October 2019. I realized that my productivity was being deeply affected by social media. Don't get me wrong: I work with digital marketing, and I recognize the importance of social media. It’s useful, and a crucial piece of our present landscape. Social media allows a connection that few other platforms provide today.
I also know that when we get sucked in by technology, it's mostly our responsibility. We control the relationship that we have with social media and technology, and how we use then.
And though I wasn't the most active person on social media, I was being sucked in by a spiral of voyeurism that was making me a robot. I was suffering the most significant effect of social media: the automatism of my thoughts and my actions. Here’s what happened:
My thoughts started to be deeply influenced by what I read in the comments on pages belonging to people with jobs similar to mine. As a result, I produced content that I knew would drive traffic to my website, because I knew people wanted these types of digital products.
It’s a significant benefit for those working as digital entrepreneurs that social media allows us to have valuable feedback on what we do and tells us what our audience needs. As digital entrepreneurs, what we offer as products or services needs to solve a problem.
But wanting to solve problems doesn't need to be synonymous with constantly looking for what people say they need. By always waiting to hear from others, we eventually move away from what we really want to do.
If we are running a business, we have to do things that earn money. One of the reasons that I still work on one of my projects (Nomadismo Digital Portugal) is that it represents a substantial part of my income.
However, one of the reasons I went to work as a freelancer was to be happy and feel professionally fulfilled. Without that motivation, I would have stayed at my previous job. Working for others makes for—in many cases (and certainly mine)—more money and fewer headaches.
Knowing that I wanted fulfillment in my professional life, I created my work as a freelancer. A year into working as a freelancer, I created Nomadismo Digital Portugal because I wanted to tell everyone that it's possible to work remotely, be happy, and have a real career.
The project began to grow and I was feeling great, but the balance that I was looking for started to become affected. The balance between achieving financial sustainability with the project and the desire to help started to get messed up.
I knew that I could make money with the project, and I started to do everything I could to get more and more.
More money, more problems
I started to receive more and more messages that I didn't have time to answer.
I was mentioning the products I was selling all the time instead of providing people real help and advice. The more online courses and ebooks I sold, the more tired I was. I needed to create more content, more online courses, more videos, more everything.
I know that all my digital products have a lot of quality. But I got to the point that tiredness wasn't only linked to the amount of time I was investing in content creation. I was tired because I no longer saw myself reflected in what I was doing.
The world is watching
I was consuming a lot of what others were producing and creating: I knew the names of all of the entrepreneurs who were creating digital services and products; I was reading comments from other digital product launch posts to structure my own releases. And I (who never spent much time on social media) was organizing live sessions and posting almost daily on Instagram.
After several days with a constant headache and without knowing what digital product I needed to launch after my online course, I realized: I didn't start this to be tired. I started this to be happy and help my audience.
I want people to choose my products because they know they will allow them to get where they want. I don't want them to buy my services because my Instagram stories are the most beautiful.
I have had a steady income since I started working as a full-time freelancer. I took a few days to analyze everything I have done in the last four years as a remote worker; the differential was never social media. The unique combination of my background, personality, and skills is the reason why I earn money with my work today.
Cutting the cord
I decided to uninstall all of the distractions that were blocking me. I deleted Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest from my phone.
For a few days, I was still entering Instagram through the Facebook Creative Studio in my browser to see the comments on my posts. Luckily, the browser experience is not as addictive as on the phone.
After a few days, I got bored. I wasn't tempted or interested in looking at my social media. I just wanted to write; I wanted to learn. I was finally reading and investing time on what I really needed and wanted.
This decision made me start to write what I genuinely think I need to say. Since I have no market analysis or strategy behind my writing… how do I know this is what my audience wants and needs? I don't.
I don't know. But when I started this job in 2016, I was writing what I wanted to share without social media’s input, and it turned OK. I think this time it will be OK, too.
I may someday use Instagram again—it is a fantastic social media. But for now, I know I want to enjoy the full independence of my thoughts and actions. For now, I’m saying "see you later" to social media and "welcome back" to my writing.