Insights on Digital Trade-offs Episode Summary
Learn the true costs and benefits of all of these digital tools that we use. I call it digital trade-offs.
Are you getting just as much out of your screen time as you’re putting in? In the second segment, we talk about how sometimes the biggest gift, is you. And finally, we’re introducing a new segment called equity corner.
Words of Wisdom
You are a gift to others. Just the way you are. — Jen
Transcript: Digital Trade-offs + You Are a Gift + Origins of Grandfathered In
Hello, and welcome to The podcast. I’m your host, Jen McFarland. On this week’s show, we talk about the cost-benefit analysis of all of these digital tools that we use. I call it the digital tradeoff. Are you getting just as much as you’re putting in? Probably not. Also, we talk about sometimes the biggest gift is you. And we’re introducing a new segment called Equity Corner. You’re definitely not going to want to miss this. All that and more on The podcast.
Welcome to the podcast recorded at the Vandal Lounge in beautiful Southeast Portland, Oregon. Why The Third Paddle? Because even the most badass entrepreneurs get stuck up in business shit creek. Management consultant Jennifer McFarland is your third paddle helping you get unstuck.
One of the things we don’t talk about all the time on the show is my background in tech. I worked for the last 10 years in tech, as a woman in tech, on six- and seven-figure tech projects before I started Jen McFarland Consulting, formerly known as Foster Growth. And one of the reasons I started my business is because I kept seeing over and over again all of these people taking advantage of my women business owner friends based on the assumption that they didn’t know anything about technology so they could charge whatever they wanted and never deliver services. And I thought, “There’s got to be another way of doing it. But something that I’ve noticed about myself, and I’ve observed it among my friends, particularly since joining the small business community, is how fragmented our lives have become as a result of technology, as a result of all of these tools that we’re using all the time and how it’s come to dominate so much of our world. And I have been feeling this fragmentation in my life where I wasn’t even able to concentrate on things at times because I was being pulled in so many different directions. And not on big, deep thinking projects, but by my email or by social media or some other little annoying thing that I felt like I had to be responsive to.
And if we think about email in a different way, it’s a productivity tool that is supposed to allow us to connect quicker, but anymore, email has become this game of ping-pong, right? Where you send me a message to get it off of your plate, and I just slap it back to get it off of mine. And that’s not to say there aren’t really great, constructive conversations done by email; there totally are. But this thing that’s supposed to make our lives easier, at times, makes it more of a barrier to getting the really important work done. And I have been reading two separate books, both by the same author, that have really spoken to this idea of leading a fragmented life as a result of all of these digital tools that are supposed to be making our lives easier. And it relates back to a lot of my experiences in technology, where many of my clients on large projects, and small projects as well, think of tech as a panacea. It’s going to solve everything, and it’s going to fix everything. And the truth is that that’s not the case. Tech is there to support your goals but not solve all of your problems. It won’t do that. and so many times, we focus on these small concerns and save big decisions for later. And these books I’ve been reading, they’re by Cal Newport. One is called Deep Work. And then the one I’m working on right now is called Digital Minimalism– are interesting to me for a couple of different reasons. One is that I love how computer scientists are all about digital minimalism or when you read that Bill Gates doesn’t allow his kids to have smartphones. I think it just really speaks volumes to this idea of how addicted we are to technology, so much so that the people who are running technology don’t allow their kids to use it. And in Cal Newport’s latest book Digital Minimalism, he actually talks about an episode of Bill Maher where bill Maher compares Facebook and all of the big tech to tobacco, big tobacco. And there are interviews in the book with the people who designed the iPhone and how the whole purpose of an iPhone back when they first developed it was merely to allow you to listen to your iPod at the same time that you could make phone calls. So you wouldn’t have to carry your iPad and a smartphone at the same time, or your iPod and your smartphone at the same time. It was all just in the same place. And then during Steve Jobs’ keynote, buried way, way down in the speech was, “Oh, by the way, you can use social media with it.” So it wasn’t actually the thing. It wasn’t the central idea that we would be using our Androids and iPhones to be so connected. And I feel like this added connection actually makes us less connected. And I feel like this increased reliance that we have on all of these devices actually divides us. And I think we’ve seen that during the presidential election and the aftermath, for sure, where these digital