats.com Amy

    So true. And I agree with Scott, my iPad is for magazines and other stuff that feeds me. I hardly use it for anything else. I’ve been feeling kind of slack because I haven’t used all the apps everyone touts for social media, but now I’m kinda feeling smart for not having done so. ; ) It’s like my fun zone. Thanks for the reminder. Going to check out the latest magazines I’ve yet to browse through.

  • http://www.shewearsmanyhats.com Amy

    So true. And I agree with Scott, my iPad is for magazines and other stuff that feeds me. I hardly use it for anything else. I’ve been feeling kind of slack because I haven’t used all the apps everyone touts for social media, but now I’m kinda feeling smart for not having done so. ; ) It’s like my fun zone. Thanks for the reminder. Going to check out the latest magazines I’ve yet to browse through.

  • http://www.shewearsmanyhats.com Amy

    So true. And I agree with Scott, my iPad is for magazines and other stuff that feeds me. I hardly use it for anything else. I’ve been feeling kind of slack because I haven’t used all the apps everyone touts for social media, but now I’m kinda feeling smart for not having done so. ; ) It’s like my fun zone. Thanks for the reminder. Going to check out the latest magazines I’ve yet to browse through.

  • http://www.shewearsmanyhats.com Amy

    So true. And I agree with Scott, my iPad is for magazines and other stuff that feeds me. I hardly use it for anything else. I’ve been feeling kind of slack because I haven’t used all the apps everyone touts for social media, but now I’m kinda feeling smart for not having done so. ; ) It’s like my fun zone. Thanks for the reminder. Going to check out the latest magazines I’ve yet to browse through.

  • http://www.shewearsmanyhats.com Amy

    So true. And I agree with Scott, my iPad is for magazines and other stuff that feeds me. I hardly use it for anything else. I’ve been feeling kind of slack because I haven’t used all the apps everyone touts for social media, but now I’m kinda feeling smart for not having done so. ; ) It’s like my fun zone. Thanks for the reminder. Going to check out the latest magazines I’ve yet to browse through.

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Thanks Jason, I saw a lot of people burned out today, who need this.
    It’s a good simple, but helpful reminder, that sometimes just changing it up, and taking some mental downtime (letting the subconscious brain reload/do what it does behind the curtain), is all it takes to be refreshed. 

    Another thing I do for slightly different circumstances when I need a refresh - 
    though it sounds like just more work – is to help someone else. 
    Specifically, someone less further along in an area than I’ve clawed to, who may be stuck.
    I just keep my eyes open to it, and lean toward helping someone obviously struggling with something I happen to get.

    And if they’ve been loyally sharing your blog or whatever, it gives a chance to give back
    (something greatly underdone in the A-list social media sphere).

    Anyway, after focusing on someone else’s challenges for awhile, 
    I find myself refreshed, not more burnt, like I would have thought. 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great point, Ed. I think since a lot of what I do is helping other people figure this world out, I have more of a withdrawal stance, but it’s a good point that it’s never too late or too much to give back a bit. Appreciate that encouragement.

    • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

      Ed I find I have been in such help mode for so long that it burns me out lol.  I hear what you are saying.  It is about shifting your mindset so you “air out the brain linens.”  Recognizing “where you are in that moment”  then shifting to something different to allow for “better blood flow.”  ( yup, it reminds me when we cross our legs Indian style and then our calves fall asleep chuckle)

      • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

        Alrighty Michele, Jason, et al,
        allow me to fine tune.

        For those who never reach out to people some steps behind you on the path,
        it can be a win/win. They get a much-needed net boost, and you recalibrated
        focusing on non-you progress. 
        In these tough times, people feel like they can’t sacrifice the time or energy.
        Does everyone do it? No. I know multimillionaire founders of [redacted] hot sm platform,
        and they give zero back, just a few years after taking much help.
        But I’ve never seen anyone not come out ahead for helping someone else.

