‘over’ indulgence?

January 29, 2011

Would you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?

Being tuned to News Feed and Tweets is like constantly entering and exiting a party that’s bursting with ideas, opinions and feelings of people you already know? (Well, at least often it seems a like a party and sometimes a Doomsday congregation).

Social Media conversations may not be exactly eye-to-eye and face-to-face like in a cocktail party but they are human interactions after all? They provide a much needed social validation that we humans inherently seek. While it is supposedly a great human trait to be socially deft in the real world, the same skill when extended to a work environment and that too online is said to be an addiction. Why?

The constant ‘tuning in’ and ‘tuning out’, affects your attention span at work, say the experts (the psychological kinds) and they claim it has an adverse impact on productivity . But doesn’t working in an open office cubicle expose one to, if not the same, similar distractions in a work environment? You mentally enter and exit conversations between people in your work sphere that may not always be relevant or important– isn’t that detrimental to one’s productivity? On the contrary, work spaces are designed to foster openness, a sense of belonging and rule out hierarchies. They are even designed to encourage human interaction and inter connectedness. But connecting online at work is questionable. O.K, I admit, the content and context of conversations can be entirely different in a work space and in FB(social vs. work related)but they are fundamentally a human need to connect, interact and belong.

It is, as if to say, that when our need for belonging with other humans takes the online/digital route, it becomes a cause for concern and is shrouded in miasma. We are no more ‘outgoing’ or ‘highly social’ but instead become a cause for concern, esp corporate concern. The positive associations that come with the word ‘extrovert’ fade away and the negative connotation of the word ‘addict’ takes over! The word addiction is a strong word and it is hilarious to hear people say they are ‘addicted to FB’ or worse still, when people brand you gauge your frequency of FB posts and brand you ‘as a person who practically lives on social media’.

The FB newsfeed, status updates, Twitter posts et al are a constant source of opportunities to validate our needs – needs that Maslow puts in the third layer of human needs! The need for belonging! That quick ‘thumbs up’ for your friend’s status update about his new job or a short note of sympathy to another one coping with an illness, can also validate our need for affiliation. While it can’t entirely replace the need to meet other fellow humans in the real world, it can serve a facilitator!?

I think the threshold for addiction is when we take a myopic and parochial view to everything that pops up in the social media radar screen. When we let online social interactions dictate frequent mood swings; when we allow a tweet to delay commitments and deadlines at work; when we lose focus of the larger picture and take a passive attitude to everything that trickles through the social media channels, then yes, I guess it is time to close that browser (=distraction)!

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