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Does Facebook Want You To Miss Your Life?

by | Process

In case you missed it, Facebook launched a new product for the Android platform last week called Facebook Home. In the ads, it seems Facebook is tipping its hand for what they think a digitally connected life should look like.

The ads feature people moving through their life – boarding an airplane, in a meeting, and at a family dinner – but with a Facebook-infused twist. Rather than having to deal with the boring stuff happening right in front of them, they are instead able to easily swipe through tiles depicting what their friends are doing, like photos and status updates, and generally distract themselves from the annoying and mind-numbing nature of their present circumstances.

Listen: I am fully in favor of a more connected world. I love the freedom of expression and collaboration that are granted us through these new and emerging platforms. At the same time, I am concerned that our biology hasn’t yet evolved the capacity to handle our technology.

I came across a fascinating term this morning during my study time: compassion fatigue. It describes a condition in which someone has experienced so much trauma (nurses, caregivers, first-responders, soldiers) or has heard so many desperate messages via the news, etc., that they experience a diminished capacity to feel empathy for those who are suffering.

(1) I slightly fear that we are experiencing something similar to compassion fatigue due to the constant stream of news, updates, and other stimuli flowing from our social networks. My concern is that my understanding of relationship is morphing in an unhealthy way. If I know some things about someone, am I really connected to them? Is my cursory knowledge of their life circumstances replacing my desire to really know them?

(2) I’m more concerned that we are training ourselves that momentary boredom is a travesty, and must be remedied by digital entertainment. In following the Ping are we losing our capacity to be here, now, in the moment? We often skim across the surface of our life experiences like a skipping stone rather than being present and mining those experiences for wisdom and insight. Everything is familiar, but we know less. We have the illusion that we’re getting smarter, but we’re losing our capacity to think systemically.

Creative brilliance emerges from synthesis, which results from being present and mindful. (click to tweet)

I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon, even though I realize I probably do. People can, of course, use technology however and whenever they want. For my part, I just want to ensure that I am not using it as an escape from what’s in front of me. Depth of insight and creative brilliance emerge from synthesis, which results from being present and mindful. I hope that we can learn to use these technologies to help us be more in the moment rather than less so.

Your thoughts: what do you think about these ads and how/whether they encourage following of the Ping?

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.

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  1. Andy Mort

    I’m with you. That ad is shocking! It’s something that I constantly need to discourage in myself, when I’m with people and not engaging with them. It’s the construction of false realities (how you perceive an event through the photos and updates is always far quite far from how it actually is). Is this the start of the inevitable and perpetually disappointed and distracted generation. I think there are enough people standing counter to it – the desires of many for minimalism and conscious awareness of immediate and present environment. I suppose it’s the battle we are witnessing; a virtual reality that subliminally resides within our perception of reality (without getting too metaphysical!)

  2. Mark Eric

    Completely agree Todd, we all need to put boundaries on our Social Media so that we control it. For too many of us, it controls us.

  3. Tom Hagerty

    In his book, The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing Our Brain, Nicholas Carr illustrates how the torrent of information is “re-wiring” our brain to be incapable of long-term, critical thought. It is truly scary that we are (often unwittingly) opting for the cursory over the contemplative. In the future, 140 characters may be the norm.

    • Todd Henry

      I agree with this, and actually quote Nicholas Carr in a chapter in my new book. I’m not (NOT!) condemning the technology, by the way. I was just really upset by how it was demonstrated in these commercials.

  4. Jean Burman

    I posted a good humoured rant just this week about Facebook on my blog… how it’s “stolen the heart out of the blogosphere”. It’s a time thief that steals traffic from other places… [not to mention attention away from the real world as the ad so dramatically depicts] … and replaces it with the inane. I dream of a time when those people around the table might engage once again in meaningful conversations… conversations which are sorely missing from people’s lives both virtual and real. The way we interact as human beings in the real world is rapidly changing. Perhaps the pendulum will swing as my mother would always say. Or maybe its already swung too far to ever come back.

  5. Hugh V

    Todd – I agree completely. I think all humans desperately want to be creators, but don’t have the courage or abilities or tools to do it.

    The drummer, the dancer, the snowball fight. Facebook lets you share that stuff, but it doesn’t let you DO it.

    Social enables creative-by-proxy, which really isn’t creative at all.

    My prediction: a backlash against incessant re-sharing and re-hashing and re-tweeting, an embracing of social networks that give everyone the courage or abilities or tools to be creative (kind of like how instagram helps people be better photographers), and move towards enabling creators instead of enabling sharers.

    Maybe not a prediction, maybe a dream.

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