Why we are not Evolved to use Social Media, Emails, and Slack
The reason why our productivity has stagnated over years is hidden in the way we evolved.
Some years ago there was a moment when Facebook and other social media sites had to get their revenue numbers up. They got very serious about this and reengineered the whole social media experience. It went from I post information about myself, my friends post about themselves and I can check them out, to filling the whole thing with social approval indicators. The “Like” feature was born this way and it was a massive success. Now, if I post something, then I will always be tempted to go back and see the number of likes, who liked me, who tagged me, who commented what on my comment, etc.
Now it's less about posting things and more about getting accepted by those social approval indicators. This re-engineering makes it almost impossible to not go back and not open those apps one more time.
Most of us look at these smartphones as a distraction with the perspective of lack of personal will-power control and it's just us being lazy. BUT this is not true. It's engineered to get that effect. Billions of dollars are spent and some of the most intelligent people on this planet came together to create this addictive experience.
The smallest of things are done to make the experience more addictive like the slide down to refresh feature on Twitter and other apps is not essential. Posts can come instantly like WhatsApp but it's built to give the feel of the slot machine like you are pulling the handle. Everything on these apps is coded to take your attention and is there for a reason. Some people claim that they are also doing artificial holding back of likes because they know this from behavioral psychology that when you sometimes get a reward and sometimes don't then it makes you do that thing more.
But there are also tools that are built to improve productivity like email and slack. These are created to have a seamless workflow. But their problem is that these suddenly shifted how we worked. Anyone can reach anyone at any time and this creates very unstructured conversations.
The problem of this unstructured conversation is that it forces us to go back and forth between communication tools and the thing we are trying to provide value with. This completely reduces our cognitive capacity and destroys our focus which is required to produce value in our work. Even after this tech is improved our productivity has stagnated because it made us worse in the department of focus and concentration.
Our brain is not built to have 1000 unread emails in the inbox. It’s shot-circuiting the instinct of sociality. We have these social instincts that are built in our brain during evolution over millennia. It's very complicated because large portions of our neurons are built to manage communication among groups.
If you start messing around with it using technology by scaling this small tribe to a whole company or thousands of fans or hundreds of friends then there will be consequences.
The same thing happened to us with food. Our bodies had evolved for 1000s of years to expect certain types of food but when we started adding stuff like chemicals, artificial sweeteners, etc, we got an obesity pandemic in the whole world.
Social media and group communication services like slack meant for productivity are constantly degrading our ability to focus on important things. We tend to think like what's the big deal in taking a break and answering a few emails or comments but when you do that, there is a huge cost that gets paid.
It's at the cost of your ability to focus for a long time. By taking these breaks again and again we form a habit. Our body is evolved to make habits because it automates the process effortlessly for the things we do repeatedly. Like we don't have to think anything to close the door of toilets after getting out. We do it subconsciously. If we form the habit of checking emails or messages by taking breaks from our important work then whenever you will try to sit for a long time to do some important stuff, then your focus will break in every few minutes because you have formed the habit of doing so.
This post is not written to tell you to stop using these things as it's almost impossible for us to do so. But we can fix this problem up to some extent by using some of the following methods-
- Scheduling when we will use these things. For example, You can decide to use social media from 9–10 PM or email at 8 AM and 8 PM.
- We should prioritize our tasks. Like I will check Instagram only after completing my most important tasks of the day.
- Never use social media or other things when you are taking a break from work. Taking a small power-nap or walking would be better.
- Try developing some hobbies like reading books or painting if you use social media when you are bored.
- Block notifications of these apps during work time.
My next post is going to be about decreasing screentime on smartphones. I will link it below when I will post it. You can get a lot of help from it.
Thanks for reading. You can suggest memes ideas and improvements in the comments section.