Today I stumbled upon a brilliant article, The Bullshit Machine, on Medium that hits almost all of the thoughts I’ve been having on “social media” lately. The gist being that the lure of FOMO and the social nature of these sites encourage so much empty, meaningless action and output that it’s preventing us from actually living meaningful, creative, passionate lives. The stuff that makes us happy and fulfilled.
I could quote the whole thing, but I’ll leave you with a couple passages that should entice you to read the whole thing:
Remember when cafes used to be full of people…thinking? Now I defy you to find one not full of people Tinder—Twitter—Facebook—App-of-the-nanosecond-ing; furiously. Like true believers hunched over the glow of a spiritualized Eden they can never truly enter; which is precisely why they’re mesmerized by it. The chance at a perfect life; full of pleasure; the perfect partner, relationship, audience, job, secret, home, career; it’s a tap away. It’s something like a slot-machine of the human soul, this culture we’re building. The jackpot’s just another coin away…forever. Who wouldn’t be seduced by that?
Winners of a million followers, fans, friends, lovers, dollars…after all, a billion people tweeting, updating, flicking, swiping, tapping into the void a thousand times a minute can’t be wrong. Can they?
And therein is the paradox of the bullshit machine. We do more than humans have ever done before. But we are not accomplishing much; and we are, it seems to me, becoming even less than that.
We are something like apparitions today; juggling a multiplicity of selves through the noise; the “you” you are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Tinder…wherever…at your day job, your night job, your hobby, your primary relationship, your friend-with-benefits, your incredibly astonishing range of extracurricular activities. But this hyperfragmentation of self gives rise to a kind of schizophrenia; conflicts, dissocations, tensions, dislocations, anxieties, paranoias, delusions. Our social wombs do not give birth to our true selves; the selves explosive with capability, possibility, wonder.
Ok, now go read the whole thing.
The question is, what do we do? Is quitting social media the answer? Not necessarily, because many people would just fill the time with some other distraction or mindless activity. Remember when TV was the great killer of creativity?
The truth is, we’re all overwhelmed. Too much information, too much work, too many choices, too much of practically everything. I think the only solution is to have a laser focus on our time and attention.
We need to be honest with ourselves, just as Umair Haque was in the article: realize that we’re being turned into screen tapping zombies, get rid of things that have a high effort-to-benefit ratio, and do more with less.
What does this mean for me specifically? Well, since this is probably the third straight year I’ve posted something similar to this during the first quarter of the year, I imagine it’s time for me to really do something about it.
A quick hit list of short-term action items for me:
- Unsubscribe from any noisy RSS feeds.
- Delete any infrequently used apps from my phone.
- Schedule time to work on my projects.
- Take a look at my social media usage and develop a plan to improve my effort-to-benefit ratio.