For any of you that have watched the recent Netflix documentary, the Social Dilemma, you have also recently been made aware that with an influx of social media apps, our intentional choices and behaviors may be being hijacked. This is not the first piece of content that has warned us of the dark side of social media and technology. Douglas Rushkoff is a great leading voice whom has been talking about this topic, particularly well in his publication Team Human. In my last book, True Connection, I talk about how digital technology is making it even more complicated to connect with yourself and others in a meaningful way. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is another great read by Shoshana Zuboff going even deeper on the fundamental challenges of digital technology if gone unregulated.
Throughout my daily work with individual coaching clients, many of the discussions tend to focus on how to make choices about life or leadership from a place of awareness & intention. Whether finding one's own authentic leadership style, making difficult decisions in times of uncertainty, or prioritizing long lists of urgent topics, it is always important that we are making self-informed decisions. It is easy to be influenced by the demands and expectations of others. For some this pressure can lead us to be steered away from our goals, our agendas, our intuition, or our "truth".
While external influence and pressure on our decisions has always existed, frequent social media and cell phone usage may be making it worse according to the Social Dilemma. We already live in a world of "shoulds" and "standards" as it is. Now, subconsciously we are being fed more of that on a daily (or in some cases hourly) basis. Some examples of additional behavioral influence in our daily lives that we may be unaware of:
- What music should I listen to in the morning?
- Intentional: We used to look into our favorite tape or CD collection and press play.
- Unintentional: Spotify will choose the artist for you depending on your "mood" or what it thinks you may want to hear.
- What news will I read?
- Intentional: Carefully selecting our sources from a regulated local or international newspaper.
- Unintentional: Your news app will feed you articles that have shown to keep you engaged the longest.
- What images do I want to look at ?
- Intentional: We would take out a photo album or put on a familiar channel with content or imagery.
- Unintentional: Instagram will nicely populate your feed with images that tend to keep you most engaged or where you may be influenced to purchase something.
- What groups do I want to affiliate with?
- Intentional: You connect with friends and eventually find yourself gravitating to a certain hobby or activity that brings pleasure.
- Unintentional: Our feed somehow gets us associated with hashtags, groups, or information sources.
- What food am I in the mood to eat?
- Intentional: You think about your health and what it is that your body needs to feel well.
- Unintentional: Apps are putting ads up of the local take out restaurant close by around your daily eating routine.
The paradox of technology is that it can help our lives tremendously, or it can start to have more influence and control of our choices. By running on autopilot, we let an outside force decide.
- We can all do a self check at the end of each day:
-Was I able to stay focused on one task at hand without the distraction of notifications ?
-Did I have a good balance of work time / creative time / physical activity / introspection (or any other areas you think are important to stay balanced)?
- Am I intentionally selecting the sources of content that I take in? (ie I want to learn about "X")
-How much time did I dedicate to creativity without the use of technology?
-Did I have meaningful connections and contact with friends and family outside of social media or technology?
How is your relationship with social media today and how much does it play a role in influencing unintentional choices? If we take some time to check in, we will be able to make more informed decisions about how we spend our time. If you would like support with this, getting a coach may help re-think how we spend and prioritize our daily routines.
Reach out if you would like to start living life more intentionally!