I have an unhealthy relationship with social media.
Using social media should be simple; login, use it for what it was designed for, and logout. The difficulty is that I don’t logout anymore – mentally or digitally.
I’ve never considered myself a heavy user of social media. I only pull out my phone a couple times a day, I don’t have any games installed, and I don’t even have Facebook downloaded.
Despite this conviction, I almost always collapse on my bed and open Instagram when I get home from work. It’s usually followed by Facebook. Then sometimes I meander to Reddit or YouTube – and an hour or two disappears.
I started to notice the personal impacts of social media when I moved across the country in 2013. I used Facebook to stay in touch with my long-distance friends. Over time, I realized that I was spending too much time online – I’d scroll so far through Facebook that I would arrive at posts I’d already seen. Despite this, I’d continue to scroll through the content again to see if there was anything new (there wasn’t).
A couple times, I deleted all social media apps from my phone until I felt comfortable without them. To avoid push notifications, I tried only opening the social media through Google Chrome. I’ve even fasted from my phone by turning it off for a week. Each time I’ve always gone back to using the apps.
It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that I’m the only one responsible for this. It’s easy to say, “just have enough will-power to stop” or “if it’s that bad for you, delete them and move on”. I have the power to do that – but for some reason I can’t make that leap, nor do I want to in the long term.
Social media has ingrained itself so deep within our culture that despite privacy concerns, known associated psychological health issues, and the visible obsession we have with this technology – we still use it.
Though, the point isn’t to escape like a hermit into the mountains. The internet has revolutionized communication, and we shouldn’t step back from innovation. But when the innovation has become so addictive, and the technology so psychologically manipulative, we need to take a step back and evaluate where we are going.
Leaving social media isn’t difficult from a technical standpoint – most websites only take a few clicks if you know where to look. Instead, these sites focus on manipulating you into using their flashy apps and they make themselves appear as though they are the only way that friends can stay in contact.
Take Facebook for example; prior to deactivating your account, you are brought to a page displaying 5 profile pictures of your friends. The screen reads: “Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?” Below that, it says “Your __ friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with you”. Then, above each friends picture, “_(name of friend)_ will miss you”.
Other sites remove features if you don’t use their dedicated app. Instagram doesn’t allow users to view “liked” images in a browser. Facebook doesn’t allow you to view messages on mobile in browser – you must download their Facebook Messenger app.
A whole blog post could be dedicated to the ways that these sites psychologically manipulate you. The point is; you can live without them, despite what they say.
Starting a Project
For the next year, I’m deactivating my social media accounts and abstaining from using social media and similar websites.
Although there are other strategies to lessen use of social media, I feel like I’ve exhausted many of them. I’ve removed the apps from my phone. I’ve taken weeks off and left my phone at home. I’m used apps like “Offtime” to monitor my app usage. Every time I come back to the addiction.
My intention is to spend more time “Going Dark”. I’ve borrowed this expression, which loosely means, “To disappear; to become suddenly unavailable or digitally out of reach” (source). I’ll use this express to describe completely disconnecting (i.e. turning my phone off or leaving it at home, being unable to be reached).
My hope is to develop a healthier relationship with social technologies. During the fast, I want to focus on other aspects of my life that have been neglected – I have a stack of books I need to catch up on, my photography has taken the back burner in the last few years, and even my writing is… well, it needs work.
Too long; didn’t read (or conclusion)
I have an unhealthy relationship with how I use social media. Sometimes I spend hours scrolling through memes and old content when I should be doing other things.
Social media can be psychologically manipulative. Just try to leave it and you’ll see the passive-aggressive nature of some of these sites.
Although social media has potentially harmful risks associated with it, ultimately I’m responsible for correctly using it.
To work on my relationship with social media, I’m abstaining from using it for one year. I’ll continue to blog (without a schedule, definitely not daily). Though, I plan on ‘going dark’ (disconnecting completely, leaving my phone at home and turned off) every now and then.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. I’m working on building this website. If you have any questions or want to say “hi”, feel free to drop a comment below (no WordPress account necessary).
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