Did you know Facebook didn’t used to support tagging and liking?
When apps like Facebook first debuted, they didn’t allow users to “like” other posts or tag users. It’s not a stretch to say the like button was one of the best innovations of the last decade, but perhaps also the worst at the same time.
Cal Newport, author and productivity specialist has clarified that liking and tagging on social media wasn’t part of the original business model.
These “approval indicators” as they are known were invented after the fact. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that the “like” button was not added to Facebook until 2007, three years after the social network launched.
Newport claims that the iPhone was not intended to be an all-day phone where you scroll through Twitter like zombies.
Steve Jobs suggested that the product was similar to an MP3 player, but could also double up as a smartphone when he announced it. Newport said that social media caused a frenzy where we scroll incessantly throughout the day. It’s now business as usual, funneling billions into the coffers of social media platforms.
Newport compares Newport’s robotic-like, perfunctory doom scrolling to how Las Vegas residents use the slot machines. He’s not kidding. Social media experts studied the addictive nature of slot machines, and then created likes and tags to match them.
You “win” when you see likes on your posts. We don’t even know that this is occurring. Facebook just updated their web interface with more bright colors and white space. It’s basically a new slot machine interface.
Even though we are engaging in unstructured conversation, our brains weren’t designed for this kind of chaos. We like to focus for short periods—let’s say seven minutes at a time—and accomplish one thing. That way we are productive, and feel fulfilled. We did Something. In social media’s case, the idea is to constantly switch your attention from one thing to the next. Take a look at your baby for just a moment. Next, take a look at the wedding pictures. Then, you can move on to grandma pictures. It’s a willing, constant, obsessive, and chaotic overload of our senses all day long.
Sometimes, our brains require serenity. This experiment can be done right away to test it. Visual information is responsible for around 30% of the brainpower. Simply closing your eyes can bring calm. A nap can be even more beneficial. For seven minutes close your eyes and take deep, relaxing breaths. You’ll feel relaxed and calm because your brain had a quick respite.
One thing that’s critically important to understand about constant social media use is that it’s a way to alleviate pain. We might not even know which pain we’re trying to alleviate. It might be so deep-seated in us that we’re not aware of it. Stress at work, conflict and depression can cause pain. We’re craving false stimulation and a dopamine reward in our brains, and we don’t even know why. We’re seeking approval and credibility with our peers, but we have never met half of those so-called peers. We “like” because we want to be liked.
A common psychological desire is to impress other people. sociometer. Social radars are constantly on alert. Another irony is that while we try to alleviate the stress of life by using social media, we’re actually creating more stress in our pursuit. We don’t measure up to everyone else. This false sense of stress relief can lead to a vicious circle in which we seek more false rewards.
It does not work.
Once we realize social media won’t provide the answers we’re looking for, the next question is, Where do we look instead?
Good question, I’m so glad you asked.
Work must be secondary to meaning. Before we can pursue something temporary like work satisfaction, purpose must be present in us. Whenever we try to find meaning and purpose in work, we’ll find that work won’t quite satisfy us.
I’ve tried to find meaning through my tasks. Sad to say, it doesn’t work. Working hard won’t make you feel better about yourself. Good productivity won’t change your life or improve relationships.
What makes work meaningful? Finding meaning and purpose is the first step to work. Then you can view work (and social media) as nothing more than a means to an end because you are acting on the purpose you’ve already found. You will see a shift in how you approach work.
One of the best examples of people trying to find meaning by clicking, liking sharing and commenting on social media is Instagram. Maybe if we keep scrolling through Instagram we’ll relieve some anxious thoughts. There’s a tendency to think we are “working” toward some goal when in fact it’s an illusion of work.
Emily Gould, a writer and poet, explained how she wrote a novel for years before attempting to fool herself by using Twitter as if she were being productive. It was a way for her to get away from the work grind.
Isn’t that what a lot of our quests for success look like? It’s easy to chase work, but then suddenly realize that it is all a waste.
The most apparent waste of time is social media right now.
While many of us use social media as a salve while we’re waiting in line at Starbucks, we can become much more intentional about how we use these apps. You can make social media more meaningful. First, determine the purpose and meaning of your social media presence. Then you can use it to assist you in doing your job.
Excerpts from my book The 7 Minute Productivity Solution.