Sunday, March 17, 2013

Some thoughts - on social networks and questions in life

I observed that I was spending too much time on social networks - twitter, linkedin, facebook, quora.
Not that I was spending too much time on each one of them individually  - still the sum total was very high.
So just to counter it, I have deactivated my facebook, and I reroute the linkedin, twitter sites to google through my /etc/hosts file, so that, any impulsive triggering of the network get blocked.

I was having a discussion sometime back, on the need of facebook, linkedin and other social networks with a good friend.
The thing I have of late realised is, that only the good part of people's life is on facebook. That is, the moments where they are enjoying, the moments where they are celebrating, and so on. But the bad part - the tragedies that go in everyone's life are mostly absent.

So on an average day, my timeline is full of people sharing their trips' photos, their accomplishments, achievements and what not. Sometimes, people decide to be funny and post a witty status mesaage or two. Not all people do this everyday; however, there are almost 700 people in my friendlist and different subsets of them churn out different mix of data on different days.
So, what happens is, that instead of getting/remaining in touch with most of my friends and get to know whats happening in their life, i get to know only the good happening in the life of a subset of those friends.

And that somewhy gives me a complex.

I know, the problem here is with my perception, I get intimidated by the achievements of all those people surrounding me. But still, facebook succeeds in re-enforcing that feeling of being behind the curve. That life sucks in general. 

I know, that the kind of people I work with, the kind of work I do, I am much better off than most of those guys; still facebook succeeds in driving me to think that my achievements are insignificant, or nothing out of the ordinary. Because I dont go to a trip 7 times a day, but 7 different friends of mine might very well go for a trip every day of a week. I dont get witty things in my mind 10 times a day, but my 10 of my friends can easily get 1 witty thought every day.

So, the problem is, facebook pits me, the one and only me with both good and bad, against almost 700 people with only good.

And I cant stop thinking of how much fun the others are having, while I am just slugging it out. And this is not good. This is definitely not good.

And I am sure I wont be the only one feeling kind of depressed seeing the good in other people's life, while cursing myself for my shitty life. I am just another human being, and I have my shortcomings, and I get really distracted when I see that something good might be happening in someone else's life.
The problem, may not be with facebook as a product, its with that thought that it puts everytime I see an update from one of my friends - That I am not doing enough in my life. And over a period of time it can be very frustrating.

So I have started hacking around the way facebook works.
I am not "best friends" with most of the people in my friend list, which means I get updates from people whom I dont know well, and about whom I dont much care.
I have tried limiting the number of friends I have, (removing many of them from my friend list at a go), but that doesn't work. Because I somewhy want to stay connected, yet dont want to learn about each and everything they post every day.

Then there is the question of the content people share - memes, youtube vids, and others. Though most of them are good for recreation, they are not exactly the best use of time. There are other people, who share good stuff most of the time, but its very difficult to get the good things out of the noise.
So now, I keep all the feeds from each of my friend blocked, and have a separate list wherein I follow some 60-70 people who I care about.

I keep app requests banned from many of my friends (the farmville spammers).

I keep a tab on what I am liking, rarely liking any facebook page. Given how facebook's ad targetting work, the lesser number of pages you like the better, though you can always be targeted by the kind of likes your friends have. The point is not to stop it, but just to raise the barriers. (Because you cant just stop it, you are too insignificant to do that)

And when I still feel I am wasting a lot of time on it, (I am a human, and can get easily distracted like a monkey), then, every now and then, I try to go off the facebook grid. I deactivate my account. for months on the stretch. "Na rahega baas, na rahega basuri".

I know, that is not the best way to ignore, but it works, and thus is good enough for me.

Of late, I have observed that though my usage of facebook has dropped considerably, I have started spending too much of time on linkedin. It gives me a high everytime a new visitor visits my linkedin page, and I keep trying to figure out which amongst "One of these people viewed your profile" people might have actually visited my profile.

I am not really used to getting so much attention, so finding 6-7 random strangers in a day showed interest in my professional profile can be a distraction.

And then there is twitter - I follow some 8 accounts, most of them news, and some 15 people follow me back. Still, in my quest to remain updated, I keep hitting that refresh button on twitter every now and then, and end up clicking on news links and reading them

All this brings down the productivity levels, and these are truly impulsive actions.

Hence to control my impulses, I have started routing both linkedin and twitter to google when I am in my office. The aim is to kill that impulse, but still preserve the habit (since they are both useful).


The discussion I was having with my friend did involve the above, but it also involved a bigger question - why you must use some form of social network.

And the reason he gave me - why people should use facebook is that it gives a sense of security that everything is good in my friend's life. I dont agree with that line of reasoning, mainly because if someone is concerned about me, I wouldnt come to know of it this way. but whatever.

The reason I use social networks, like linkedin and facebook, is not just to remain connected with friends, but also to bring down barriers via increased visibility - if there is someone out there who wants to communicate with a person like me, they can now easily connect with me by whatever channels I am available, because of my increased visibility. 

I have seen college juniors ask me about the kind of experience they will receive at a place where I have interned, and I have myself been able to contact people whom I don't know with equal ease. The visibility helped in finding out the right person faster, and thus, getting the answers faster. It also meant I was contacted before someone else was, and thus, the opportunity cost is lower in my case.

The above deals with my social philosophy, and now, let me move on to some important questions, the questions related to life. 

Just to digress a bit, I have been reading tonnes of blogs of late. Most of them relate to technology and startups in general. Some of the best blogs out there - I have scourged each and every post on them out there.  There's been so much of reading, I haven't been able to focus much on my work. And the content I have been reading is really really good, so good, that I am not finding quora as useful as I used to find it some 2 months back, even though it occasionally pops up some real good questions up there.

I have been asking a lot of questions to myself everyday now. I dont know when it started, maybe it was the internship during which I was  reading books heavily. or maybe the final semester when I first tweeted, inspired by that one question from American history X - "What have I done to make my life better?". Or maybe, i always used to have a lot of questions, but I never took the pain to find out answers to all of them.

Whatever. Anyways, all my plans boil down to two simple questions, that I must answer for myself everyday.
  1. Did I give it my all today to whatever I did?
  2. Is that the best I can do?
I eagerly await a day when the answer to both these questions is a yes, for then I will have achieved my real potential.

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