As a society, we seem to have come to a consensus that social media kind of sucks. It messes with how we see ourselves, it’s a massive waste of time, and using it has been linked to poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Like a child that doesn’t know how to stop eating mud even though you’ve told them it’s bad for them, we still shovel it in. But in this case it isn’t E. coli and animal faeces that’s rotting away in our guts, it’s depression and anxiety rotting away our brains.
Clearly the social media giants don’t care about the effects their platforms are having on us - but I don’t think all of the fault lies with them. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat - they’re all just blank slates for us to do with what we will. Sure, they’ve been perfectly catered to reward our worst qualities (envy, pride, lust, greed) but we still choose to engage with them every day to chase that dopamine hit of another like, or another DM.
And we’re fully aware of what we’re doing. We’ll take 100 selfies to try and get the angle that will get the most likes. We’ll delete posts that aren’t ‘performing well.’ We’ll screenshot statuses and laugh about people in group chats behind their back. We’ll give a shit about whatever social issue memes are doing the rounds, only to forget about them as soon as a new one comes around.
But, for whatever reason, we just can’t stop. We give up the chance to be an actual decent person for the possibility of ‘winning’ at the social media game. The lines start to blur between our real, authentic personalities, and our own personal ‘brand’ that will make us look the best to people we wouldn’t even stop to talk to in the street.
I’m not above any of this - I might be the worst offender I know. According to my phone, I spend about 6 hours and 54 minutes per day on my phone (and I’m depressed, so there you go). When I think back on it, I don’t think I’ve gained anything from the thousands of hours I’ve spent on social media. All of the worst choices I’ve made have been done through a screen.
I don’t know what the best way is to pull us out of the social media cycle. Limiting your time on Instagram, turning your phone off at night - they’re a good place to start, but I think the problem is deeper than us just putting our phones away. Maybe we just need to work harder to understand how we’re part of the problem, and then put a little bit of effort in to be better.