Back in December 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi had just hit cinemas. As someone who had fallen victim to unwarned spoilers on the internet before, I hatched a simple plan. I deleted my social media apps temporarily.
Facebook, Instagram, all of them. What happened, however, was more than I could have ever anticipated.
Gone was the constant bombardment of information and advertising. The incessant opinions of strangers on the internet that I don’t care about. The need to idolise edited pictures of people looking for likes. The subtle little changes made by these apps that adapt to my behaviour patterns.
I felt liberated. I felt like a weight was off my shoulders.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last. Being at university at the time and being a core member of multiple courses and societies, communication was essential and social media had to make a return.
I’ve seen the negative effects of social media with my own eyes. There’s not a single person I know who hasn’t been made anxious and jittery about what they post or what they see.
It is impossible for many of my peers to enjoy a night of their lives without wanting to upload an artificial portrait of a perfect existence just for other people’s validation.
Life is a complex and infinitely-layered thing. It’s impossible to obtain the slightest shred of information on somebody’s life based on one photo. Yet, millions of people all over the world fret constantly about how they present themselves. All over whether people will double-tap a photo.
Renowned tech guru Jaron Lanier is perhaps the leading light when it comes to dissecting the negative effects of social media. He has analysed and researched the internet since its inception.
Lanier understands the devastation that this interconnected web of statistical overload can affect people’s lives. I urge you to listen to his talks.
Recommended Reading: Should social media accounts require identification?
The nasty truth of it all is that human beings have shifted and morphed so much as a result of the last two decades. Everywhere you go, all you see is people with their heads buried into their phones. Constantly scrolling. Reacting to one thing and then immediately forgetting it, not taking in the world around them.
The worst thing about it is the obligation. At the end of the day, social media is the most convenient tool in one’s arsenal for communication. You create plans, you organise events, you have debate and discussion on it.
This obligation to keep connected and the simplicity of it all has created a dependency for many. And in turn, it has created a mental and emotional prison for them.
Everyone wants to be a celebrity, or at least feel important. That’s what the addiction is.
The illusion of importance is constructed by online images that only tell a fragment of a story. The media is making it worse, pushing false narratives, and covering only negative events, instead of dividing news with happy stories.
I count myself lucky in a way. Ever since graduating from university, the people I’ve associated with have slowly dwindled away, leaving me with a small handful of meaningful friends.
It’s cathartic to me, knowing that people who I’ve met have lives of their own and we no longer need to make ourselves burdens for one another.
So next time you have a moment, avoid the natural inclination to seize your phone. Maybe even consider a break now and then. There’s a lot to look at when your head is arched low but there is more to look at when you glance up at the real world.