        I don’t do it for that reason, (haha, obviously, as I’ve dug myself a hole doing it TOO much :)
        but it’s a nice side effect.
        So, if your daily gig is coaching, it may be too much of the same.
        If it’s something you never do, I guarantee you win.

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Thanks Jason, I saw a lot of people burned out today, who need this.
    It’s a good simple, but helpful reminder, that sometimes just changing it up, and taking some mental downtime (letting the subconscious brain reload/do what it does behind the curtain), is all it takes to be refreshed. 

    Another thing I do for slightly different circumstances when I need a refresh - 
    though it sounds like just more work – is to help someone else. 
    Specifically, someone less further along in an area than I’ve clawed to, who may be stuck.
    I just keep my eyes open to it, and lean toward helping someone obviously struggling with something I happen to get.

    And if they’ve been loyally sharing your blog or whatever, it gives a chance to give back
    (something greatly underdone in the A-list social media sphere).

    Anyway, after focusing on someone else’s challenges for awhile, 
    I find myself refreshed, not more burnt, like I would have thought. 

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Thanks Jason, I saw a lot of people burned out today, who need this.
    It’s a good simple, but helpful reminder, that sometimes just changing it up, and taking some mental downtime (letting the subconscious brain reload/do what it does behind the curtain), is all it takes to be refreshed. 

    Another thing I do for slightly different circumstances when I need a refresh - 
    though it sounds like just more work – is to help someone else. 
    Specifically, someone less further along in an area than I’ve clawed to, who may be stuck.
    I just keep my eyes open to it, and lean toward helping someone obviously struggling with something I happen to get.

    And if they’ve been loyally sharing your blog or whatever, it gives a chance to give back
    (something greatly underdone in the A-list social media sphere).

    Anyway, after focusing on someone else’s challenges for awhile, 
    I find myself refreshed, not more burnt, like I would have thought. 

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Thanks Jason, I saw a lot of people burned out today, who need this.
    It’s a good simple, but helpful reminder, that sometimes just changing it up, and taking some mental downtime (letting the subconscious brain reload/do what it does behind the curtain), is all it takes to be refreshed. 

    Another thing I do for slightly different circumstances when I need a refresh - 
    though it sounds like just more work – is to help someone else. 
    Specifically, someone less further along in an area than I’ve clawed to, who may be stuck.
    I just keep my eyes open to it, and lean toward helping someone obviously struggling with something I happen to get.

    And if they’ve been loyally sharing your blog or whatever, it gives a chance to give back
    (something greatly underdone in the A-list social media sphere).

    Anyway, after focusing on someone else’s challenges for awhile, 
    I find myself refreshed, not more burnt, like I would have thought. 

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Thanks Jason, I saw a lot of people burned out today, who need this.
    It’s a good simple, but helpful reminder, that sometimes just changing it up, and taking some mental downtime (letting the subconscious brain reload/do what it does behind the curtain), is all it takes to be refreshed. 

    Another thing I do for slightly different circumstances when I need a refresh - 
    though it sounds like just more work – is to help someone else. 
    Specifically, someone less further along in an area than I’ve clawed to, who may be stuck.
    I just keep my eyes open to it, and lean toward helping someone obviously struggling with something I happen to get.

    And if they’ve been loyally sharing your blog or whatever, it gives a chance to give back
    (something greatly underdone in the A-list social media sphere).

    Anyway, after focusing on someone else’s challenges for awhile, 
    I find myself refreshed, not more burnt, like I would have thought. 

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Thanks Jason, I saw a lot of people burned out today, who need this.
    It’s a good simple, but helpful reminder, that sometimes just changing it up, and taking some mental downtime (letting the subconscious brain reload/do what it does behind the curtain), is all it takes to be refreshed. 

    Another thing I do for slightly different circumstances when I need a refresh - 
    though it sounds like just more work – is to help someone else. 
    Specifically, someone less further along in an area than I’ve clawed to, who may be stuck.
    I just keep my eyes open to it, and lean toward helping someone obviously struggling with something I happen to get.

