For the twelve billionth time (or so it feels), I find myself hovering over the “delete” buttons of my social media accounts, wondering if I’d be better off without them.
If you’ve been following the Facebook whistleblower news, then you may be feeling the same way. The thing is, nothing she’s said has surprised me at all. I think most people my age who are watching aren’t surprised either, although they might pretend to be. We all know that social media is unhealthy, that it doesn’t make us feel good after we’ve used too much of it, that it affects our quality of life, that it’s addictive, and that it’s especially bad for kids. It’s exactly like alcohol, except that if you look around Instagram for a minute you’ll find more people going dry and chugging non-alcoholic herbal elixirs than you will people leaving social media platforms.
I deleted my Instagram account earlier today. I don’t have Twitter, Snapchat, Tiktok, or WhatsApp. But Facebook persists. I was about to click that button when I remembered that I attended a friend’s wedding a couple of weeks ago and that the pictures featuring me haven’t been posted yet. I was so disgusted with myself: I’m keeping Facebook so that I can see pictures of myself at someone else’s wedding? So that I can subtly show off to a collection of acquaintances who may or may not even see what gets added to my profile? So that I can curate this narcissistic collection of crap that makes me look active and interesting and popular? Gross. So, so, so, so gross. And so immature.
I’ve noticed that social media often makes me feel younger than I am. It takes me (and many others) back to a high school mindset of social posturing, attempting to elicit envy and FOMO. Isn’t it unhealthy for us to remain locked in that emotional space when so many of us have real lives now? We have families, we have important jobs, we have homes to take care of, dogs to walk, meals to prepare, towels to wash, lunches to pack. What’s wrong with us that makes us still care whether Rob from freshman year film class sees a picture of us at age thirty-three?
The answer is that there isn’t anything wrong with us. We’re being manipulated and controlled. We’re addicted to something designed to be addictive. It’s not even a secret anymore, and we still can’t stop because of how powerful it is. This is often where people start rolling their eyes and saying that it’s just the internet, it’s no big deal, it’s just the latest thing, it’s just entertainment. But take a gut-check and see if you really believe that deep-down.
I might still be thinking about this tomorrow morning, but oh well. It merits some deep thoughts.