Confessions of a Social Media Abstainer

Image from Pinterest | Illustration by Janice Chang

Everything now is digital, take banking, entertainment, shopping, working, studying, dating, even this very article. The world has gone digital from sound transmitting telephones in 1876 to text messaging, internet accessing, wireless connecting, advanced computing, and audio-visual transmitting smartphones, further into advancements in data, robotics, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence. So much so that this era of technological advancement gave birth to the concept of ‘Digital detox,’ a self-initiated period of avoiding using any digital or electronic device.

The need for digital detoxification roots in linked psychological effects of frequent screen time: heightened attention-deficit symptoms, impaired emotional and social intelligence, technology addiction, social isolation, impaired brain development, and disrupted sleep. Refraining from using devices helps cope with technostress and helps regain equanimity and balance concerning IT use (Mirbabaie et al., 2022). Psychology really said, “okay, that’s too much.”

In a digital detox webinar that I attended, ironically held online, participants were asked ten close-ended questions to assess technological dependence. I wasn’t even surprised to find that I am in no dire need of a digital detox compared to most participants, but having answered ‘yes’ to only two questions got me thinking if I was too disconnected. Am I weird? Do I need help too?

I do have social media accounts, but rarely do I visit them. I’m somewhat conservative and prefer reading or viewing or not visiting sites at all rather than creating when it comes to the personal content that I share on social media sites. This medium account was made not for personal reasons but solely for academic purposes, and I don’t even have Facebook or Youtube installed on my phone. The fingers in my hand would be enough to count how many posts I had done in the past year.

To be clear, I have nothing against social media sites. Although it enables oversharing and may consume valuable time, these reasons greatly rely on the user and not the platform. It is not easy to admit, but my digital abstinence is a choice rooted in my fear of scrutiny and permanence.

I think of the possible reception before even composing or typing a post. (Is this appropriate? Will I be bullied for this? Is this even necessary?) This excruciating man-vs-himself scenario repeatedly plays in my head, taking me hours to end up with just two words typed or, most of the time, nothing. Such a case is I’m confusing self-expression, dwelling on what people would think rather than what I do. Even as I write this article, I constantly remind myself that someone will be reading this and that I should not do or write anything that would deem me incompetent — a tough mental battle.

Another concern is the digital footprint. Once the content is shared online, it will always be online. Even what I view is taken into account in metadata. It’s like a track record that follows you everywhere, a shadow that never leaves, and eyes that glances nowhere else. The internet is a world of its own, alive and thriving, never still and never asleep — that scares me.

On the contrary, school-related activities online don’t scare me as much, although I can’t say the same for this article, as this is my first time attempting to pass anything online outside school. Maybe because I’ve gotten used to it more than two years into the pandemic, or perhaps the digital environment is somehow controlled, follows netiquette, and is friendlier.

Despite my confession of fear, I can’t deny or ignore the digital world; like most students, my entire academic and professional career depends on it already. It’s not a matter of belief. It has paved the way for scientific breakthroughs that have contributed to many aspects of society, whether industrial, agricultural, educational, etc. The dynamic global benefit of continuing developments in digitalization and the likes of social media platforms is simply a fact that everyone must accept. Adapting to this new mode of communication and connection is an inevitable phase in societal evolution.

Nevertheless, the internet, social media sites, and humanity’s pursuit of digitalization are here to stay. So, to whoever behaves the way I do, first, I’m not even sure you’re reading this, and second, if you are, I think we better up our digital game.

Author bio:

Aivian Culanag is a first-year college Communication student at Saint Louis University, Baguio, Philippines. She aspires to be a writer, desiring to increase her skill set for future academic and professional ventures. She aims to accustom herself to different forms of written text, beginning with journalism being one of the many, aside from creative writing, in which she is particularly interested.

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