Seeking “Validation” on social media and how it is killing productivity at work: Mandar Natekar, Viacom18

On Linkedin, Natekar says validation on social media gives one a rush of dopamine which many mistake for as a substitute for professional praise, leading to low productivity

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jan 24, 2018 8:56 AM

I want to begin with a story that starts at a time when I had just started my professional career. At that time, I had worked on a deal which turned out to be quite profitable for the organisation. One morning as I was sitting on my desk, the network head of sales & marketing passed by my corner and stopping by my desk said “Well done kiddo. Hope there are many more coming from you in the near future”, and she walked past. The impact of what she said stayed with me for weeks and ensured that I put my heart and soul into every deal I worked on, in the hope that I would get another compliment from her. I was constantly working hard to seek her validation. So when she paid that compliment to me, what really happened at a physiological level? Why did I feel the way I felt? Why did that brief encounter become a mechanism for me to work hard?
The answer is “Dopamine”. In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of rewards increase the level of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is responsible for reward-driven behavior and pleasure seeking. Every type of reward seeking behavior that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain. If you want to get a hit of dopamine, set a goal and achieve it. And it starts a positive cycle.
So in layman terms what really happened to me was:
1) I did a great job
2) Our super boss recognised me, acknowledged my effort and complimented me.
3) My brain released some serious amounts of dopamine
4) That made me real happy for a long time.
5) I got used (addicted) to that feeling and I wanted to have more of it
6) I realized that the only way to have more of it was to get my super boss to compliment me again
7) And for that I needed to crack another big deal
8) And hence I need to increase my efforts (productivity) at work.
Before the age of social media your dopamine induced happiness rested on only a few things…Rewards at work, acknowledgement and love in your personal life and external drugs (most people had no access to drugs then). Hence the only credible way to feel “happy” was through a successful work life and through equitable personal relationships. When I started off my professional career and even now to this date, what motivates me to put my best at work is that validation / acknowledgment from bosses, colleagues, peers on a job well done. It drives me to keep putting my A game forward all the time. But when I see a lot of youngsters at work (and we have a lot of young people at the workplace now) I feel they do not display the same drive, the do or die attitude that was visible at the workplace during the pre-social media era. And it’s pretty visible as “lack of rigour”. When I thought deeply about what could be the source of it, the answer again was “Dopamine”. Thanks to them achieving “hero” status on social media through FB posts, Instagram, Snapchat their need of “validation” is being met in abundance in the external world. A deal at work didn’t go through, no problem. My photo on Insta got 500 likes, THAT is a job well done! I did not finish the report on time, no problem. My post on FB got 274 likes, THAT is a job well done. So if they are getting this validation on social media (and the rush of frequent dopamine shots) on a daily basis, no wonder seeking that out through productivity at work does not cut any ice for them. In fact, most of them get into a victim mentality where they confuse their “heroism” in social media as “heroism” at work without having to work their ass off for the same and resent the fact that they don’t feel “valued” at the workplace. Look how many people love me on social media, why don’t I get the same love from my boss? He must be an idiot!
Whilst I make this general statement about youngsters at work (there are stellar exceptions to this as are there for any other thought), the same does apply to most of us who too who are active on social media. Don’t let your daily validation on your external feeds, affect your trying to seek workplace validation through sheer hard work. Social media “likes” only give a momentary feeling of success but working hard at the workplace not only pays your bills but makes you truly feel recognized and rewarded. This feeling stays long term and motivates you to work harder. Seek a rush of this infusion of dopamine in your brain.

- Mandar Natekar, SVP Viacom 18 Media & Business Head - MTV Music Project.

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