Oliver Atkinson

Was it worth it?

An interesting observation as of late is how attached to social medias people are. I used to be the same way. In some ways I still am. Granted, they can be useful, connecting with friends and family. However, once you spend more than a few minutes a week what are you achieving?

You may have convinced yourself that there is something to gain by checking each platform daily (even hourly, minutely?!). But if you were to take a critical look at your usage I think most people would agree that they spend too much time. Just look at people talk about TikTok, nearly everyone that uses it confesses to using it too much. Without trying all that hard we can see there is a problem. But what if we went a step further, take a more critical look?

In all of our lives we have something I would like to denote as “wasted time.” This is just a fact of the age we are in. This is the time you have when you arrive to the maintenance shop a little early and they haven’t quite finished fixing your car. Or sitting in the waiting room for your dental appointment. Many people are fine with filling this “wasted time” with checking their phone. Just look around next time you ride any public transportation. You’ll see.

But since we are taking a more critical look than most we must also examine this “wasted time” and decide if it became “wasted” before or after we decided to fill it with scrolling. To analyze this we need to think about the idea of taking a snapshot of our individual existence, all of your cumulative knowledge. Take this snapshot of your life just before you open your phone. Then take another snapshot after your close it. If we were able to quantify your knowledge, we could pipe this into a simple math equation:

    K1 | Is knowledge before.
    K2 | Is knowledge after.
    Kg | Is gained knowledge.

K2 – K1 = Kg

From my experience, and I would be willing to bet that in many of your’s, the Kg value equals 0. So this means that we can verifiably say the “wasted time” window is wasted after you looked at your phone.

Now, what would our Kg value be if we didn’t reach for our phones at the first whiff of boredom? Well, since we can’t loose knowledge, we are just about guaranteed an improvement over reaching for social media. All we have to do is gain 1 knowledge point! (However you want to quantify that.) So as long as Kg > 0 (very low bar) we have succeeded.

But now you are saying:

“In my very specific situation, I’m stuck in a cement box just waiting here. And all I have to entertain myself is my phone with social media on it. I can’t possible get anything out of sitting here!”

(Now let’s acknowledge that this is a very unlikely situation.) But for the sake of this argument let’s add another value to our snapshots. We will take our happiness/contentment/joy/etc and set it to a variable named H. So now our equation looks like:

	H1 | Is happiness before.
	H2 | Is happiness after.
	Hg | Is happiness gained.

 H2 – H1 = Hg

Now the two equations combined:

(K2 – K1) + (H2 - H1) = Kg + Hg

Now let’s convert the product to a single value, S, this is your status as a whole.

	S | Is status
	Kg + Hg = S

(K2 – K1) + (H2 - H1) = S

And now unlike knowledge, which you can’t loose. Happiness can be both gained and lost. So now assuming our previous situation where, when just looking at knowledge, our equation equaled 0. Since K1 = K2 we can just entirely remove them.

Just looking at the first equation H2 – H1 = Hg. Let’s say happiness is just a 0%-100% scale, just for ease of explanation. So lets say an average day is 50%. Which when converted into decimal form so we can use it in mathematics would now equal 0.50.

So now we are back in that cement box. You are sitting there, and for some reason or another sitting in a cement box is just a normal situation you find yourself in. So your happiness as you sit down is at 50% (0.50). This equals H1. Now you hop onto the social media platform of your choice.

The side bar adds shows you an article of how this 23yr old is a multimillionaire, and he/she has just 5 simple steps you you to be as successful as themselves. This kid is any number of years younger than you raking in several times your yearly income? Figures.

You scroll some more.

See everyone is having the time of their life on that cool trip to Greece. Then look, you friends are either getting married or having kids already! What are you doing with your life? Sitting in this cement box. So obviously you’ll never amount to the things of everyone else.

“John Doe? We are finished with your car, you can pay at the desk.” Says the clerk. You turn off your phone and start the rest of your life.

I don’t know about you but at this point my H2 value is defiantly lower than my H1 value. So when we plug that into our equation we have:

0.40 – 0.50 = -0.10

This means that your lost 10% of your happiness while just looking at your phone waiting here! And think of how easy it is to go from a mood of 5/10 to 4/10! I don’t think these are unreasonable numbers. So now you see the point!

Now you keep adding variables to the left hand side of the equation to try and justify/un-justify being on your phone at any given time. We can start adding things such as “productivity” or “inter-personal relationships”, ANYTHING! And just remember to take a quick little snapshot of your status before and after your do something, it could be anything, it wouldn’t just have to be checking your phone. We could apply this to someone who likes to shop a little too much. For them we might add the very tangible value of their bank account as one of the variables. Ideally you take into account every possible variable and insert it into the left side. At this point the goal is to keep S, on the right side a positive number.

Snapshots wouldn’t have to be across a short time frame either. It could be before and after a week, month, year, and eventually a lifetime.

Now remember, the goal is to have the lifetime’s S value be greater than 0. So doing something “dumb” right now that might boost your short-term S value above 0 but may also cause it to drop in equal or possibly greater value later. Thus netting a negative S.

So while it may be be possible to justify foolish things in the short-term. If used correctly by using theoretical values for a theoretical “after” snapshot, you can get an example of what your status will be if you chose any given action. And there are plenty of people around you to gather these theoretical data points from to use for your own calculations to decide if you should do something.