Quit Social Media, For The Sake Of Your Music
If you’re here, there’s still hope for you. You clicked on this post, probably via social media, because you’re curious. Or maybe you wanted to see how ridiculous the “quit social media” argument is.
Welcome. Let’s begin. Here’s why you, as someone in the music industry, should quit social media.
And let’s start with Dr. Cal Newport. You’ve probably never heard of him because he’s not on social media. He’s a millennial computer scientist and author who’s never had a social media account.
“Even though I’ve never had a social media account, I’m okay,” he said during a TEDx talk. “It turns out I still have friends, I still know what’s going on in the world.”
He still has a life, he’s still successful, and he still collaborates with people around the world. He also makes some very bold statements about not being on social media.
“Not only am I okay without social media, but I think I’m actually better off,” he said. “I think I’m happier, I think I find more sustainability in my life, and I think I’ve been more successful professionally because I don’t have social media.”
So let’s dive into the myths he covers and apply them to the music industry.
Myth #1: If I Quit Social Media, I’ll Be In The Dark Ages
As a musician, I want to stay relevant. I want to be where people are. And it just feels so old fashioned to not use Facebook and Instagram.
But, Newport points out, social media is not the deciding factor in whether or not you’re relevant. It’s just a form of entertainment.
These platforms give you little rewards, little shots of dopamine, in exchange for your personal data. They then sell that data to advertisers.
The user is now the product.
Newport says many of these social media companies hire “attention engineers” who borrow tactics from casinos to capture a person’s attention for as long as possible. To make the platforms “as addictive as possible.”
Avoiding social media is not the same as continuing to ride a horse and buggy instead of driving a car. It’s just another form of entertainment that we can choose to not use.
In 10 years, will Twitter still be around? Will Facebook be what it is today?
Myth #2: Social Media Is Vital To My Success
This is a big one for me. It feels like if I quit social media, it will actually kill the growth of my fanbase. It feels like a needed part of a musician’s PR and marketing strategy.
It’s easy to think this way. Even as I write this, half of me wants to delete my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and the other half of me wants to dive deeper into growing my online following.
But Newport says social media is not only unnecessary, it’s actually harmful to creative work.
“What the market values is the ability to produce things that are rare or valuable,” he said. It dismisses things that are easy to replicate, things that only add a small amount of value.
So you may think your carefully tailored Instagram profile is what gives you the extra leg up in the music industry. But, according to data, that’s just not true. Social media is the “epitome” of something that’s easy to replicate.
“It’s something any 16-year-old with a smartphone can do,” he said.
Instead, the market values “deep work,” art that has been carefully crafted with focus that ends up being is rare and/or valuable to people.
How much more music could you be making if you didn’t have social media?
Myth #3: It’s Harmless Fun!
Okay, so if social media is just entertainment, what’s the harm in using it?
Well, having a fragmented attention throughout the day — like stopping to check Instagram or send a Tweet — can “permanently reduce your capacity for concentration.” And concentration is necessary for doing this deep work, this focused work that often results in art valued by the market.
“It’s one thing to spend a couple hours at the slot machine in Vegas,” Newport said. “But if you bring the slot machine with you and pull that handle all day long, from when you wake up to when you go to bed — we’re not wired for it. It short-circuits the brain.”
Anxiety, depression, discontentment with life — things Newport cites as side effects of using social media.
And these things increase the chance of doing less music (and even giving up on music entirely). Instead of being driven to improve, you may find yourself losing your drive to make the best music you can.
Myth #4: I Wouldn’t Be Able To Connect With My Fans
I’m adding this myth. Newport didn’t directly talk about this, but I inferred it.
The idea is that not using social media means you won’t be able to connect with your fans. Where would conversation happen if not on social media?
In an attempt to bust that myth, I’d like to present a few ways you can connect and converse with your fans other than social media:
- At live shows: this is the most impactful way to connect with fans. An in-person, face-to-face interaction with someone who already likes your music can go a long way.
- Your email list: this is where you can update fans on your music, where they can talk with you directly through email, and you can even ask them to forward the email to friends who may like your music.
- The comments section of your blog: you write a blog post, share it with your email list, people comment, you respond — you’re connecting. And there’s no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram anywhere to be found.
What’s Life Like Without Social Media?
According to Newport, life without social media is both productive and peaceful.
“If you treat your attention with respect, you don’t fragment it,” Newport said. “You allow it to stay whole.”
Newport said without social media fragmenting your attention, you can do one thing after another with intensity.
“It’s surprising how much you can get done in an 8-hour day if you’re able to give each thing intense concentration,” he said.
Newport reads the newspaper in the morning, listens to baseball on the radio, and reads books at night.
These things may not be your choice of leisure activities, but there’s something to be said for relaxing in a way that doesn’t involve social media.
You can relax without stressing yourself out by getting in internet fights, wondering if people are going to like or share your post, or finding that Facebook is, yet again, sending you notifications that have nothing to do with you.
“Many more people would be better off if they didn’t use this technology,” Newport said.
So the question remains: do you think quitting social media would be good for your music career?
I, for one, want to quit social media for the sake of my music.