communities can move us further apart from people. And we’re spending so much time with our heads in our phones that you go to a restaurant, and a husband and wife aren’t even talking to each other. They’re too busy texting their friends and with their heads in their phones to not have those regular conversations. And so, what I’m coming to is that for many business owners or– and this is even if your business is being a good mom. If you’re in the business of being a good mom, or you’re in the business of making money from a business and supporting other people, or if you’re in the business of being the best spouse that you can, doesn’t matter what it is that you are valuing trying to be the best at. I want you to ask yourself if the technology tools that you’re using, the computer, the tablet, the smartphone, social media, email, all of these different things, how are all of these different tools that are built to engage us and increase productivity, how are all of these tools supporting your goals? And I mean this in a deep, meaningful way. What are the returns that you are getting from using social media all the time? How is it enabling you to be your best you? How is it helping you be the best at your business, whether it’s the business of life or the business of making more money? Because I’ve got to say increasingly, more and more, I look at it as a war, like we are in a battle between FOMO and our values. So what’s going to win. Is it fear of missing out or is it our core values? And is social media really building community, or is it building these really shallow relationships with other people? And then when the chips are down you can’t really rely on any of those people, because do you really know them? Have you really talked to them? Because I’ve got to say, I’ve been on social media a lot, and for my business too, and I’ve never been able to take a like the bank.
These programs are designed to be like slot machines. Again, that’s a reference to the Cal Newport book. But I want you to think about that for a second. On last week’s show, we talked to Dr. Patricia Thompson, and she talked about mindfulness, which is navigating your life with intentionality. And thinking things out and breathing deeply and looking at things in a non-judgemental way. So I’m asking you to look at social media in particular, in a non-judgemental way. And ask yourself if you can quantify what you have earned on social media in revenue. And again, that can be the revenue of life and the revenue in your business. Is it enabling you to be your best you? Or is it creating more fragmentation, maybe fear and jealousy and creating divides in your community? Because these programs are designed for you to be checking them again and again and again.
And in fact, I had the most annoying thing on my phone, which is every Sunday afternoon it was telling me how much screen time I was using. And then I actually looked at it, and I realized that I was spending hours and hours a day on my phone. And I’ve got to tell you, I don’t want to be that guy. And I was in a marketing course, and I suggested the Deep Work book because all of the fragmentation, all of this checking things constantly whether it’s your email or social media, it’s a lot like a Pavlovian dog. You ring the bell, and you’re just going to keep going. Right? And I looked at the numbers for how much time I was spending on my phone. And on an iPhone, and I’m sure there are programs on the Android as well. I’ll find them and put them in the show notes. It even tells you what tools you’re spending your time on. And I’m like, “I’m not getting that much out of social media for that kind of time. I’m not getting that much out of texting, for that kind of time. Dammit.” Because I love texting.
So I’m asking you how much time you have for deep thinking, how much time you have for mindfulness and if you are relating to all of this technology in a mindful way with intentionality. Meaning, you get out of something what you put into it. And that’s definitely true in life, but do you have the same level of control over social media, over the rest of your digital life? Because when I worked in graphic design we had another saying which was garbage in, garbage out. And that means if all the artwork you’ve got was terrible quality then the outcome is always going to be terrible quality. So I’m not suggesting that what you’re posing on social media is terrible quality. I’m suggesting that the entire model for social media is meant to distract and to annoy and to make you check how many likes you have and how much time and energy, how much support you’re getting from this digital community. And it’s not really connecting you in any sort of meaningful way.
Now some of you are probably going to email me or post comments or tweet me whatever and tell me that you’re making tons of money on social media. And I think that’s great. I think it’s likely that you’re paying for it [laughter]. Because anymore, Instagram and Facebook are definitely pay to play. In the work that I’ve been doing in consulting with small businesses, actually, using social media is not on the top of the list. Because it’s pay to play you’re renting space from landlords that are renting more space to people who can pay them a lot of money. And it takes a special kind of magic to be going viral on social media anymore or YouTube or whatever.
