Maintaining the social balance

I remember a discussion with a good friend of mine, a co-founder of some of my past companies. He was a bit of a perfectionist, and often pointed out to other employees when they didn’t live up to his exacting standards.

“That’s fine”, I said, “but people will remember the times when you criticise them ten times as clearly as when you praise them. So if you want to maintain even a basic equilibrium, make sure you go out of your way to find good things to say to people ten times as often as bad things.”

I was thinking about this as I switched off my Twitter app this evening. Actually, I didn’t close it down: my phone did. At the start of the pandemic, I was worried I might spend too much time on social media, so I used Apple’s rather good Screen Time system to set a limit for social networking apps. In my case, that means Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, and my combined use of all of those networks, on all of my devices, shouldn’t exceed 15 mins per day.

This limit has worked very well. I often don’t hit it, and when I do, I almost always let the system do its thing and switch off the aforementioned apps for the rest of the day. The result is that I’ve got out of the habit of checking Twitter on a regular basis; I look at it perhaps every second day, when I happen to think about it.

And I think this is a good thing. Twitter and Facebook are the world’s biggest tabloids, and a big part of their business model involves convincing you that the world is more broken, angry, shocking and angst-ridden than it actually is in real life. And, as with my employee-relations example above, negative comments about anything are often more memorable: we all know how a media critic can come up with a short, clever, cutting remark about a dramatic work over his cup of coffee, and so devastate months of work of dozens of creative people. If you spend too much time with social networks, you can come away with a very negative view of life, and I think it’s important to keep a careful eye on that balance.

So what is the right balance? Well, for me, 15 mins of social networks for every 23 hours and 45 mins of ‘no social networks’ seems about right, to keep things in perspective. Recommended.

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1 Comment

I agree about reducing use of the platforms and for the same reasons. I am down to once or twice a week for all of them and at that only a quick glance to see if anyone has reached out.

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