As I was reading Rule #3 in Cal Newport’s Deep Work, I noticed how passionate he was in discussing the drawbacks of social media, how they actively impede the deep work efforts, and how one should try to wean themselves from social media applications if they aren’t completely necessary or positive. More importantly, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own social media usage, especially during the peak of quarantine and throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic up to present day.
In spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 virus started to become a global pandemic and mandatory quarantines started to be implemented, I was told by my ex-employer that I would be furloughed for two weeks. Well, those two weeks turned into two months as the pandemic worsened. Quarantine hit the business hard, since most of its income came from producing signs for other businesses. With no events and many businesses shut down, a ton of revenue was lost. As a result, the sign shop downsized, and I became officially laid off.
At this point in my life, I did not know what to do. Although this was a circumstance that was completely out of my control, I couldn’t help but feel guilty as if it was somehow my fault and that I wasn’t rehired because my contributions weren’t worthy enough. On top of this, the job market was very fragile and good jobs were scarce, so I couldn’t just land myself another job right away. For the first time in a while, I had no sense of direction. I felt lost.
So what did I do during quarantine? There were hobbies I enjoyed, of course. But most significantly, I turned to social media to fill the void. In the previous chapter, Newport discusses how one shouldn’t use social media as a crutch when confronted with the slightest hint of boredom. But that is exactly a habit that I developed. Bored during quarantine? Pick up the phone and check your feeds, mindlessly scroll on Twitter and Reddit, and look for the next form of shallow gratification that the algorithm hand-picks for you. Let autoplay choose the next YouTube video to watch. After all, what better is there to do while waiting for the pandemic to die down, waiting to return to some sense of normalcy?
How I see it, I experienced an infinite cause-and-effect loop. I became depressed, therefore I used social media more. Because I used social media for very shallow purposes, I feel that I became more desensitized from my surroundings, thus making me even more depressed. And, with this deeper depression came deeper social media usage, and so on and so forth.
My state of mind also worsened. I started to regret certain life choices, and even started to become a little cynical of the world. But was this due to too much screen time, or a combination of other factors such as diet and fitness (which also worsened during quarantine)? Overall, I feel that it was a bit of everything that made me feel this way.
As of last summer, I have made substantial improvements from this mundaneness, and I believe it is due to factors such as medication, healthier habits, and having tasks and purpose again (I use the word purpose very lightly, because I don’t believe in having a single life’s purpose).