Is it time to quit?
I belong to a dozen or so groups — WhatsApp, Telegram, FB Messenger, etc. Every day I receive more than 1.000 messages combined. Some of these groups are made of a handful of people while others have thousands of members. It’s gone out of hand.
Lately, I’ve been pondering whether to quit some or even all of them, the main reasons being; lack of time and constant distraction. On the other hand, I suffer from FOMO — what if I miss out on something important? — and that’s what keeps me hooked.
At the moment, I have taken a middle way approach — to completely ignore the busy groups while paying some limited attention to the small ones. Sometimes I even participate, but not a lot.
I’ve reached a point in which I think I’ve had enough.
Currently, I’ve limited my time in this media to 30 mins a day. It’s not a lot but still, it’s time that could be put to better use. I’m sure that some members expend all day engaging in endless arguments judging by the frequency they post.
Even half an hour a day is still 14 hours a month. I intend to reduce this even further.
Sometimes I get angry by some of the comments or engage in pointless arguments that lead nowhere. And then the ripple effects — I ruminate on the discussion for some time after.
Filtering through thousands of messages can be exhausting, especially if you don’t want to miss something important. And yes, sometimes there is useful stuff (about 1%) so that keeps me coming back for more.
Even if you turn all notifications off, there is this tendency to check, breaking concentration, and interrupting your flow of creativity.
Once the flow is gone it takes at least 10 mins to get it back. Multiply that by 20 and it’s not hard to see a big drop on productivity.
Why do we join groups?
- The feeling of belonging. We want to be part of the crowd, the inner circle. Whether we are invited or just join on our own accord, it’s nice to share your views and feel included. It’s easy to join, hard to quit.
- FOMO. We hate missing out. We want to stay in the loop. What if the talk about something important? What if they gossip? What if they gossip about me? FOMO keeps us addicted even though you don’t miss much really.
- Social pressure. Sometimes we are invited and we don’t know how to decline. Groucho Marx was right: Don’t join a club that would have you as a member
- Support. Helping each other is the main purpose of these groups, at least at the beginning, and they mostly fulfill this objective. Unfortunately, after a while this degenerates into venting, fishing for compliments, and begging for approval and reassurance. It’s like the church confession has moved online.
What I dislike more about this media?
Groups attract and filter in like-minded people, so after some time, every group becomes a self-congratulatory celebration about how right we are vs how wrong they are. This produces a terrible bias in which the members become totally blindsided to external information or any opposing views producing a big deal of confirmation bias.
Supporters of Obama will never admit that some of his policies might have been flawed or vice-versa. Confirmation bias makes us enter a dangerous territory of denial in which even the obvious becomes invisible.
I support you because you are from my tribe, and don’t support him because he is not. Well, what if in your in-group some individuals are morally wrong, stupid or crazy? This is a worrying trend that could take us down dangerous avenues like racism, extremism, elitism, and so on. Cult-like groups usually start with good intentions and then things get out of hand.
When we don’t like reality, we make it up. I’ve quit a few groups that were basically trying to predict the future with no grounds for it.
Most groups seem to fall into circular reasoning, repeating the same arguments and information over and over again. After reading the first 100 messages you can skip the rest.
My take on groups
- Minimize the time you spend on them
- Don’t engage in arguments
- Skim through searching for useful information
- Post only when you have something valuable to say
- Don’t take anything personally
- Understand that group dynamics are different in the online world
- Ignore the trolls, the stupid and the ill-intention