Is Social Media Bad For Us
A growing number of articles are suggesting we should question the role social media is playing in our lives. Maybe constantly seeking online validation isn’t all it’s made out to be?
The Economist recently ran a provocative article, Facebook Is Bad For You: Get a life!, which suggested regular users of the popular social media platform are prone to be more unhappy with their life and susceptible to greater levels of envy than non-Facebookers, or as they are otherwise known, people who live in the real world.
OK, So FaceBook Does Make Us Stupid After All
I made my feelings about Facebook known a long time ago (Is Facebook Making Us Stupid) and this article confirms some of those feelings. However, I do wonder if there’s an issue the review misses, since people who felt confident enough to buck the Facebook trend might well have had a higher than normal level of self-confidence and satisfaction with their lives. Certainly a lot of the non-Facebookers I know are actually high achievers who saw being on Facebook (or highly active on Facebook) as incompatible with their approach to work and life.
In the studies mentioned in The Economist article Facebook users were said to be miserable or envious because the platform encouraged them to perpetually compare their lives with others. This emotional de-centring can certainly be bad, encouraging us to focus on what we don’t have, rather than enjoying what we do.
There’s a lot of platforms aimed at creative output, not just Twitter and Google+, but also Flickr, SoundCloud, 500Px, Pinterest and Instagram which might also encourage the same kinds of obsessions. For people who want to be known for their creative output, this might lead to a different kinds of discontent.
Because when we post to these platforms, we are often looking for feedback, looking for the buzz that comes from being validated by others. This is not, in and of itself a bad thing, so long as don’t conform everything we do towards the short term game of likes, plusses and retweets.
But, it can be hard to resist judging our work based on its “social” success.
Validation As Fear Deferred
Many artists and inspirational leaders I talk to actually struggle with a very particular kind of fear, what we might be the “fear of being found out.” They worry, sometimes obsessively, about whether they have what it takes to hold their place in the world, to keep doing the kind of work they have been known for, to not let down those who’ve come to rely on their creativity.
It’s not so much as fear of failure as a fear not being able to sustain success.
And, in this realm, it’s tempting, oh so deliciously tempting, to chase validation. To leap on social media as a way to bring a little ego-stroking into every day. The problem is this puts our ego and its needs ahead of the work itself, it tempts us to put stuff out there that is underdeveloped, simply to get some largely ephemeral praise and it encourages us to structure our working life towards short term results rather than patiently building towards bigger goals. There’s no room for practice or patience in an always on social life.
Worst of all, it keeps our fear, and the day to day management of that fear at the centre of everything we do by making us compare our “social” success every day. It’s a cup that never gets filled. Only a long term commitment to mastering our craft lets us fill that cup – and it fills slowly, over many years.
As Kenny Werner put it in Effortless Mastery,
“The taming of the mind, the dissolution of the ego and the letting go of all fears can only evolve through patient practice. There is nothing worth attaining on this or any other planet that doesn’t take practice.”