On Quitting Social Media (for humanity’s sake)

“In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.”

When I read this, I felt as though I had been hit in the chest. If there is one thing I have always desired in life, it is to be a jack-of-all-trades. My desire to have the midas touch became more prominent as the flame of excellence was fanned. Now, “for the sake of the Gospel,” I wanted to know how to do everything, and I wanted to do it excellently.

Well perfect.

But why did I want to be perfect at everything? Why not just one or two things like most people? Why did I need to learn how to master sourdough bread making while becoming a gluten free pastry chef?

Because I fell captive to comparison. I looked to my left and right (most often in the form of social media) to find a measuring rod in which to hold myself to. In moments of disappointment or pain, I would seek solace in those I knew did not have picture perfect lives. But it would take only moments to wander a few clicks over until I was watching somebody’s perfect life unfold. What I didn’t realize was how much social media was both fueling my insecurities and debilitating my mind.

I wanted to be excellent in everything for my own glory. And in doing so, I became mediocre at everything.

While I’m not necessarily speaking singularly in the professional realm, this speaks truth to the issue at hand. “The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about. This is a philosophy perhaps best summarized by the advice Steve Martin used to give aspiring entertainers: ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’”

Instead of seeking to put in the hard work and sacrifice it takes to perfect a singular craft, I dashed from hobby to hobby until eventually my only skill became “micro-hobbyist.”

As I have begun the process of self-analyzing, I have come to realize that much of this pursuit has been fueled by unrealized obsession over social media. I loved watching the perfect lives of others. I especially loved it when they were “real” and told me about how their laundry wasn’t done. My best life now (with of course, the realistic spin of unfinished laundry) seemed to exist at the tips of my fingers. Social media has fed us the false perception that it is strengthening us, when in turn, it has become our biggest weakness. Our generation, and the generation that follows, has swallowed this mentality whole, without so much as a pause to chew.

“Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive.”

We were not made to be stimulated like this. Our brains are deteriorating faster than we realize, and all at the work of our own hands. Falling victim to our own folly and desire to be more involved, more informed, more capable, more connected — and now we are living half-lives. Not present online and not present in the flesh. We are losing what makes us human.

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not a bad tree. But it was not intended for us. I think this amount of social media and technology may be the same. There is wisdom in learning how to say no. We are not God, and we must stop trying to be like Him.

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