Diminishing returns of smart phones and social media

Fair warning – this is a rant ! You should probably stop reading now .

Every year, I read 15 to 20 non fiction books. For last 5 years or so, the trend is exactly the same. I get to about 5 books by end of September…and then pick up speed and read 3 times as more in one third of the time. Also, I only read physical books – I don’t use an electronic book reader. Its an “old world” habit I am incapable of kicking. Its one of those things for which I have no rational explanation 🙂


Any way – this year I also noticed one more thing making reading harder for me. I started reading Satya Nadella’s auto biography and its not really a long read. I should have finished it in one day. Instead it took a week or so. The reason – every time I settle down to read, I want to put a song on my phone, check email, see the cricket score, play 2048 on my phone or something. It was ridiculously bad – and it took me a week to realize I can’t read a full book if my phone is anywhere close to me. So I started switching it off and leaving it on a charger in a room as far away as possible to where I was sitting. In planes, I started putting the phone into a bag that I shove into over head space. Pure magic – every book again returned to a one day adventure !

And then I realized the second problem. I have no patience left for long form prose. Thanks to micro blogs, blogs  and bulleted emails that I deal with all the time, beautifully written prose no longer looked beautiful and I was getting irritated. Thankfully couple more books in, life returned to normal and I started enjoying the good prose like usual.

Twitter does not take much time for me – I scan it about three times a day and very rarely have quality conversations on it. Thanks to carefully choosing who I follow, twitter has become a great news feed for topics I like. Any time there is an election, I mute a bunch of handles to keep the noise down. In general, I have no complaints. And strangely, the number of followers keep increasing all the time.

Similarly, I have no big issues with Facebook. I have a lot of friends and family connected on FB. Quality of conversation is extremely high and a lot of topics which used to get debated on twitter has moved on to FB now – and not really to linkedin which is what I expected.

Linkedin on the other hand has become a major pain in the rear for me. For a while, it was a nice place to use as my address book, and even more importantly – it surfaced some amazing content for me to read every day. There are two primary annoyances for me these days on linkedin – 1. God awful job recommendations ( including Catering, Truck driving, divorce attorney etc )and reading list recommendations and 2. People typing up double spaced single line sentences ad nauseam on HR and sales topics.

The double spaced thing looks like this

I interviewed a young man today.

He had no experience.

Looked like he had not showered in a week.

He never went to school.

He was not getting hired anywhere.

I skipped the interview process and hired him on the spot.

Because that is what leaders do.

Now he is the Chairman of a $20B business

My coping mechanism is straight forward – I block the people who post it, and also the people who share/like/comment such things and makes the linkedin algorithm put it on my feed.

And then there is whatsapp – which is supremely useful except for the flood of forwards and “good morning” messages from friends and family. Again the solution is simple – warn the folks who do it, and block repeat offenders. I think half my contacts are now blocked and I am guessing I won’t be invited to several Xmas parties this year 🙂

Every year I have taken social media sabbaticals for a month or two from multiple channels. That has been plenty to keep me sane these last ten years. But clearly that is not enough today. These channels are quite useful for many things – and filtering only goes so far. For now, I am planning to take longer social media sabbaticals . I also need to find/read about the latest greatest tips on how to not get overwhelmed by my social channels and phone. If you have good tips – pls do share.

End of rant !


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

7 thoughts on “Diminishing returns of smart phones and social media

  1. @Vijay, I really like your solution for LinkedIn. We all need to be much more strategic in our networking to get away from the initial enticements of mass social networking that platforms like LinkedIn popular. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with carving people out of your network that no longer help you achieve a need or is mutually beneficial. It’s very easy for us to take a static view of our networks (across all social platforms) and much harder to actively manage them to keep them relevant. Good on you for taking the time to even think about this and recommend some strategies that work!


  2. TL;DR

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist it). I find a similar problem when I need to research something brand new to me; too easy to look for the summaries that hide the gotchas and pain-points 🙂

    Have a good Christmas 🙂


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