The Social Dilemma's salient productivity lessons

Updated: Oct 6




Perhaps the biggest force disrupting your productivity is the world we live in today. We live in the attention economy. While this is not new information, the new documentary, The Social Dilemma on Netflix, provides poignant insights from Silicon Valley insiders into just how much modern technology is designed to attract as much of your attention as possible.

In the service of commercial interests from advertisers. Not in the service of your interests.

I believe The Social Dilemma is required watching. Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, recently tweeted this :

So what's the problem?


The people in the documentary struggle to give a clear answer. They concede (and of course we realize too) that technology isn't all bad. it is incredible... but there is this other side of the coin.


Tech addiction. The spread of fake news, driving divisiveness. The move from The Information Age to The Disinformation Age.


A few years ago I hear Robert Cialdini, author of the seminal book Influence, speak on the topic of persuasion and influence. He acknowledged that in the wrong hands, these tactics could be used to manipulate. Many modern tools are building in the psychology of persuasion as a deliberate design.


Like a hacker, they are exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.


"We’ve moved away from a tools-based technology environment to an addiction and manipulation based technology environment. That’s what has changed." - The Social Dilemma


How this affects your productivity


The Social Dilemma highlights how hard social media and today’s technologies are working against your productivity.


When you think about productivity tools today, you are actually often working on other people’s priorities, not your own. Snacking on emails. Responding to what is urgent, not what is important.


if you aren't in control, you are susceptible to the tools serving the advertisers - not serving you.


What you can do to remain in control


First, be aware of what these tools are designed to do: keep your attention serving the commercial interests of advertisers. Don't mindlessly react to their pull.


Second, I recommend turning off almost all notifications on your phone and on your computer. Keep only the notifications you need if something might truly be urgent: phone and text. Nearly all others can be turned off. There is an excellent, comprehensive guide on configuring your iPhone to work for you (apologies, Android users).


Third, be clear on what YOUR important (but not urgent) work is. Your priorities. Focusing on these instead of the urgent-but-not-important pull will serve you well.