Has this ever happened to you?
You would have finished a current work project a long time ago, but you just couldn’t ween yourself away from your Twitter feed long enough to concentrate.
You’re kind of depressed that you don’t feel as happy as all my your Facebook friends seem to be.
If the answer is “yes,” perhaps it’s time to admit powerlessness and get yourself to a meeting of Social Media Addicts Anonymous (SMAA), a new group for folks addicted to all things social and unable to manage their lives, careers and relationships.
If this sounds ridiculous, check out this post from Erik Sass at The Social Graf, or this December 2011 article from Danial Gulati in the Harvard Business Review.
In the former, Sass cites a recent study following 250 social media users (ages 18 to 85) in Wurzburg, Germany. As reported in the journal Psychological Science, when asked to give up all social media, subjects reported:
“…social media was harder to resist than a gamut of other behaviors: ‘In contrast, people were relatively successful at resisting sports inclinations, sexual urges, and spending impulses, which seems surprising given the salience in modern culture of disastrous failures to control sexual impulses and urges to spend money.’ Likewise, the subjects’ reports for alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine marked their desires for these substances at relatively low levels compared to social media.”
Social media more addictive than alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and sex???
HBR’s Gulati, author of the book Passion & Purpose, observes three major trends emerging among heavy Facebook users:
- A tendency to compare their own personal situation unfavorably to those of their “friends.” In other words, people read the happy posts and see the smiling photos of their online friends and begin to feel that their own happiness and worth are wanting when compared to others’. (I wrote about this Facebook-depression link in a previous post.)
- Time fragmentation. We’re so busy checking our Facebook pages or Twitter feeds that we’re not able to fully concentrate on our work or everyday tasks. “Multitasking” has taken on a life of its own, to the point where people are switching back and forth between “real life” and social media on a minute-by-minute basis.
- A decline in close personal relationships. Why get together with your girlfriend for lunch when you can get caught up with her via Facebook? Connecting via social media is just like having a real relationship without all the mess. You can share what you want and you can quit listening at any time.
Just as the addict seeks to fill the void in his life with drink or drug, a person addicted to social media crave the “connection” these technologies provide as a way to fill the holes in his life.
As marketers, we talk about using social media as a way to “connect” with consumers and how companies can use Facebook, Twitter, etc., to “humanize” themselves and “become more authentic.”
But are we really accomplishing these goals, or merely contributing to a global addiction that ultimately will leave us all distracted, disconnected and depressed?
At this point, no one knows.
As someone who sits at a desk the majority of the day, I know it’s hard for me to get out and actually have a real conversation with a live human being (which means listening as well as talking) as often as I’d like.
However, I have found through my professional experience that it’s that face-to-face interaction that enables the type of trust and personal connection that makes business work.
If you want your company to behave more humanely, consider the interactions between the humans who work for you and the humans who buy from you. Is technology helping or hurting?
Are you doing all you can to foster true connection? Or are you merely trying to seduce and sedate your audience into an unhealthy relationship?
See you at the coffee shop.