Is Social Media Just Another Bad Habit To Break ?


Theo Priestley, Contributor

August 14, 2015

Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them. That’s taken directly from their mission statement.

I no longer see this as true. Social networks and social media in general are a great tool for people to connect with friends and relatives but they’ve also become a convenient excuse not to do just that: connect.

Social media has turned a lot of us into a reflex-based automaton.

If I see something I have to take a pic and post it. If I read something I have to copy the link and post it. It’s not sharing what matters most, it’s mindless noise.

It’s become easier to scribble a couple of sentences for all to see rather than pick up the phone and have a real conversation with someone on the other end. And what’s actually pretty frightening is how we’ve come to accept opening our front door to the world as the norm.

I really missed writing long-form to someone, and whether you want email to die a quick death or not it’s one of the best ways outside of posting a letter to really sit down and express yourself to another.

Social media has turned the art of expression into a post-it note.

There was a real ‘a-ha’ moment when I received news about a friend of mine’s son who was badly injured in a car accident. I got it via text message. How quaint. Not through Facebook. It was a clear indication that they wanted to just talk to someone about what had happened rather than make a comment for everyone to see and pitch in.

But there’s a more serious point to make here.

Dr. Shannon M. Rauch, of Benedictine University at Mesa, AZ, says one of the main reasons we use social media is for self-distraction and boredom relief.

“For those who post status updates, the reinforcements keep coming in the form of supportive comments and ‘likes.’ And of course we know that behaviors that are consistently reinforced will be repeated, so it becomes hard for a person who has developed this habit to simply stop.”

This isn’t systemic to just Facebook, it’s across most of the platforms now as their functions become similar. LinkedIn, for example, has turned into a pseudo-Facebook for professionals with users posting Like-farming updates to appear popular.

You have no influence here

And it gets worse when you add sites like Klout into the mix that are supposed to give an indication of influence; people become obsessed with chasing meaningless numbers and Klout scores rather than just enjoy life. There was at one point a movement to use Klout as a means of measuring a candidate against a job application. Thankfully it failed.

Partly intrigued, partly scared, Fiorella spent the next six months working feverishly to boost his Klout score, eventually hitting 72. As his score rose, so did the number of job offers and speaking invitations he received. “Fifteen years of accomplishments weren’t as important as that score,” he says.

Klout is a classic example of behavioural modification, where emphasis is placed on posting content that you know will hit the spot for a larger audience to get a push up the ladder, rather than post something you know will be engaging to the people that really matter (and consequently won’t even garner a blip on the Klout graph.)

Social Selling is another recent phenomenon as a case in point. Those in sales are increasingly turning to social media as a means to create and nurture new leads, and are encouraged to build a presence and sense of thought-leadership to point new prospects to as a measure of authenticity. But as the noise around social selling increases so the veneer begins to peel as essentially prospects can see past the veil you’ve recently just erected to appear current.

Engagement is no longer genuine if it’s a forced endeavour for the wrong reasons.

Social media is an addiction, but not a good one.

In 2012, researchers in Norway have published a psychological scale to measure Facebook addiction, the first of its kind worldwide. It was called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS) as was based on measuring six basic criteria, against the following 5 responses to each one: (1) Very rarely, (2) Rarely, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often, and (5) Very often.

  1. You spend a lot of time thinking about [Facebook] or planning how to use it.
  2. You feel an urge to use [Facebook] more and more.
  3. You use [Facebook] in order to forget about personal problems.
  4. You have tried to cut down on the use of [Facebook] without success.
  5. You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using [Facebook].
  6. You use [Facebook] so much that it has had a negative impact on your job/studies.

The researchers suggested that scoring “often” or “very often” on at least four of the six items may suggest the respondent is addicted to Facebook. However, today, you could easily remove [Facebook] and insert any number of social media platforms and still get the same results.

Social media is rapidly becoming as bad as smoking for the human condition. It also doesn’t help when articles alerting us to networks manipulating our emotions and feedback as a social experiment come to light either.

But with all bad habits, its a question of understanding just why you do it in the first place. I recently took a vacation and purposefully left social media alone rather than check and respond to every update or notification, and it felt rather liberating to the point I’m considering logging off Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for a month to gauge the effects myself. I’ll continue writing long form, and may even blog how the experiment evolves here on Forbes.

So, social media is just another habit to kick. But to paraphrase an often misattributed Aristotle quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Social media, then, is not an act of excellence, but a bad habit.”

This article was written by Theo Priestley from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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