So the question I have is, is your digital life operating in a supportive model? Meaning, is it supporting your goals? Is it supporting your core, key work? Is it? Or is your digital life operating in a servant model? Meaning, are you serving the digital beast? Because I think we should be using these tools to support us and using these tools to further our personal business and community values. And I hate to say it, but what I think it means is we’ve got to be very mindful of how much time we spend on these platforms. We have to be very mindful of what we are doing there and what we are getting out of it. And whether what we get out of it is truly what we put into it. Because what we’re putting into it are not only our photos and our comments but we’re putting in our time. And our time is money. And our kids are only going to be small for so long. And our friends are only going to hang out with us so much if we stare at the phone all the time. And if we are constantly living in this distracted disrupted 24-hour news cycle fragmented place, are you being your best you? Are you able to create your best work? Whether it’s with your family or producing for your clients, or with your clients, or writing that book you’ve always wanted to write, or having that podcast you’ve always wanted to have. Because I’ll be honest with you, when I started realizing how much of my time I was spending doing these things, when I started looking at the time on it, and not just dismissing my screentime alert as an annoyance, I made some pretty big changes to my life, and it’s been really cool. I’ve really appreciated it. I leave my phone behind. I don’t take it with me everywhere. I have this app that I use called Freedom that actually blocks out all distractions so that I can only work on essential products, and initiatives, and ideas, and it’s so freeing. It feels so good. And so what I have to offer you is I’ve created this e-book called Digital Tradeoffs. And it’s available for you to do download. I’ll put a link in the show notes. But I’d really like for you to test it out. Just give it a little bit of time. Think about your biggest goals, and then record how much time you’ve been spending on different social media, and then consider how all of these things align. And so I’ve created this ebook to walk you through that process and to really consider the cost-benefit analysis, the fragmentation, and the ways and strategies that you can use to give yourself my space for thinking, and joy, and love, and all of the things in your life that are so precious to you and to us all.
And so I hope you’ll download it, and really think about it, and really think about how you can be your best you because that’s what the world needs. And if you really like it, and you like this episode, please be sure to share it on social media, of all things. So I’m telling you not to use it as much, and then I’m asking you to share it. And that’s the crazy world that we live in. Because no matter what, I’m not going to tell you you don’t ever have to use it, unless you’re my husband, who is not a fan of any of it. But there aren’t a lot of us who can actually be complete without these digital tools. And so I want to acknowledge that, but there’s a time and a place for it. And that’s what I’m asking you to do. And there are some great tools out there to help. Freedom is one. Another tool that I like to use is called Boomerang, and I schedule emails, if I’m not working on a really important project, I schedule emails to come in once or twice a day. And then, I know when the emails are coming, and it just keeps me from being in there all the time. And it also clears the way so that I can work on what’s most important that’s already in my inbox without being distracted by the latest and greatest thing.
So this ebook includes all of these strategies and all of these guides. And please download it. It’s called Digital Tradeoffs. And thank you so much for listening. And if you like the show, please share it on social media. Don’t spend all your time there [music] You know, I have a friend who has been going through some challenging and amazing and transformative changes in her life. And we’ve been talking back and forth about what it all means and how to cope. I think we maybe spend a little bit too much time in should dos and can dos and why don’t ya’s. But change is hard. And I think you all know how hard it can be sometimes, even if those changes mean really amazing and really good things for you. I think we all know how hard it is to actually accept what’s going on around us and make it our own. And in this back and forth and back and forth, I started to realize that what I was hearing from my friend had a lot more negative connotations than positive ones. That it’s a lot easier, when we go through times of change, to focus on all of the bad things that are happening, all of the things that are different and how weird it is and how it is just uncomfortable.
