Social Media and the Illusion of Achievement!

I am probably very wrong but in my opinion there is a huge downside to Web 2.0. Despite the numerous tools and filters available one can easily get carried away in this vast ocean of knowledge and data that is sweeping at currents faster than those that flow beneath Antartica!

Why do I say that? For the last two years I have been swimming in this ocean supposedly prepared. As a strategist it’s critical to keep a lookout for all the trends that could shape our future. Around 2002, we saw Web 2.0 emerge through tools like weblogs (commonly known as blogs) and RSS. Social Networking sites like Orkut and Myspace began to spring up as well. People could now engage in a dialogue, broadcast their point-of-view to the world and create their own content like any publisher. This was also the time when BlackBerry made email access ubiquitous and the buzzword of this era was “Information Overload”. In early 2009 Clay Shirky, a new media professor at NYU described the phenomenon not as a case of Information Overload but as a failure of filters.

Triggered by this thought I began my journey through this vast mountain of data. I setup Google Reader for my RSS feeds, neatly creating folders for all my topics of interests, from advertising and branding to telecom and trends. I searched the web for leading content across all Web 2.0 channels and over the years built a rich feed of content. I was an early adopter on social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook learning to divide and define the use for each. Joined the bandwagon of the “One with the Most Followers on Twitter is King” and soon realized the fallacy of this notion. Used Twitter lists to filter the relevant stuff again dividing them by my topics of interests and context – from family and friends, news, celebrities to my professional lists focusing on branding, planning and telecom to name a few! With the iPhone things became even simpler (or more complicated depending on how you see it!). After trying out a plethora of apps for feeds and tweets I settled with a few, checking in at least once every hour across platforms. I lost many followers as I would overtake the feed of newcomers by tweeting at a rate of one tweet a minute, sometimes even more! Eventually I learnt how to space out and manage tweets more professionally by using platforms like HootSuite.

The end result! I felt great. The dopamine kept kicking in. I felt like a guru on everything! From the latest news around the world to all those crazy memes taking over the web, I was in the know. Be it technology updates to what was happening in the ever-evolving world of social media to blog posts on all topics related to marketing and brand communications. I was smoking away on this illusive and addictive drug called “knowzac” (not really but you get the point). Having abandoned passive media like TV and newspapers, thinking they were for old timers and geeks I was riding the new media wave, feeling cool that I was in full control of what I consumed and when! (Or so it seemed…)

Then it hit me! I had cascaded from a being a content creator to a blatant consumer of content, sucking on everything that came my way taking out no time to analyze, think or contribute an original perspective. I learnt that even in the world of information and knowledge the plague of consumerism is a force to reckon with. My openness to consuming content from a wide variety of sources was driven by this belief that creativity is best enabled through a rich and diverse base of knowledge. If an idea is simply a fresh connection of two or more known thoughts then the depth of the pool is likely to create bigger, fresher ideas! What happened on the way was a halt to content creation and very limited critical thinking. I was reading more than I ever did in my life but I simply was not thinking enough because most content was very short and too diverse to really make sense of as a whole. However the satisfaction of reading lots of things and then sharing them online kept me away from doing the stuff that really counted.

How will I change my behavior going forward? I will try and do the following:

  • Focus More: I see two ways of going about this. I would have to curate my lists and feeds even more and get rid of anyone or anything that is deviating me from my subjects of focus or make a mental note not to get carried away with interesting but nonconstructive blabber at least from a professional standpoint (not always easy to do though).
  • Be Proactive: Choose a topic, dig deeper and explore enough to be able to come out with a distinct point of view. Be the one choosing what to read and get further into rather than vice versa.
  • Think More: Even if serendipity is allowed whatever that comes across should be thought over, reflected upon and then internalized through a point of view. There should clearly by some thinking done after coming across anything new and interesting rather than just reading through it just for the sake of it.

I believe perhaps that by keeping the above points in mind I would be able to better utilize my time to not only gain knowledge but also to apply it meaningfully to my work. Hope this helps you too. If you have some learning and experiences of your own that you would like to share I am all ears (or eyes in this case!)

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