Since platforms like Facebook and Twitter have encapsuled their users in an algorithm filter bubble1 , it can be challenging constantly picking out relevant content from the noise. What happens, when only stuff you are interested in is the new normal? You suddenly face a new challenge: You again have to decide whether the content you are consuming is really relevant for you or not. Which is ironically what the algorithm filter bubble initially wanted to remove from you.
In this article I mainly focus on two critical issues. One is time. When we say we don’t have enough time for sport or reading a book, it basically means we don’t set our focus in these activities. Instead we’re surfing the web, watching YouTube or Netflix.
The other is mental health. The constant dopamine boost becomes an important part in our all daily life. But that can bring us “on the brink of a mental-health crisis.”2
The following metrics is an first quick approach that may help you to determine if a platform is still a useful tool that serves you or just some place to waste valuable time on. (Looking at you, LinkedIn!) At least for me this approach is quite helpful to be a little more mindful towards using various tools and services on the internet.
With a few simple questions, from certain perspectives, we can (and should) regularly determine whether a platform is being useful for us or not. Let’s look into some example metrics I quickly came up with:
Relevant Content Metrics
If you have the feeling every third post or so is an ad you can consider your time wasted. Make the test: count the post that has been made by real persons till you encounter an ad. Next, take a closer look at how the platform is making money. If the financial model has something to do with your personal data sold to advertising companies, you may reconsider your staying.
Large Companies Marketing
Look out for the lame big companies and government institutions. If they start using the same platform and act like they always have been cool, you should reconsider spending your time with it. The reasons why they are on a platform with you is either marketing, hiring purposes or complain management. Chances are low you learn something completely new from such sources.
Pop culture reference and media coverage
Every now and then movies or TV-shows pick up popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter and use them in their stories. They may have been altered but everyone can easily identify what platform is actually subjected. Culture references are always a good metric to determine if something has become mainstream. You don’t need to be a Berlin hipster who condemns mainstream in general. You can take a closer look into what happened to various social media platforms, once their became popular. Some metrics I have mentioned turned negative once a platform reaches a critical point.
If your mom actively starts using the same platform as you do, you should reconsider using this platform or service. Your mom and dad are cool! (At least mine are) It’s just not the right place (and probably time) to communicate with your parents. Boomer humor is maybe not something you want to spend you valuable time with. Go get your phone and call them. Or even better make a visit. In my opinion, that is time well spent.
When it comes to time there are different aspects to consider. One is repetition. The other is time spent per visit.
Let’s look into the overall time per visit: How long does it take to find an end? Does an end even exist or are you doom scrolling3 to Narnia? How much time do you have to invest before you can say: “Boy. That was helpful and inspiring”. If the timespan is longer than taking out the trash or changing a babies diaper you should close and never visit this platform again.
Look out for the repetition cycles. Did you ever find yourself typing Twitter.com into the URL input field After you just closed the Twitter tab? That is not normal behavior. It reveals a serious issue.4
Over the timespan of a day, how often do you open and close the platform? How much time lies between closing and reopen the same platform? You can create a log, just like Apples Screen time does. It may helps understanding patterns.
One of the most critical metrics in this list, I would say. The sad reality is this: there is not one major social media platform that hasn’t had a security breach. A platform, handling personal user data is responsible to keep the data safe at any time. (Selling the data does not count because the user agrees to that. Is it bad? Yes. But it’s not a breach.) We talking about the real fuckups like Facebook had in 2019. Due to poor security measures more than 540 million! records about Facebook users were publicly exposed on Amazon’s cloud computing service, according to a cybersecurity research firm5 . That’s a red flag. Don’t use platforms that are this sloppy with personal data. If a platform has this many users, it should not be a surprise that people trying to hack it. The security measures should be the best a platform could possibly have. Anything else is careless behaviour and should not be tolerated by anyone.
One of the most important aspects in spending valuable time on the internet is getting inspiration from other people. How do you feel after scrolling through Twitter? Do you feel overwhelmed with creativity? Are you feeling inspired? How we feel is highly influenced by external forces. We tend to ignoring the majority of that because we keep us save from the noise constantly surrounding us. This makes us anticipating less and creates a numbness that grows bigger with more noise.
Latest research shows in detail how Russia* and it’s cyber warfare army is manipulating forums and platforms on the Internet.6 They do not target specific groups, like liberals, left, green or whatever group is using the Internet as a platform for information exchange. The ultimate goal is to interfere and dichotomize people, to eventually de-stabilise nations. If you find yourself confronted with discussions that are often derailed, strangely polarised and overall not very constructive, it could be because of bots and trolls are compromising the discussion. This platform is handling the issue not very well. Leave. Don’t fight it. It’s a fight not worth fighting.
*Although Russia does that on a relatively huge scale, this is also true for many other nations.
At work we are constantly adopting our thinking and doing many times in order to meet expectations from clients, stakeholders and managers. Applying the agile mindset in the private space can also be very helpful. I think reflecting on tools and processes is critical in order to overcome specific bad habits we have developed over time.
We have looked at some metrics which might help to re-evaluate platforms, tools and services. At the end of the day it is up to every individual how to spend valuable time. If you have an idea for an additional metric or if something troubling you please get in touch! I would love to have a conversation about this.