I assume most everyone saw Barack Obama yukking it up at Nelson Mandela’s funeral back in December. He was taking “selfies” of himself with other heads of state during the Mandela memorial service. While I assume President Obama admired Nelson Mandela as much as the next person, the tone he set made me uneasy and got me thinking again about social media and its effect on the culture of the entrepreneur.
Self-obsession seems to be growing with the expansion of all social media, the largest of which are Twitter and Facebook. The “selfie” is just one of the latest manifestations of a culture that often confuses personal exhibitionism with business accomplishment. I call it “Kardashianitis”—visibility as a counterfeit version of value and vision. It seems to me this is a dangerous and distracting trend for entrepreneurs.
Psychologist Jean Twenge has reported the steady growth of self-importance in our personal lives over the last decade. (www.narcissismepidemic.com) She and others have described a burgeoning “narcissism epidemic” abetted by social media.
Heightened ego is the enemy of practical business efficacy. It’s distracting and disorienting. In this omnipresent culture of “look at meism”, the the useful tool of social media can be perverted into a quest for self-glorification. Look at how many “likes” I have, check out this Instagram, look how many people have “friended” me this week, etc. Or look at the case of former NY Representative Anthony Weiner, a poster boy for this new apogee of self-ardor, seductively facilitated by use of social media. Weiner’s downfall was not brought about by a sin of lust or passion, but rather a jejune exhibitionist search for public approbation.
“Technology doesn’t just do things for us. It does things to us, changing not just what we do but who we are. The selfie makes us accustomed to putting ourselves and those around us ‘on pause’ in order to document our lives. It is an extension of how we have learned to put our conversations ‘on pause’ when we send or receive a text, an image, an email, a call. When you get accustomed to a life of stops and starts, you get less accustomed to reflecting on where you are and what you are thinking.” (NY Times, Dec. 16, 2013)
It’s increasingly easy to confuse entrepreneurial exhibitionism with entrepreneurial success. There are several clear dangers in this infatuation with social media.
First of all, it can be a distraction from your core commitment to your business passion and dream. It’s easy to overvalue virtual vanity metrics, but they are often a time wasting diversion and, at worst they vitiate and belie the deeper sense of integral self needed to effectuate an entrepreneurial vision in any number of ways.
Second, it’s often just a bloody waste of time. Research shows that everyday social multitasking reduces cognitive depth. (Journalistresource.org/studi
So, I’ll make you a deal: If you will not twitter me about the excellent ham sandwich you had for lunch, I will forego sending you a picture of my adorable labradoodle.
French philosopher and dramatist Jean-Paul Sartre says, “You are—your life, and nothing else.” (No Exit) Thanks, Jean-Paul.