If you're like most American workers, you've caught yourself getting distracted by social media during the workday. And don't try to deny it--nearly 90 percent of employees openly admit to checking social media during work hours (and at least some of that other 10 percent could be lying about their habits).

Add in modern tension about privacy issues surrounding social media, stress at seeing negative news and political coverage, and movements like #deletefacebook, and the prospect of deleting all your social media accounts seems even more appealing.

But could a cold-turkey approach to deleting social media really make you more productive?

What You're Missing

Before we get too carried away talking about the prospective benefits of deleting social media, we need to acknowledge that there are some benefits to remaining active on social media.

You might use social media as a convenient source of information; after all, 67 percent of adults get at least some of their news from a social platform. Then again, if you want to get news, you could use a news-centric app, and hopefully filter out some of the distractions that social media offers.

Social media is also a reliable way to stay in contact with people, even if you don't converse regularly. Calling and texting are still options, and less distracting ones at that, but they're usually not as convenient for keeping in contact with everyone you know.

Plus, the best social media companies are committed to making their apps better all the time. For example, despite mixed reviews from consumers, Snapchat issued a major design overhaul earlier this year and is set to make big changes with eCommerce and analytics. By deleting these apps, you could miss out on important features and updates designed to make the user experience even better.

Professional Functions

There's another caveat to consider here; if you use social media for work purposes, deleting social media may not even be an option. Building a personal brand via social media is important and valuable from a business perspective.

You may also use social media for professional networking--and with 77 percent of the population represented on at least one social platform, it's a reliable way to stay in touch with all your business contacts.

The Productivity Benefits

So what kind of benefits could you see if you delete all social media, cold-turkey?

  • Distraction elimination. Across all age groups, United States citizens check their phones an average of 46 times a day--and as you might expect, those numbers are even higher for young adults. Considering that the average distraction delays your focus by 23 minutes, it's easy to see how dangerous those distractions can become. If you delete all your social accounts, you'll eliminate a major source of distraction, and hopefully cut these instances immediately; it's certainly much more reliable than depending solely on your willpower to overcome distraction.
  • Mood and mental health. It may not surprise you to learn that among United States adults, social media use is significantly associated with increased risk of depression. And if you're a chronic user of social media, you might experience increased symptoms of anxiety as well. Deleting social media may not eliminate these effects immediately, but over time, you may find yourself in better mental health, with an increased mood and more positive social interactions. That boost in mood and morale can have massive benefits to your productivity.
  • Sleep. As you likely know by now, late-night screen time with digital devices is linked to an increase in insomnia. In other words, all that late-night Facebook scrolling is ruining your sleep schedule. Removing social media won't magically make you sleep better, but it can reduce one strong temptation late at night, and encourage you to form healthier, more consistent sleep patterns.

Finding the Middle Ground

Of course, deleting social media isn't going to solve all your productivity problems. After all, in our digital landscape, there's always room for a replacement; you can get distracted by other apps and websites just as often as you can with social media.

So instead of deleting your social presence outright, consider the following as a kind of middle ground:

  • Turn off notifications. Notifications are a major distraction, so consider disabling them altogether. Only access social media on your own terms.
  • Reduce your number of apps. Instead of deleting every social app from your phone, delete your top offenders, and keep one or two that are truly valuable to you.
  • Restrict your usage. Set strict time limits and timeframes for yourself; for example, check in only during your lunch hour, or for only 10 minutes at a time.
  • Prioritize your sleep. Turn all your devices off a few hours before bedtime, and don't turn them back on again until morning.
  • Take a detox. Go on a digital detox to see if your productivity improves without technological distractions. Think of it as an experiment to see if (and how) your life improves when you aren't distracted by social media.

Will deleting social media make you more productive? Possibly--especially in the short term--but it may not fix all your problems (or fix them as cleanly as you'd imagine). Instead, try to figure out what's really interfering with your productivity, and use a more targeted approach to improve.

Published on: Jul 5, 2018