Core Concepts · · 3 min read

Shiny Platform Syndrome

Every now and then, you may feel the pull to start investing time in some new platform that you're not currently active on.

Maybe it's YouTube. Or Bluesky. Or LinkedIn. It could be [anything].

Whatever it is – it's probably a trap.

Let me tell you a little bit about the Dunning-Kruger Effect. From Wikipedia:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias whereby people with low ability, expertise, or experience regarding a certain type of task or area of knowledge tend to overestimate their ability or knowledge. Some researchers also include the opposite effect for high performers: their tendency to underestimate their skills.

Said another way – when we have limited experience with something, we tend to overestimate our ability to do that thing.

Tim Urban of Wait But Why visualized this phenomenal with some easy-to-understand labels:

When you're not yet publishing on [LinkedIn] or [Bluesky] or whatever, your feet are planted firmly at the top of Child's Hill. Since you don't have much experience with that platform outside of being a consumer, it feels easy. It feels like you could master it.

In fact, it feels easier than the platforms you're CURRENTLY tackling – because on those platforms, you're probably in stages 2, 3, or 4. You've acquired experience which has given you the knowledge that this pursuit is harder than you thought.

This is the vicious cycle of Shiny Platform Syndrome.

Success on any platform is challenging. You probably wouldn't put your life savings on the line in a game against a professional Poker player – they have WAY more experience so your odds of beating them are very low.

As a creator, the competition for attention gets more fierce every day too. There are professional Instagramers. Professional YouTubers. Professional TikTokers. If their content is fighting for the same total daily attention on the app as you are, they're going to have an edge.

So I understand why we fall prey to Shiny Platform Syndrome...it's exciting to start something new. Something new has seemingly LIMITLESS potential...and because we don't have any data yet, our imaginations run wild with what could possibly happen for us.

THIS platform could be where I find my luck!

And to further complicate things, we tend to get a (false) positive response when we launch new things. When we make a big deal about, "Hey come over here! I'm doing something new!" the people who care about us get excited too.

So the beginning on a new platform or medium truly DOES feel like something is different – because people tune in to see what we're up to.

But you don't get better at [Instagram] by following your Shiny Platform instinct to invest time on [LinkedIn]. You just feel like [LinkedIn] will be easier because you're standing at the top of Child's Hill.

Slowly, over time, the people who aren't truly invested in following along on that new platform fall away – and your engagement normalizes back to the slow growth, plateau, or even decay that you were seeing on OTHER platforms.

Even worse: now you feel the pressure to maintain all of these platforms!

That's the real cost of Shiny Platform Syndrome.

By spreading yourself thin across more platforms, it's almost guaranteed that your work will suffer on each of them.

It's less remarkable, it's less likely to be so good that people share it, and you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole chasing [LinkedIn] glory that you may never achieve.

It's not that you can't achieve [LinkedIn] glory. It's that we shouldn't expect to be GOOD at something without doing it a whole bunch of times.

And we can't expect RESULTS until we are good at something.

It's possible to succeed on multiple platforms – but it's the exception, not the norm. You can get straight As while taking five classes at once, but it's certainly easier if you're only taking one.

So when we follow our Shiny Object Syndrome, we're generally signing up to become 1.) bad at something new and 2.) more mediocre at the things we've been practicing over time! That platform that felt like it was getting harder before has now definitely gotten harder because you've stepped away from practice.

Shiny Platform Syndrome is a trap. It can make you excited to start and you may even see some initial (false) positive results...but now you have a huge, new commitment. You have a massive, new maintenance cost.

So, if you want to be known for your work – if you want to create something that people truly love – exercise restraint and focus on that thing. Climb the Grown-Up Mountain in Stage 5.

Minimize the time and attention you're putting into other things for the purpose of getting great at the one thing.

Dividing your focus has a cost...and it's usually the very goal you're working towards.

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