social media

There aren’t many apps I can say that I’m honestly afraid to download.

TikTok is one of those apps.

I’ve watched my sister and my girlfriend filter through video after silly video until they find something which sends them into a fit of uncontrollable laughter… and looks like a stupid amount of fun.

My concern is that if I open the TikTok floodgate, I won’t be able to close it.

So I’m running an experiment.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to create a TikTok account and download a social media tracker which I will use to monitor my usage over the course of a week.

Next Thursday I’ll check how much time I’ve spent and ask those closest to me if they’ve noticed any changes in my behaviour.

I’ll then decide whether I delete it for good or leave it on my phone.

Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

Death is an uncomfortable, turbulent, messy part of life.

Most of all because the toll greif takes is insensitively personal. It’s an isolating experience like no other, which sometimes prompts us to reach out.

And we ought to reach out. Because community is the antidote to most feelings of isolation.

What’s important to consider are the channels through which we seek that community.

Some of our channels limit our ability to connect earnestly, honestly, and with respect.

Seeking support in these places can be a demoralising way to realise that life goes on and not as many people care as perhaps it feels like they should.

If you’re in need, find a friend and share the same air for a while. Each second will be worth a thousand shallow likes.

In 2014 a professor at the University of Melbourne published a study in which the computer sessions of 1249 students were analysed over a total of 3372 sessions.

Facebook was present in 44% of all sessions and accounted for the second most common task, totalling 9.2% of all task instances. Only being beaten by university work itself.

What’s interesting is that about 99% of the sessions involved instances of media multitasking.

For the purpose of the experiment they defined focussed behaviour as instances of 20 or more minutes with two or less different activities.

They discovered that students tended to multitask regardless of whether or not they used Facebook.

What was stunning is that when they compare the focussed behaviour between Facebook users and non-Facebook. Around a third of the non-Facebook users spent most of their time in focussed behaviour, compared to only one in nine Facebook users.

Further, Facebook was responsible for initiating multitasking behaviour at the cost of student’s focus.

While these results shouldn’t surprise anyone, they are a reminder that if Facebook is your vice of choice, maybe there are times where you want to restrict your access.

If you’re studying, maybe consider installing a website blocker to stop Facebook initiating distraction.

“Maximizing the benefits for the social media platform you’re on are different than maximizing the benefits for you and those you are leading.”

Seth Godin

The influencer dynamic plaguing modern marketing is shallow, but it sells units.

Influencers act as conduits for buyer’s attention.

Which at it’s core makes sense, right?

You see a cool Instagram page which represents your interests, and you follow it.

If they have a big enough following, brands who want to reach people interested in things relevant to the page reach out, and the page gets compensated for putting the brand in view of people likely to be interested in their products (aka you).

The problem is that these pages are usually compensated for their reach, not their quality.

The result is that influencers tend to race for cheap attention rather than fostering deeply engaged communities.

Those who hack the system to demand your attention get preference over those taking their time to foster communities – even when the former are wasting your attention in the process.

Influencing and leading are not the synonymous.

Influencers are out to sell your attention to the highest bidder.

Leaders are out to help you spend it wisely.

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter aren’t set up to show you the best content available.

They’re set up to show you the content which is most likely to keep you on the platform.

The things which keep us most engaged are the things which make us most emotional, and there isn’t an easier emotion to capitalise on than anger.

Apply enough pressure to the triggers which illicit a person’s anger, and you generate outrage.

In an article published by the BBC last year, a former Facebook went on record saying;

“You have a business model designed to engage you and get you to basically suck as much time out of your life as possible and then selling that attention to advertisers.”

Sandy Parakilas, former Facebook Employee

There has never been a time where political polarisation and tribalism has been this visible or accessible en masse.

If you want to find someone who disagrees with you, just click on the comment section of any facebook post with over a thousand comments.

If you engage with social media, you have no choice but to be presented with the opportunity to engage people who’s values don’t align with yours.

What you have complete control over is whether or not you choose to act on that opportunity.

Laws exist to protect the privacy and reputation of individuals and companies from the negative effects of the media machine.

In practice, some of these laws include some disturbing grey area.

For example, in a public place it is completely legal to photograph or video any person, with or without their permission, as long as you aren’t using the images or video for commercial use.

(Note: Public spaces do not include privately owned land such as shopping centres.)

You are also allowed to photograph or film privately owned places, as long as you are on public land while you do so – even if you’re operating a drone.

As is often the case, what’s legal and what’s ethical varies greatly in many aspects of media operations.

Imagine you’re lying on the beach, minding your own business and soaking up some sun, when out of a bush pops Kyle Sandilands. Imagine that he then pulls out a camera with a zoom lens and starts taking close up shots of your crotch. There is absolutely nothing you could do about this unless he decided to publish any of the shots.

However, if you went home and posted an angry message like this to twitter, Kyle would have grounds to sue you for defamation.

Oops.

Because twitter is a public forum, those eight words are technically considered ‘published’. If Kyle can prove that my tweet has caused, or is currently causing him repetitional damage, I am liable for the cost of those damages.

That is, unless I can prove that my statement is true.

(Which in this case – who knows?)

The moral of the story is to be mindful of what you say online, especially about other people. If you’re going to say something that someone else isn’t going to like, make sure you verify your facts first.

I’ve been trying to spend less time aimlessly bouncing between social media apps while using my phone.

The problem I’ve had in the past is that every time I’ve tried to detox, I’ve relied on discipline to keep me from sliding back to subconscious scrolling.

There is one trick which I’ve implemented that has had a huge lasting impact;

Delete everything non-essential from your phone’s homepage.

And I mean everything.

Keep your calendar, important emergency contacts, and maps if you use it a lot.

The rest should remain buried beneath the search function of your phone.

By forcing yourself to use the search function on your phone to type in the name of the app you’re trying to open, you’re far more likely to be making conscious decisions about what you’re doing on your phone.

This seems counter intuitive at first. Why would you strip away functionality from your phone’s perfectly good user interface?

Aren’t I wasting time searching every time I need to use an app?

And it’s true. It takes an extra five seconds or so to open Instagram, every single time. But they aren’t wasted.

These five seconds act as a barrier which protects your attention.

Five seconds is enough time to consider what your purpose for opening an app is; is there a specific reason I’m doing this, or am I burning time while avoiding another task?

It’s a buffer, a tool to help you make active choices about how you spend your time.

If this sounds like too much hasstle, try installing a screentime tracker like Flipd.

I was resistant too. But after coming face to face with the time I spent across these apps each day, five seconds stopped sounding so bad.