Your online activity is doing something doing nothing

Sometimes we do something even when there is nothing to do
Sometimes we do something even when there is nothing to do

Millions of Sony Playstation users are biting their nails this morning following further revelations that the company has been hacked and that personal user details have potentially been stolen. Meanwhile, millions more people are puzzled as to why anyone should want to break into a gaming system in the first place. After all, it gains huge publicity so the people affected can take action, preventing any criminal activity with, say, stolen credit card details. And there is the risk of being caught and ending up in jail. What we’ll probably find out in the end is that the hackers did it simply because they could.

Whenever computer systems have been broken into, when web sites have been hacked, the culprits invariably have little reason behind their actions. The most common reply to the question “why did you do it?” is “because I can”. In other words it appears to be activity without any real reason.

We find this puzzling – especially in the days of goal-setting and the need to achieve. In fact, when we get stories like the current Playstation problem you’ll find people saying things like “if only they had a proper job” and such things. In other words, there is an all pervasive sense of the need to do “something valuable” rather than” wasting our lives”.

However, new research from the University of Illinois shows that we appear driven to activity – any activity – by the culture around us. In other words, if everyone around us is active we also feel the desire to be active. Yet if we have nothing to do, we fill the void with something, just to be active. What that means is we do things, simply because we feel the need to do something – anything. In Western cultures in particular the desire to “do something” is immense, whereas other cultures and societies do not have this drive; in these parts of the world it is perfectly acceptable to do nothing.

According to the researchers the drive to do “something” could lay behind the differences in illicit drug taking, for instance. When society pushes you to do something and you actually have nothing to do, anything that pops along can help fill the void. We appear to be rewarded psychologically for “activity” even if it is “pretend” activity.

You see this online all the time – people sign up for every social network going, or each of the latest additions to Facebook. They do it because “everyone is doing it”, but with little strategic or objective thinking. You also see people “doing” things like newsletters – with no real plan – simply because everyone else does it. They also add new bells and whistles to their websites because it is something to do.

STOP….!

Much online activity is clearly driven by the desire to do something, this all encompassing need and drive to do anything, no matter what.

Yet, this simple desire to be active could well be the very thing which is negatively impacting upon your online presence.

It is OK do to nothing…! Indeed, it might be better for your web presence to avoid the pressure to be active online and simply sit back and think strategically. Sometimes, thinking is enough of an activity to help your future web business. Perhaps all those Sony hackers needed was to sit and think – their lives may well have been better as a result as they would have avoided inevitable jail when caught.

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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
Not entirely sure I believe this, but it's worth thinking about. "Global m-commerce will overtake desktop shopping… https://t.co/VF6jGe9O0i - 47 mins ago
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