“It is the eye of other people that ruin us. If I were blind – I would want neither fine clothes, fine houses, nor fine furniture.” – Benjamin Franklin
Don’t think social media usage affects you much? Meanwhile the red notification bubbles of the three or four apps you use daily are beeping while you read this. Why would anyone suggest you stop or limit using these powerful applications? They’ve grown to influence our entire lives and have roots fixed in our daily thoughts. I took the leap and deleted Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit off of my phone 5 weeks ago – below are the reasons that pushed me into doing this.
What you absorb on social media influences your thinking, even if you’re only scrolling through headlines.
You subtly drown out your own thoughts with the outrage-inducing headlines you read daily. Social media has trained us to scroll through our newsfeed, barely even glancing at an articles unless it is something that we agree with, and leaving us to believe we understand what is going on in the world. It has caused a form of superficial research to happen, which – while we are reading more than many generations have before now, the content we are reading has been dumbed-down to an easy enough level that will entice people to share something with very little substance.
This process of partial absorption of a lot of material headlines drowns out our own thought process. The thoughts we think are our own unique thoughts have actually been influenced by a few strategically placed words in the headlines we read earlier – influencing us in a certain direction that we may have otherwise had completely different opinions about if we had spent time to do more complete research. Your voice becomes the conglomerate of echo chamber voices, which prevents you from solidifying your own style of thought.
Social Media unintentionally (and frequently) causes you to contrast yourself with other people
Anyone that has heard the tenets of most major religions or even read about positive psychology will know that comparing yourself to others is one of the major ways people kick themselves out of a positive state of existence. You will never have a full understanding of what it took for that person to post a picture of their brand new Ferrari on facebook. You don’t know if it’s rented or bought, you don’t know if they bought it themselves, you don’t know if they even own it or if they walked up to it on the street. Even if it is there car – what does that matter for your life? Wondering what it would be like if you owned that car does nothing towards producing the changes in your life that you need to actually develop thoughts and ideas that will get you there. Finding freedom through your own voice is what will do that – and envious glances at other people’s lives are a distraction for that process.
Users shape their lives on social media in ways they can’t in real life. A person’s social media is their fiction; a crafted reality.
Going along with the topic mentioned before this – not only are you comparing yourself to others, but you’re comparing yourself to an alternate reality that the user you’re viewing has carefully created. It is like a teenage girl comparing herself to a photoshopped woman in a health magazine – what she’s comparing herself to has been altered to be as appealing as possible to garner readers into believing the advice of the health magazine is worth the price listed on the outer cover. Users want other users to think they are happy, because if people think you are happy – then you must be happy, right? This is a form of convincing themselves that their relationship, job, and life are good because posting a nice picture is a lot easier than taking the time to dive into your thoughts about how to improve things that may not be going as well as you had wanted. Freedom, though, isn’t found in posting nice pictures and counting how many likes you get – it’s found in taking the time to understand why you are the way you are, and improving your philosophy and understanding of your inner mind.
Social Media networks create an eco-chamber of similar thoughts. Contrarians get no ‘likes’ and are algorithmically driven from your news feed.
It is very well known that Facebook has highly advanced algorithms working to feed you content on your news feed. This involves taking into account every single click you make on the website, analyzing the text of statuses you read or photos and post you write, to determine what will most interest you and keep you logged into their platform. This is great in terms of a business models – because Facebook will literally show you exactly what you want to see. This process, however, is terrible for getting you to see outside of the eco-chamber of your network.
Another funny thing Facebook does is show you things that may outrage you – which studies have found is the fastest way to get news to spread. You may think this counts as exposing you to new ideas, but in fact what this is actually doing is causing you to hold strong to your previous beliefs even more, by getting you to believe you’ve considered an alternate view – while in fact you’ve just read an article that just gives you ammunition for your current beliefs.
Networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter get you addicted to their service – by making you believe “likes” have value and by emailing you more dopamine-inducing content if you leave.
Facebook has troves of data on exactly what it takes to get users: A) Stuck on their site B) Visiting multiple times a day C) Returning if they’ve left for over 24 hours. When I quit social media 5 weeks ago, I found after the first two or three days that I started receiving emails about “Everything you’ve missed!” since I was off. Keep this in mind – I was off no longer than a day or two, easily something people can do if they’re caught up with work or school. These platforms want you to always be using them, because active users means higher revenue and more capital to continue the cycle.
Social media websites have a great thing going for them – a new currency we call “Likes”. Reddit has this too in the form of upvotes. People now spend their lives taking pictures for several minutes before eating their food, so that they can post it and make other people envious of their meal in exchange for likes. We “like” what we envy and we promote the cycle for everyone on the platform. A “Like” produces a dopamine hit, and the more likes we get the better we feel about ourselves. What few people realize is that these ‘Likes’, while great at making the animal mind happy, do nothing for our actual self-confidence and keep our minds glued for the next opportunity to get our ‘fix’ from the platform.
The Solution To Social Mediaism – What You Can Do To Encourage Your Own Voice
Use Social Media for your benefit – do not let it use you. Install software like RescueTime to monitor your usage or an app like ClearLock (Android) to temporary block apps for a set amount of time. Right now if you’re visiting Facebook 3 times a day, you’re being used and I can almost guarantee you the benefit is null or negative in your life. How many times today have you seen a post that upset you or made you feel envious? If the answer is more than 0 – you could’ve also spent that time being happy and preoccupied with something other than the social media platform you visited.
It’s true that Social Media has done great things for keeping people connected and allowing them to communicate over long distances. I have nothing against this amazing aspect of these platforms. The situation you want to avoid, though, is the one where you think you’re really gaining something valuable from and that your time was well spent, when your time was really used to generate revenue while your inner voice grows dull.
-Anthony From AuthenticGrowth.com