The Social Advantage

Data is the new currency, attention the new stock option and friends list the new incentive. Are you living a Grammable life? Oops I mean a worthy life? Are your days passing without – ‘one for the gram’ picture? We are living in a highly digital world, where there is nothing free, if it is free then well we are the currency, our attention, our information. After watching ‘The Social Dilemma’ and having my phone pickpocketed, literally on a walk around the neighbourhood, and not having social media help me track the average criminal or even my phone back, am here putting thoughts to paper, well digital paper.

First of all, no phone equals to peace of mind. And second of all? Peace of mind is greatly over-rated. Having no phone kept me out of the loop with the family, friends, and had me miss Day 1 of a 12 day course that tunes in once a week for 12 weeks. Thats because the course organisers found it easier to send the participants the zoom link on a whatsapp group rather than send us an email or put out the link on the dashboard (which would be a more sensible option). And a no phone meant no ways that I could receive OTPs, people who wanted to frantically get in touch with me or any such. And then the most important, no easy access to the FAANG group. Thats Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, the last two managed to stay with me without the phone, but Facebook and its baby Instagram was totally out of the loop. Now one week without Insta and Facebook brought me out of depression, one that I constantly put myself into, mainly gauging my location on this map called life largely looking sideways at everyone on their own racetraps, oops race tracks. And that was really really nice.

In Social Dilemma, Tristan Harris mainly points out the fact that social media traps one, manipulates behaviour, rigs elections, lobbies for cases, brings governments to their knees and completely puts each person on a completely different advantage or should we say disadvantage with reality being different for different people. The Facebook addict would argue that when newspapers came first, it could do all the above and as easily manipulate naive minds and get people to do just as they pleased, televisions were as easily criticised when they debuted, people said they would rot the mind, which they absolutely do, and one also pointed out how cars during their debut were criticised to make death more easy. The argument provided by Harris is not just true, its plain shocking. The last time I saw a documentary as compelling was when I watched ‘Forks over Knives’ and turned vegan, without enough supplements, deficiencies galore and I nearly ran out of the essential vitamins. So no, this time around am not falling for a documentary headfirst without proper research even if it guarantees me inner peace. Here’s my musings on the matter.

No man is an island and we need the society just as undeniably as we make the society. But social media? Instant social media? When I am busy looking at the lives of others, (it does keep me updated about my friends halfway across the globe in half of a split second) I tend to miss smelling the roses in front of me, living my life, and thats just unforgivable. But without context, without other what are we, but then what we do thrive on in conversation, hearing and being heard, instantaneously, not trolling out to blank space but actually having verbal and non-verbal cues, the expression on one’s face, the tone of one’s voice. Though that is something that can be just as easily be captured by the video options on most social media. In the Happiness advantage by Shawn Achor, happiness is largely hinged on our interpersonal relationships, it is in fact the most important piece in the puzzle called happiness. Social media is a wonderful way to harness and build on interpersonal relationships. Though it connects the globe from far it probably makes one disconnect from the globe up close.

A balance is probably then the key, moderation as always, the middle path, get the best of both, as most advice, but then on one path one is sure to miss the other, so no, moderation is not the key here. There are tons of businesses that work completely online, its for work, to make money, to be known, to spread word, and there are extremely successful business people out there who make money by the millions, this makes social media unbelievably important for their bread and butter. With information so easily available it would certainly be a pity if we could not use it, as is with out respective brains, if your brain could be washed then well, it could as easily be done with a newspaper as it could by a friend, frenemy or enemy for that matter, it could just as easily be done by an advertisement say Fair & Lovely or a radio jingle. Everything around us serves as inspiration but at the end of the day it is upto us to be inspired or simply manipulated.

This post is rather long, cause the dilemma has been around quite long, so has the advantage. When the great leaders who are also great readers read, read Bill Gates, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet they also set enough time to think. Readers who do not spend time to process all the data and do not sufficiently mull over the matter or in other words think, are not readers who could be leaders. Every piece of information that we consume, whether its a comment to a picture, the picture itself, news update, commentary or even blog post like this one, the information is just that, information and today the world is full of information, how we process that information in our minds and further how we decide to act upon it solely depends on one.

We are mostly certainly the only advantage we have. Our minds, our soles, our very nature, inherently we are all good people, manipulated only when we are not being aware of ourselves. Being aware of ourselves, well thats the advantage. Facebook cannot be responsible for mass killings, nor can they be held responsible for showing us ads of shoes just cause we said we’d buy some shoes. Try asking out aloud how do I get off google, and then check your google, the first search will be articles on how to get off Google, so much for artificial intelligence, it could be trapped within itself, just like real intelligence. The various social platforms echo whats already in our minds, darn a little too highly. The amplification may well mean well, if our initial searches and talks mean well, or the amplification may seem terrible, if our talks mean so. We may hold the social tech bigwigs responsible for editing data and ask them to take down things that do not serve us well, ask for monitors in the class because well, we cannot monitor ourselves. If one is not a self-starter than we need an environment to help us start, think of the woman on a diet who throws out all candy out of her house and does not walk past a Haggen Das even if her life depended on it. Is that what we are? Trapped by impulses and need an environment to make us tick and stick to our goals?

What we need to do is not throw the candy out of the house, we need to train our greatest asset to be our greatest advantage, the mind. The truly self-starting, self-motivated individual will feel a fire in the belly and know when to start and when to stop, the solution is to always be self-aware. To be the proverbial lotus in the pond. To rise out of still waters, to know thyself. Social media, digital technology is a tool, it is a gateway to peace of mind, to excitement, to happiness, to knowledge to whatever we may want if we can know ourselves well. This is very exciting age to live in and the future will only be more and more exciting. Its true by buying books on the kindle we are only filling the coffers of one A in the FAANG acronym. Since we can carry the book anywhere we want but we can never share it. So using one’s discretion at this point is paramount, does the book do well with resharing? do I want it to be with me always? could it make a great gift? Do I have the space for it right now? Do I need to remember parts of it? This is just an example but the same applies to everything related to technology. Does this information do well to be shared? Questions like that. We can only increase our self-awareness questions when we are able to question ourselves. Therefore question everything. Being one-hundred percent you is the need of the hour. Friends are vacationing in the Carribean? Sure, you want to go? Sure, would that be this years goal? Sure. And hence build the questionaire, build the thought and build the mind. Trick the system to find advantage in it, for one the least one can do is to be predictable.

When I ask Netflix for suggestions the algorithm keeps me, me every single time. It shows me the same type of shows, same type of documentaries how about surprising the algorithm then? Then life is exciting, and maybe for once one can get a different perspective on things. What is a vacation if not a refreshing of the mind and a change in perspective. I learn, my curiousity is piqued and further satiated by the things I read, hear and watch. Sometimes inspiration comes from a social media feed, sometimes it comes a legendary tome by Shakespeare, sometimes from a walk around the neighbourhood, a pattern here and a couch there, a detail here and an elevation there, but none of it is true inspiration and good inspiration at that unless I mull on it or filter out some thinking about it. There is no formula in numbers or values, no 5 hour screen time or no ‘delete your apps from your phone’, no stop feeding them data or no give them your attention. Dont make them rich cannot and should not be your life motto. One’s mind at the end of it, one’s awareness, one’s own filter is the advantage every single time.

This is a long post, just like whats on social media, it’s garbled, goes off in all directions and teases you with some provoking, so here’s the exercise, skim it to lap up what you need, and then take only that. Leave the rest, like they say, to the universe, it can do with a lot of space dust. For yourself, be glad to be your own advantage, for you are most certainly your own social advantage.