The Trap of Social Media

June 2020

Consuming social media kills productivity.

Not just because of the time it consumes. But because of how it trains you to think.

On social media, you’re constantly following the lives of others. Some people who would be more productive without it justify spending time there as being great for their “personal brand”. But it’s not. It’s a trap that leads to time wasted and distractions.

Your feed is composed of their most glamorous moments each day and you signal your approval by liking and sharing their post.

This is dangerous because it gets you in the habit of comparing and trying to imitate the lives of others. Not their real lives, but the most glamorous moments of their day.

That’s not how important work gets done. Important work gets done by working tirelessly. By persevering when it gets hard. By adding value to other people’s lives.

Not by living a montage of picture perfect moments.

But if you constantly watch that, you develop unreasonable expectations. Ones that will make you less willing to persevere when it gets difficult when you must. You’ll feel frustrated because of how boring your life seems compared to how you think life is for really successful people.

And browsing social media puts you in the routine of evaluating other peoples’ value by how well they appeal to the mainstream. Not by measuring how important their work is.

Worse yet, sharing your own life on social media is a trap. One that leaves you in a vicious emotional cycle: craving social approval and engagement. One that distracts you from doing the work that matters (by prematurely trying to get approval for progress instead of making more).

The most important, powerful, impactful people have lives which would not at all appeal to the mainstream. They don’t optimize for looking good to others on the journey.

Instead, they do the unglamorous work of building assets. Then a much more strong version of the social admiration follows. It’s not that way in the beginning though.

At first, the lives of the most important people seem undesirable to most. Like enduring irrational amounts of pain with little reward. But the assets they build patiently over time (both internal and external) compound. Drip by drip.

Eventually, they lead to massive rewards and a fulfilling life.

But that process takes time and patience. And the reality is not glamorous enough to share on social media. Sharing how that journey really looks would seem terribly boring.

So sharing at all is a bad idea. It’s playing a stupid game for a stupid prize.

There is one exception: actually using social media for business. Not for social approval, not for vague “personal branding”, but with a specific set of objectives (and not as a consumer).

Maybe it’s building a massive consumer brand or using it to build your tribe of customers.

That can be good. But it can be a slippery slope before becoming a social consumer again: living fake lives vicariously and supplementing artificial connection.

That’s what it’s engineered for.

The real work is done by being extremely focused, studying the world, and building solutions to its biggest problems. Sometimes that involves using social media as a tool.

But usually, it’s best to just stay focused on doing the work that matters.