And as I was getting ready and shopping for the week, I was getting my cart together and stuff, I was like, “Wait. Wait.” So I sent a text and I said, “You are amazing. And these challenges and experiences that you’re having are a gift. They’re a gift.” And then I got my cart going and kind of hustled into the store, and then I was like, “Wait. That’s not really what I wanted to say at all.” And I took a deep breath and considered what I wanted to say because I don’t know that I’ve really said it to somebody before even though I’ve felt it for a long time about various important people in my life. And yet, I knew it was what she needed to hear. And so I paused what I was doing and sent another text. And it said, “You”, in all caps, “You are a gift.” And I sent it. And then I was really surprised because I felt fear and discomfort in my body after saying that. I think I felt, maybe, vulnerable in this weird way to say to my friend who I’m very close to, “You’re a gift.” Because I didn’t know how that would be received. And as I was shopping and walking up and down the isles, I kept saying to myself, “You are a gift.” And I was sending it out to my friend, but at the same time, I found myself saying it to myself. And that was what it really felt like was, “You’re a gift.” You are a gift. And I realized how much I needed that myself, not just my friend. But how much I needed to feel that too.
And so I started thinking about all of you and thinking about how much time we spend not considering our own gifts and what we have to offer. And that each one of you is a gift. And I mean it today, right now. You are a gift. Not if you lose 15 pounds, not if you make 500 more dollars, not if you win the lottery tomorrow or run a marathon or find your husband or leave your husband or whatever it is that you have on the horizon, whatever it is. You today, right now are a gift. And it’s important to accept that. And it’s important to look into ourselves and really consider what it is about us that makes us a treasure, that makes us a gift. What is it about you that makes you a gift? I see you. I see you as a gift right now for all of the things that you bring. But when we look inside of ourselves and we consider what gifts it is that we bring, you might be saying to yourself, “I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of gifts I have.” And if you’re like me, you may be focusing on those liabilities, those things that bother you. And you might be thinking, “Well, it’s not that. It’s not this. It’s not that.” And yet, it might be those very things. I remember the first time I took the StrengthsFinder’s quiz, and I started really looking at all of the gifts and strengths that I had. And I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh. Those are all things that I’ve considered weaknesses.” Maybe because they weren’t regarded by others or maybe they weren’t considered by others to be great. But those very things are the things that make us wonderful and unique and make us good at whatever it is that we do in our lives. Those are the things that make us a gift. Those are the things that allow us to give to others and to see the greatness in other people. And yet, sometimes we need to see the greatness in ourselves. And by seeing the greatness in ourselves, that’s what allows us to see more of what’s going on for other people and realize all of what they have to offer.
I’m almost embarrassed that it took two, three weeks of back and forth with this friend being supportive before I paused long enough to say, “You’re a gift. I see you. You’re important to me.” I feel like we danced around that subject for a long time. I feel like we were touching on it and considering it and highly regard each other and love one another. But sometimes it’s about pausing long enough to really say it. To say, “I see you. I see you for who you are, and I love you, and you’re a gift to me.” And I want you to see those gifts within yourself. And then when you begin to see those gifts within yourself I think it really helps you to be able to pay it forward and to give more of yourself once you see what it is within you that makes you so great. Because I could tell you there’s a lot about you that makes you great. Even if you don’t see it right now, somebody else does. Even if this is your worst day, there’s still something great about you. You’re still a gift, a gift to other people.
I mean, I’d like to think that Booker thinks I’m a gift all the time, but if I’m not playing with him certainly he doesn’t. And I don’t mean to make light of things if it’s your worst day, but sometimes what we need to do is just look at those little things. Because it’s those little things that we can latch onto that take us out of our worst day and bring us back home into all of the things that are still going right. Because sometimes we just need to see what’s going right so that we can stop focusing on what’s going wrong. And that’s part of what makes us all a gift to one another is that ability to see a friend who’s struggling or to recognize the struggle within ourselves and pull ourselves back and help our friends excel and be the best that they can be because it makes us all greater. And sometimes it’s just seeing what a gift we really are.
