I recently noticed myself falling back into old (bad) habits.
Anxiously ruminating over questions like…
“Should I build this business or that business?”
“Is the YouTube/Personal Brand thing too small of a play?”
“I need to do something bigger. How do I do something bigger?”
I wouldn’t go a day without asking myself one of these questions. And I’d be second-guessing my actions, all the time.
Until I realized why it was happening.
Now, I wouldn’t self-identify as a “social media addict.”
But several times per day, I’d scroll my Twitter feed.
I’ve told myself for years that Twitter is the best social media platform. That it’s more “productive” than platforms like Facebook, IG, TikTok because at least there’s “value” on there. (Whatever that means).
And some good things have come from Twitter. I’ve made friends. I’ve made deals. It’s been good.
But there’s a problem.
When I open Twitter…
I see the 21-year-old who’s scaled his ecom biz to 500k/month and I think, “Damn, I should do ecom.”
Then I see someone like Justin Welsh talk about how he’s doing $1m+ per year with 90% margins, and I revert back to, “Yeah, actually, solopreneurship is the path for me.”
And then I see someone like Alex Becker talk about how if you’re young, and especially if you have cashflow sorted elsewhere (which I do from my former business), then you need to take a moonshot and work on something big. So naturally, I think, “Yep. Makes sense. I should do that.”
Up until recently, this wreaked havoc on my ability to think clearly and intuitively. I was relentlessly being pulled and pushed in different directions.
Something had to change. So here’s how I’m thinking about this and what I’ve done (and am doing) to combat it.
We like to think that we are completely free agents, doing only what we choose to do. But Rene Girard’s work shows us that, in fact, our choices are driven primarily by imitation, or mimesis.
In other words: desire is contagious.
Mimesis is a fascinating and complex topic that’s too unwieldy to tackle in this newsletter. Instead, I urge you to study Girard. Start with Luke Burgis book Wanting, which is an easier to read introduction. The lecture series with Jonathan Bi and David Perell is also excellent.
Social media is mimetic overload.
25 years ago, if you were trying to figure out what to do for a career, you still had to wrestle with multiple potential paths. But at least you weren’t spending hours each day on the internet being machine-gunned down by a seemingly infinite amount of success stories from hundreds of different career paths.
To make it worse, because everyone is trying to sell you something, you have people actively discouraging you from certain career paths. On Twitter, someone will say, “This business model sucks because X, Y, and Z. MY framework is much better.”
Of course it is, buddy. I’m not giving you my $497 though.
It is not normal to experience this quantity of mimetic influence.
These micro-deposits of influence that pull us away from our core intuition shape us in ways we cannot quantify.
Social media kills the ability to live intuitively from one’s core
Now, if you’ve studied Girard then you’ll know that true intuition doesn’t really exist. And what we call “true authentic living” is still shaped by mimesis.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to live more intuitively and authentically. To pursue the path that feels right to us.
Digital maximalism destroys this ability to live (more) intuitively.
It pulls you in multiple different directions.
It causes you to second-guess yourself constantly.
It leads you to envy.
But it also clouds your authentic desires.*
*(or more authentic, as mimesis shows us it’s practically impossible to have true authentic desires.)
What did you spend your time doing as a kid?
What did you dream about doing when you were older?
What type of work brings you the most joy?
These questions cannot be answered by Twitter. They must be answered by you.
To give you a personal example:
The work I’m good at and love doing is synthesizing ideas. Taking multiple concepts from different places and combining them into a piece of content that can benefit others.
It’s the type of work I’d do if I were financially set for life and had no need to work.
But scrolling Twitter makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong. Like I should build a “real business” (whatever that means). And it pulls me away from the core, intuitive feeling I have, which is that I’m born to synthesize ideas.
Besides, the grass always seems greener when you’re looking at warped reality.
Social media is warped reality
Everyone knows this.
Social media is the highlight reel.
The type of content that does well—especially on Twitter—is content that is transformative and inspiring.
If I open Twitter right now, within 5 minutes I’ll likely see 5-10 success stories.
People who were broke but then spent 12 months building their business and now live in a Miami penthouse.
Let me tell you: this is not normal.
There are 99 other people who are just as smart, just as driven, but for whatever reason will not experience rapid success in 12 months. That is normal.
But you don’t hear about them. Their stories aren’t noteworthy (yet).
And so tweet-by-tweet, you build up layers of false expectations. Which lead to extremely detrimental frames of thinking and operating.
You choose a business model based on the outlier success that others are experiencing, instead of choosing based on what you want to do, the market wants, and you’re skilled at. Bad move.
You quit projects too early because you’re dissatisfied with the results. But your expected timeline is heavily influenced by the outliers, not the average. You will always quit projects too early if you operate with this frame.
You cannot think, make decisions, or operate effectively if your mentality is warped by a perceived reality that doesn’t exist.
And that’s not to mention the array of other consequences that come from spending too much time in this warped world:
- Constant comparison. Feeling like you can’t keep up. Like you aren’t good enough. Even though you might be in the top 5% in multiple areas of life in the real world.
- Stress, anxiety, urgency.
- Feeling like there’s something wrong with you because you’re 23 and still not a millionaire (WTF?)
- Messes up your dopamine reward system.
- Atrophies your ability to think, focus, and intuit.
What I’m doing about this
Coming full circle: after falling back into these bad habits largely as a result of social media, I knew I needed to make changes.
Here’s what I’ve done:
- I downloaded an app called Clearspace. It’s cut my phone usage by 80%. I’m not getting paid to promote this, it’s just a good app.
- I unfollowed everyone on Instagram. I only keep it on my phone for messaging certain people and posting to my profile to build my brand. The stories from other entrepreneurs that I followed were having too much influence on me.
- I deleted Twitter off my phone. There’s literally zero reason why I need it on there. I can use it on desktop.
- I haven’t had Facebook on my phone for 6 months. Don’t miss it. I’ve also disabled newsfeed on desktop. I only use messenger.
Here’s what I’m doing:
- I’m diving head-first into work that excites me. The more I do this, the less I’m pulled in multiple directions by the mimesis demon known as social media.
- I’m actively unfollowing people on Twitter every day. I want to get to a point where I only follow people that provide deep insight, instead of those who just brag about success.
- I’m sticking to one goal for the next 6 months.
There’s more I can and will do. Expect an update a few months from now.
The best of what I consumed last week
I didn’t consume much last week.
- I revisited Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, which inspired this week’s issue.
- That also lead me to this phenomenal article from Andrew Sullivan, “I Used to Be a Human Being”
- Oppenheimer was a good film. Unfortunately there is no iMax cinema where I live, but it was still great. I wanted to read the biography beforehand but didn’t have a spare 15-20 hours.
Have a great week!