The Promise & Peril of Social Media.

I came to the Web when it was new. It was asynchronous. It was anonymous. It was decentralized. It was truly amazing. It had the “wild west” vibe. You could become someone different.

More specifically: you could transform yourself into someone different. You could become the future-self. Bit by bit by trying on new identities and trading ideas at a higher velocity. The early days of the web led so many people to really contribute.

And there was a lot of great writing. My friends from college wrote longform-ish essays on a lot of topics. I never believed it would collapse and consolidate down to one giant corporation.

But Facebook was ruthless. And they won the war by both skill and ruthlessness. It landed on our actual identities (for the most part). Our friends gradually joined the web to see the pictures of grandkids. We became ourselves.

And the content changed. Nuance was lost. We started our apparently neverending political debate. Someone was wrong on the internet after all. We had to fix it. Nuanced thoughts went to the comments sections.

Because Facebook was engineered for Facebook, not for us. It was designed for a lot of low value micro-interactions. To get the ALERT to pop up, and to keep the debate raging inside of us. All of that benefited Facebook and helped us get together. That was a good thing.

But, the “bad” thing is that we don’t have time for the Deep Work. We have adapted our behavior for Facebook because that’s the system of record for our social interactions. It’s where we live, as it were. And so we adapt to that. By wanting to be “Facebook Popular,” instead of really great, we win in the short term.

We lose in the long term. We don’t have the chance to do the work that matters, because we’re explaining the nuances of our political positions, or the highlight films of our lives. We are stuck in this loop because it’s designed to trap us. We mock our cats when they chase an uncatchable laser pointer, yet here we are.

We waste time arguing if Trump or Hillary is worse. Then we have to come up with increasingly preposterous ideas just to get the same dopamine fix. We wind up abandoning the truth and accepting and spreading idiotic ideas like Pizzagate just because addictions always require escalation.

Facebook’s not the binary choice that Cal Newport and John Mayer make it out to be. Facebook is useful when we set up boundaries. We can distribute, connect and spread our message using its platform. We can reach people. There is some truth to some of their mission, the Arab Spring gave us some hope for a connected world.

But we have to make the time to have a message. We have to protect and defend ourselves, and develop our ideas. This is what Facebook threatens. Doing the work and developing. Writing – even when nobody is reading yet.

My friend Srini talks about an hour a day. He’s right, of course. Protecting our hour is important…because that’s the real source of our value and power to contribute. Making

When you are intentional about your own time…and your use of Social, you can contribute and deliver more than you would otherwise. You can build value and then share it.

But only if you protect it and act deliberately about it. I mean to do that as rapidly as possible over the coming months. To spend more time on my own apps, on purpose, and less time consuming content on Facebook. I’m guessing that you’ll see more of me in a lot of ways that matter.

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Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is writing this blog. He's a startup veteran, having built a company called Simplifilm. This blog is about things that he's starting to - but may not actually - think yet. It publishes irregularly.
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