[music] This week we’re introducing a new segment to the show called Equity Corner. What’s Equity Corner? It’s intended to raise awareness around the issues of the day including words and phrases we might think twice before using. It’s a look at not only current events but also history we so can consider the unintended consequences, including whether it’s a history we want to repeat.
This week I want to take a look at the phrase, grandfathered in. Many people use this phrase to indicate things like pricing, services, amenities, and the like, that those services will remain for a certain group but future customers will not get the same benefits. At least that’s how I’ve always understood the term, grandfathered in. Where does this term come from? Well, it comes from something called the grandfather clause. In the late 19th century southern US states created laws intended to block poor and illiterate African-American former slaves and their descendants from voting while preserving the rights of the poor and illiterate white people. How did they do this? Well, they grandfathered in the white folks and their descendants so they could continue to vote while creating new literacy tests, poll taxes, and other restrictions on black folks so they couldn’t vote. Or it was made so difficult that many of them couldn’t vote. Now, these clauses were eventually ruled unconstitutional, but it led to the disenfranchisement of countless African Americans, and it continues to happen throughout the South even today.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t aware of this connection until recently. Like many of you, I’ve used the phrase without knowing its connection to history. It’s definitely made me more aware of the equities of treating a different subset of customers differently than new customers. And on previous episodes of the show, we’ve talked about how the cable industry and cell phone industry has all these specials for new customers that the old customers don’t get. In this case, it’s the reverse where old customers are getting something and new customers aren’t getting it. Either way, I’m going to think twice and do everything I can to not use the term grandfathered in, in my own lexicon. And I’m also going to consider how I treat all of my customers without dividing them up. And that’s all I got on Equity Corner. Thanks again. [music]
Be sure to tune in next week when I talk to Senta Scarborough, an award-winning journalist, and Emmy-nominated producer. Her work has appeared in Adweek, Into, USA Today, E! News, Us Weekly magazine, and the Asheville Poetry Review among others, including when I met her when she was a crime reporter for The Arizona Republic. You’re not going to want to miss this interview. It’s super awesome. Check us out next week and thank you for listening.
Thank you for listening to the podcast. Be sure to catch every episode by subscribing on iTunes. To learn more check out our website at www.jenmcfarland.com/podcast. The podcast is sponsored by Foster Growth LLC, online at www.jenmcfarland.com.
- Deep Work, Cal Newport
- Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport
- Digital Trade-offs ebook
- Freedom distraction-free app
- Boomerang for Gmail
- The Racist Origins of “Being Grandfathered In”
- Grandfather clause
Connect with Us
Segment One: Screen Time & Digital Trade-Offs
I’m suggesting that the entire model for social media is meant to distract and to annoy and to make you check how many likes you have.
How much support are you getting from this digital community? Is it connecting you in any sort of meaningful way?
If you’re using social media for your business it’s important to know it’s pay to play. You’re renting space from social media landlords who rent space to large corporations who can pay a lot of money. It takes a special kind of magic to be going viral on social media anymore.
So the questions I have are:
- Is your digital life operating in a supportive model meaning is it supporting your goals
- Is it supporting your core key work?
- Or is your digital life operating in a servant model, meaning, are you serving the digital beast?
Segment Two: You Are A Gift
When we realize and recognize each other’s talents and treasures something extraordinary happens.
It’s also important to remember the gifts we have within ourselves.
That’s part of what makes us all a gift to one another is the ability to see a friend who’s struggling or to recognize the struggle within ourselves and pull ourselves back and help our friends excel and be the best that they can be because it makes us all greater. And sometimes it’s just seeing what a gift we are.
Segment Three: Grandfathered In
This week we’re introducing a new segment to the show called Equity Corner. What’s Equity Corner?
It’s intended to raise awareness around the issues of the day including words and phrases we might think twice before using.
It’s a look at not only current events, but also history, so we can consider the unintended consequences and harm our words cause, including whether it’s a history we want to repeat.
This week we look at the phrase “grandfathered in.”
How I learned about it (what led to my learning more):