Growing up I really didn’t have that much exposure to social media, purely because it wasn’t around back then. I’m 22 now and my life, much like my peers, seems to revolve around it. When I say growing up I really mean until about my early teens. I remember the first time I used Facebook, I must have been about 14. I remember lying about my age just to create the account. That’s where it all began.
My first ‘smart’ device was an iPod Touch, which I got as a Christmas present not long after they came out. I instantly installed Facebook on it but there wasn’t much of a reason for me to go on it. There were a lot of mundane posts from people I vaguely knew about what they had for breakfast or what they did with their mates at the weekend, but I really didn’t see the appeal about it until everyone was on it. Once we were all on it I was convinced it was the best thing to happen to my generation.
I used Facebook daily, endlessly scrolling through my feed, watching videos that I would never have watched on my own accord just because one of my distant acquaintances ‘liked’ it. As I got a bit older, around 19, I started to realise the effect it was having on me. I was on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter by this point. I started to feel crappy about sitting on the sofa in my flat whilst I watched 10-second clips of people I barely knew sunning themselves on the other side of the world.
I started to become much more aware as time went on and I knew I had to do something about it. I’m someone who doesn’t like to waste time and I feel bad when I’m unproductive (I know, I know; I need to work on that too), so I actively went about trying to reduce my consumption.
I don’t get FOMO anymore when I see a holiday snap from my mates because I never see it in the first place.
I’ve come to realise that my personality is somewhat addictive. I’m lucky I found this out early before going on to do anything more harmful. Having an addictive personality means I’m spending many late nights in a YouTube blackhole or I’m endlessly scrolling through Medium, Quora or Flipboard. I’ve found the best way to combat this and my social media addiction is to remove the vice.
It started by unfollowing everyone on Facebook (sorry Mum and Dad, I have no idea what you’re up to unless we speak over the phone), and that reduced the number of useless posts popping up on my feed. Whenever a new post from someone popped up that I missed in my initial ‘cull’ I would simply unfollow them. Eventually, nothing new would pop up on my feed, I scrolled through Facebook every hour or so to realise that there was nothing new. Those hours became days and it’s really worked. I don’t get FOMO anymore when I see a holiday snap from my mates because I never see it in the first place.
I then came to realise that having social media apps on my phone wasn’t helping either. I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone and that extra step, having to go onto Safari or Chrome to then log in to Facebook, just became a faff. One that made me really feel like I was wasting time.
I know excessive use of social media is a problem, and I’m trying to cut down on usage. But is that really my fault?
After the consumption of those two sites decreased dramatically I began to realise that Instagram was a huge timewaster for me too. I would scroll and scroll and scroll, and when I was done looking at my own feed I’d click the explore tab and scroll even more. I began to cut down on whom I followed, even getting some messages asking why I’d unfollowed them (which really exemplifies how consumed by social media we are). Then a feature came out where you can mute their story and their posts, that really helped. The biggest realisation I had on Instagram was in posting stories. Whenever I posted a story I would check every few minutes who had seen it, that’s when I knew it had to stop. Instagram was the next app to be deleted. It was hard because I run an Instagram account for work (yes, ironic) and I am a photographer in my spare time and a lot of my work comes from DM’s, but I would redownload the app every day or so just to check I hadn’t missed a message. I now haven’t had Instagram on my phone for a week. It’s getting better.
I know excessive use of social media is a problem, and I’m trying to cut down on usage. But is that really my fault? I’ve been exposed to it all so much, my life seems to revolve around it; there’s no escaping it. My parents are on it now and I see them endlessly scrolling like I used to do. The head honchos for these platforms have done a good job of making us crave it. I know a few people my age who aren’t on Facebook whatsoever and I really respect that. People are becoming more and more aware. I read books on my commute to work now and all I see are people hunched over their phones. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t do that, but when I see a fellow commuter on my train with a book too I know there’s hope.