Social Media, Limits, and Productivity

If there is one question I get most often, it is “how do you get so much done?” One answer to this question is: I limit my use of social media. There is, another angle to social media use which is a bit more… philosophical.

Some of you might know that I am currently working on a PhD in Philosophy—which might seem like an odd thing to do for someone who has been in the engineering world for, well, pretty much my entire life. My particular area of study, however, is what might be called media ecology and humanness. How do these two interact? What impact does, for instance, social media have on things like human freedom and dignity?

Social media (and mediated reality in general) has a bad habit of making people into objects—objectification is just part of the mediation process. If you go “all in” to the mediated world, then you become wholly mediated. This is ultimately dehumanizing, and a very bad thing.

Returning to the first question I raised above: what impact does social media have on my use of time? Does it make me more or less productive?

If we think social media does have a negative impact on our use of time, and even on humanness, what do we do about it? Should I just drop out? This does not seem like a very useful answer; there are too many benefits from social media, and it has become too embedded in our lives to just drop out. What about building “trusted gatekeepers” to manage what people can, and cannot, say? This, it seems to me, leads to a place where we don’t really want to go.

In answer to all of this, I would suggest putting personal rules in place about social media. Let me tell you what I’ve adopted (although I’m pretty flexible about them).

First, I have a daily time limit. I have a maximum amount of time I will spend across all social media sites each day. I’m not going to divulge my limit, because I think it is probably best left to each person to decide what their limits should be, but I also think having a limit is important. Things like social media can be addicting even if not designed to be (and it is, generally designed to be addictive). One of the best ways to fight addiction is to set clear limits of some kind and stick to them. I’ve chosen time as my limit for the moment, though others may make themselves obvious later.

Second, I have specific topical limits. If you want to talk about religion, politics, or the meaning of life, I’m perfectly happy to do so—but only in person (and not recorded). I do not have any interest in slogging out the Christian versus Islamic versus naturalistic concepts of personhood in 180 character microblogs. Nor even in the messaging section of a social media site. If you want to talk about these things, find me in person. Likewise, I don’t talk about what I had for dinner, where my last family vacation was, etc.

If you have different limits, or think this is an interesting topic, I do have the comments section open on this post (eventually I want to move to a platform that has no comment section, but this is turning out to be harder than I thought it would be).

Or… you can find me in person at Interop, CHINOG, the IETF, NXTWORK, and a number of other places… šŸ™‚