Are you a victim of slavery to social media? Quit being a slave to social. Regain your life back.
Brian Solis, it was a pleasure listening to you speak at Social Media Marketing Conference 2018 at San Diego. It was funny yet provocative and made me think deeply. So here goes my promised blog post on what I took away from the keynote. Before I set down to this task, I was listening to the podcast by Mike Vardy, the founder of Productivityist.com in which he interviews Carl Newport, the author of the book Deep Work.
Inspired by listening to all these truly awesome folks, here I am sitting down to compose my thoughts. I have set aside all the distractions that could take me away from the task I have assigned to myself. Turned off the sound notifications on my computer. Put my phone in silent mode, out of the reach of the visual field of the corner of my eye.
How it all started?
Brian’s journey down the memory lane was fascinating starting from 2007 at the Techset parties at SXSW of bringing together the tech geeks to simply build a community of mutual sharing and helping. What blew me away was how the #hashtag symbol came about. Back then when Chris Messina the founder of Twitter asked his tech friends what they thought of using the pound # sign as a way to index content so that we can search for that easily at conferences. Brain claims it as his personal contribution to the digital world when he seconded the idea of using the # symbol saying ‘ we could make it a hand sign!” He shared some fascinating shots of him and his tech pals from those good old days and the first shot of the hand sign we identify today as #hashtag.
Long story short, those days were the days of these techies who wanted to change the world, hanging out together in real life communities sharing ideas, building things that have shaped the social media world and the digital virtual communities we live in today.
What has it come to at present?
How Social Media has evolved over the years is that it has democratized the flow of information and influence. From being in the hands of a few Media giants and Brands, the power has really moved into the hands of individuals like you and me.
It is the shift from a broadcast to a many-to-many model, rooted in a conversational exchange between producers, peers, and audiences of audiences.
This is the age of micro-influencers, social media celebrities. The reason for the rise of this trend is primarily rooted in one solid premise- Transparency is a legitimate and genuine business value proposition. That’s what we have achieved via social media. It gave everyone a voice.
People have become brands, and Brands are behaving like people.
Here is a snapshot of Forbes list of highest paid YouTube stars of 2017 –
It’s incredible to see that an elementary school-age kid can earn up to $ 11 million by simply sharing his review of toys!
How is Social Media Impacting us?
The fact is that all this digital media explosion in our lives is quietly but surely changing us and our behaviors as humans. We are becoming a society of social introverts. Brian shared that we check our devices 1500 times in a week, and around 177 minutes a day. Pictures speak a thousand words and that’s where Brian’s presentation aced it for me. His slides were so provocative and made you think! I share some of them here.
Recently I personally experienced this phenomenon! On my birthday, I received more than a few hundred virtual/digital wishes, but no one bothered to call me or wish me in person!! We are so busy as a people living our lives vicariously and consuming the digital information that we are hardly left with any time to make really deep connections and meaningful relationships.
I watch my kids on their respective digital devices, rather than playing outdoors in the evenings, which is what they should be doing. Every time I try to stop them from watching their devices, I feel the palpable withdrawal syndrome symptomatic of an addiction which is sneaky and hard to get rid of!
Many notable people have pointed out the dangers of digital addiction. How we humans are giving control to some ‘attention psychologists’ or ‘engineers’ to run our lives? Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook Exec gives a powerful interview at Stanford School of Business channel on YouTube.
As Brian puts it, the good thing about social media is that it gave everyone a voice. And the bad thing about social media is that it gave everyone a voice.
He spoke of this digital app which can literally put words in your mouth to make it appear as if you spoke those words. Here is a snapshot of his slide.
Fake News has obviously got a lot of flak in the media. It deserves a separate blog post in itself. I am not getting into that topic at this point.
However, what I want to focus on is the drop in our ability to focus on deep work because of the myriad distractions available to us. I am guilty of giving into the distractions myself. Getting busy doing some ‘work’ which Carl Newport defines as ‘shallow’ work as opposed to ‘deep’ work.
He defines it on his book’s homepage.
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.
It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a superpower in our increasingly competitive twenty-first-century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep—spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.
This is what I listened to in the podcast today. It motivated me enough to put away all distractions in my world today and focus on writing this blog post. I am sharing the link to the podcast by Mike Varde – called Deep Work with Cal Newport here in the hope that it may inspire you as well to regain your life back from social media and the immense distractions that sneakily take up our time. Get us addicted. Because they are designed to do so. I purchased my copy of the book today and I would urge you to do the same.
The Future of digital and social media is up to us.
I want to end this blog post with a few thoughts.
- We feed the beast called social media by how we use it. If we feed the beast and it becomes too big, it will eat us up. Do we want that to happen? Or we stop feeding the beast and tame it and we can still control it to do what we want it to do.
- We post something and then we immediately check back to see who liked or commented on what we posted. As if the world was waiting to hear or see what we just posted! This is what Sean Parker referred to as ‘social validation feedback loop’ around which these platforms are designed. Are we willing to give into the dopamine feed and get sucked into this addiction? Or are we willing to take back our life? And be comfortable with who we are as we are, rather than seeking validation from the virtual social world.
- It is true that social media gave us the power to individuals to become influencers. We found our voice. Instead of getting sucked into the system designed for greater numbers – in terms of reach, views, clicks, purchases, profits, and become a victim of the system. Are we willing to use the power of our voice to build real influence to solve real-world problems?
I want to end this blog post with a beautiful quote from Rumi that Brian Solis used in this presentation. Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder. I hope you enjoyed reading the blog post. Leave your comments and thoughts.