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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

5 ways to use social media constructively [Wise Wednesdays]

Have you ever wondered why Facebook's founder is one of the richest men in the world while Facebook remains free?

Perhaps you're spending too much time on social media and wonder whether it's best to leave.

While it's true that the influence of social media is concerning, leaving is not necessarily the solution. Social media bring obvious benefits in terms of information sharing, mobilisation, value exchange, social connection, etc.

So what can you do?

Here are a few insights from my experience in keeping a balanced relationship with social media.

  1. Keep your time-to-value ratio high

There are obvious social and economic benefits from some participation in social media. For example, Instagram has helped me connect with people on the other side of the world, create collaborations, meet new clients and share a message. My average time on Instagram? 13m/day (according to Instagram analytics).

You can achieve a lot by being very focused. Set a clear intention or goal for your social media visit and don’t engage with anything else until you’ve completed it. You’ll save a lot of time.

  1. Beware of the dopamine high of ‘likes’

To maintain a high time-to-value ratio, you may have to forego the high of likes, comments and followers i.e. all the good stuff that is designed to give a dopamine kick; keep you coming back for more; and make you stay for longer than needed. The addiction to social media is created by the system through Intermittent Reinforcement (anticipating likes, etc)

  1. Understand why social media are ‘free’

To pull the curtain back on social media, make sure you fully understand why social media are free while the company founders are part of the top 0.001% of wealth in the world. Understand the full implications of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It’s sobering but empowering.

  1. Create more, consume less, don’t spread negativity

Did you know that the best way to boost social engagement is to post something negative, offensive or fear-generating (hello news…)? Does that mean you would do it deliberately? I imagine not because you have enough ethical discernment. You can choose how you engage with social media. Don't just be content to get a dopamine kick when you're bored. Use social media to share and receive something of value.

  1. Be unpredictable…

I think there is a crucial balancing factor in healthy use of social media: awareness. Awareness loosens conditioning and leads to unpredictability. And, unpredictability is the fly in the ointment of (social media) manipulation.

Leaving social media to become a forest hermit is not the ultimate solution (although I've thought about it). The engine behind social media – surveillance capitalism - is everywhere. We're embedded in it whether we like it or not. More importantly, the instincts capitalism feeds off are within us. We can't escape our conditioning through hiding.

But we can use every challenge presented to us as an opportunity to wake up and activate our wisdom. A bit like understanding and learning from why Donald Trump is president...

Every system carries the seeds of its own evolution. Understanding what they are and how to respond can help us infuse any system with wisdom and kindness and claim it for the good.

Have a great week,


TODAY: I'll be sharing a few thoughts on courage as a key 21st century skill in the workplace live today at 12pm UK. It's part of a special series of interviews by colleague Marilise de Villiers. If you'd like to join us, more details and registration can be found here.

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