Social Media, a Pad of Paper, and Leaders

By | February 1, 2020

[February 1, 2020]  U.S. Air Force Lieutenant J.J. Johnson is a smart, insightful officer with an English college degree from Princeton University.  I was headed to another meeting with senior officers when I passed his unassuming cubicle, where he sits for work as a Civil Engineer.  Hanging on a string was a pad of paper with a pen attached.  Scribbled across the top were two words; fighter and bomber.  Below each were tally marks and a few scribbled remarks left by passersby voicing their opinions.

Lt Johnson deleted his Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts several months ago.  In its place, he had developed his own, new form of social media that engages anyone willing to give an opinion.  The “pad of paper” debates are lively, thoughtful ponderings about various topics of military and widespread interest.  These debates have recreated the friendly arguments and conversations that had been promised by social media platforms.  LT Johnson told me that he found social media to be self-promoting, ego-boosting, and rife with other adverse features.

Increasingly, social media is a platform for self-promotion and personal branding.  Additionally, it is massively time-consuming.  He did not like the idea of spending enormous amounts of time on what is, arguably, an oppressive form of communication.  LT Johnson was concerned about the way social media led him to treat other people.  No longer was social media a truly social platform but a self-centered network of a loosely-connected people with marginal interests on what he thought necessary.

It was hard, but after some soul-searching, LT Johnson decided that social media was no longer worth it.  Several scientific studies have recently found a disconcerting relationship between social media use and an increase in suicide rates.  He deleted all his accounts.  Initially, he missed a few aspects of social media but remained happy about his decision to leave it behind.

Finding a pad of paper leftover from a previous cubicle occupant, LT Johnson decided to spark up conversations about U.S. Air Force topics and old philosophical debates long forgotten.  His new social media (pad of paper) forum was much easier to monitor and moderate.  Importantly, it did not allow for the “false self-promotion narrative” as he called his fresh form of communication.  LT Johnson is on his sixth or seventh two-word topic and he has become an office “superstar.”

By closing the social media door, LT Johnson discovered an old but now innovative way to keep the interesting parts of social media.  His method has been good-natured and light-hearted while dispensing with its negative effects.  He encourages others to consider a similar course of action.  I like this officer.


Note: See previous posts here in that addresses on leadership and social media (see links here and here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

21 thoughts on “Social Media, a Pad of Paper, and Leaders

  1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    I enjoyed the story and advice that flowed from it. Thanks.

  2. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    It should be no shock to those reading this leadership blog that social media has taken over much of our lives by consuming nearly all our “free time.” That said, it is no longer easy to take it back; primarily for social and psychological reasons. I never really gave it much thought until recently. That is why I’ve decided to close down my accounts and try my best to simplify my life and that of my family. We’re cooperating to make this “new” way of life a better place for us all.

    1. Joe Omerrod

      And so it goes, we are drowning in those social media apps and stuck to our iPhones and iPads. So much for more freedom in an age of peace and prosperity. Well said, Otto. Good luck. Get back to us in the future to let us know how it’s going.

  3. Harry Donner

    I only wish some of our politicians would give up on social media.
    Yeah right and the sun will not come up tomorrow.

  4. Len Jakosky

    People remember stories and they really remember those with a great meaning behind them. I will remember this story too and tell it to some of my friends at work this coming Monday. Thanks for another worthy article.

  5. Valkerie

    Got my coffee, petted my dog, and opened my iPad to General Satterfield leadership blog. Well done!

  6. Dr. William Blake, Sr.

    When you get rid of social media you begin to cut off the small tangents of relationships that are shallow and, frankly, unnecessary. That is why so many are addicted. Children as young as 7 years old are all over social media without any parental guidance. Of course, that’s a huge problem and some say is what leads to a higher suicide rate in the US and Canada. Great website, Gen. Satterfield. Keep up the great work you are doing for us.

    1. Karl J.

      Dr. William, spot-on comment about the addictive power of social media. Very few people will even notice that you’ve dropped these things. I opted out of Facebook two years ago and haven’t missed it since. Thank goodness I have a wonderful family and now I can give them more time.

      1. Bill Sanders, Jr.

        Good for you guys. Most of us don’t have that luxury. I have to stay in touch with most of my relatives that way.

        1. Lynn Pitts

          Bill, I know you’ve been a regular reader of Gen. Satterfield’s leadership blog now for a while. You should know by now that we all personally control our own destiny, our own habits and behaviors, and our own way of thinking. You too can give it up, if only you are serious about it. Best of luck.

      2. Shawn C. Stolarz

        Thanks guys for pointing out what seems to be an obvious way of gaining more time with the family. Also, a good idea to stop watching television too. We center our lives around the boob tube and what do we get for it? Nothing.

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      Good comment Dr. Blake. And the owner of Facebook and all the other forms of social media know why it works that way but because they are making so much cash, they are unwilling to stop. Shows how much they care about the “little guy”.

  7. Tom Bushmaster

    Except for about 30 minutes a day reading info on leadership and my email, I gave up all other forms of social media a couple of years ago. You would be amazed at how much more I can get done in a single day when I don’t have to worry about self-promotion on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and all those stupid little ones like Redditt.

    1. Eric Coda

      So true. Good one for the start of my weekend. I’m getting my reading in early and I’m up early well before my family so that I can get my daily dose of leadership rucksack info before anyone else gets out of bed.

      1. JT Patterson

        Keep it up, Eric and who knows what will happen with your life. I wonder what would have gone right for me if I’d done this my whole life instead of spending time in bed snoozing.

    2. Yusaf from Texas

      I’m happy to find a bunch of great young men and women who seem to have a better grasp of reality and what will make theirs lives better all the time. That gives me hope that not all young folks are commie liberals.


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