    And if they’ve been loyally sharing your blog or whatever, it gives a chance to give back
    (something greatly underdone in the A-list social media sphere).

    Anyway, after focusing on someone else’s challenges for awhile, 
    I find myself refreshed, not more burnt, like I would have thought. 

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Thanks Jason, I saw a lot of people burned out today, who need this.
    It’s a good simple, but helpful reminder, that sometimes just changing it up, and taking some mental downtime (letting the subconscious brain reload/do what it does behind the curtain), is all it takes to be refreshed. 

    Another thing I do for slightly different circumstances when I need a refresh - 
    though it sounds like just more work – is to help someone else. 
    Specifically, someone less further along in an area than I’ve clawed to, who may be stuck.
    I just keep my eyes open to it, and lean toward helping someone obviously struggling with something I happen to get.

    And if they’ve been loyally sharing your blog or whatever, it gives a chance to give back
    (something greatly underdone in the A-list social media sphere).

    Anyway, after focusing on someone else’s challenges for awhile, 
    I find myself refreshed, not more burnt, like I would have thought. 

  • http://Twitter.com/Ed Ed

    Thanks Jason, I saw a lot of people burned out today, who need this.
    It’s a good simple, but helpful reminder, that sometimes just changing it up, and taking some mental downtime (letting the subconscious brain reload/do what it does behind the curtain), is all it takes to be refreshed. 

    Another thing I do for slightly different circumstances when I need a refresh - 
    though it sounds like just more work – is to help someone else. 
    Specifically, someone less further along in an area than I’ve clawed to, who may be stuck.
    I just keep my eyes open to it, and lean toward helping someone obviously struggling with something I happen to get.

    And if they’ve been loyally sharing your blog or whatever, it gives a chance to give back
    (something greatly underdone in the A-list social media sphere).

    Anyway, after focusing on someone else’s challenges for awhile, 
    I find myself refreshed, not more burnt, like I would have thought. 

  • http://twitter.com/AaronMarshall Aaron Marshall

    Binge and purge is certainly the most popular method of dealing with the overload. I like your approach better. I’ve always said that if you’re not enjoying social media, you’re doing it wrong…

  • Patrick Garmoe

    Jason, as an avid reader/online media consumer, I increasingly find a need to set goals around creating and consuming content to maintain my sanity. There’s just WAY too much great content out there than time. So I feel the underlying principle is to be purposeful in creating and consuming content — even if the goal is to simply consume for the purposes of relaxing. BTW loving the new design, seeing it on my iPad.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Patrick. We just launched it this morning. It’s especially built to reposition well on tablets and mobile devices. We’re announcing/publicly drawing people to it tomorrow. Just working out some bugs today.

  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    I am with you Jason.  I so get it, the freenzy we can feel from “being on” so much while online.  My get aways are plugged in as well.  Music from fav artists while I clean house or once a nice dinner is made, I open a movie online and  sit back and relax.

    Remembering to switch your hats from creator to consumer is an important distinction.

  • http://www.socialcolleague.com Social Media Assistant

    I love the new design too, viewing it on a HTC is much easier than it was.

  • Anonymous

    I have different levels of connected-ness. Like you, I love the passive consumption moments. Just take it in and move on; don’t worry about commenting, or sharing. And to add one layer of depth, sometimes complete silence, like a walk in the woods or a run can be pretty incredible for digesting all that content and doing something with it; in the head.

  • http://twitter.com/prtini Heather Whaling

    I’ve found Pinterest to be a perfect example of this plugged in, non-work activity. Yes, clients are interested, so my time on there is sort-of work related, but mostly, I’m looking for gift ideas, home decorating inspiration, new recipes to try, etc. I’m pinning things that are enjoyable to ME.

    Your point about people needing to unplug is spot on. It’s not that they need to unplug. It’s that they need to relax, give their brains a break, and take a little time for themselves. That can happen online of offline, but it doesn’t have to require the “Great Unplug of 2011.”

    Heather