A decided critique. (Read: beating).
Social media is the problem we are all talking about, but the drug we cannot get enough of. As a young person who I believe has a decent grasp on her social media use, I would like to share my thoughts on social media and how I have avoided getting sucked into the overuse and misuse of it.
Social media is many things. In order to fix your social media-induced depression and addiction, we have to classify social media. The first, most basic classification of social media is social media as recreation.
Let’s talk about recreation. Most people would agree that recreation — doing (or not doing) for fun and not for any type of productivity — is fine, granted that you are not doing anything harmful or to excess. When we use social media as a form of recreation, it seems that it would be a fine way to pass the time, except that oftentimes, social media is harmful and can be done in excess.
The first concern we have about using social media for recreation, that it is harmful, is exemplified in the usage of social media to broadcast our lives and by extension compare our lives to those of others. It is said that comparison is the thief of joy, and this is true regarding comparing oneself to others on social media, even if you are comparing your posts to their posts only in the privacy of your own unspoken thoughts. A habit of such behaviors will only cause you to feel depressed. And if you can’t logically deduce that, try Instagram for a while and see where your mood gets. Likewise, broadcasting and self-promotion of one’s envy-inducing bikini pictures and vacations is a rat race, and unless you get off — quickly — it is a danger to your happiness.
The self-promotion and secret comparisons made after a long day of working and picking your children up from soccer practice are a large part of what social media as recreation exists for. And social media gets a lot of flack because these are bad things. And they are bad things. And an app that feeds off of concocting base human stumbling blocks in an easy, accessible way is not really any good for anyone.
We might let this slide, and only do a little of what is bad for us, but many people have a problem also with spending too much time on social media. Now, I don’t believe that this wasting of time on social media is something insurmountable. I also don’t think you’re addicted to the bare-bones social media actions — the editing and snapping and clicking and perusing— but the vices theses actions make so easy to give in to and get sucked in to are very much like addictions. Once you start comparing and actively being jealous, you cannot stop.
This tangible cycle of jealousy and judgment on others and yourself keeps you caught and doesn’t let you go. Whereas people used compare themselves by looking at their neighbors’ farms and coveting their cows and feeling like shit, or otherwise being excessive, foolishly proud of their own cows, we now have access to look at everyone’s “cows” with just a finger-touch. Looking at cows and trying to measure up is fun, except when you don’t measure up, which you never will. And this is why you spend so much time on social media, looking at the next person’s post, and the next, hoping to find someone worse off than you are so that you can feel better about yourself.
It is possible that you are spending so much time online for a different reason, but I don’t know what that would be. As far as I know, the comparison trap is the main reason we are sucked in.
Now, some would argue that no, social media was not created for these dastardly aims, it was made for our second classification: a tool of communication used to keep in touch with old friends. That may be true. But of all the ways one can use social media, using it for communication and relationships is arguably the stupidest.
How, you may ask, is thinking to connect with acquaintances and friends via these apps worthy of the scorn of being called stupid? It is stupid because Instagramming and Snapping are insufficient tools to largely base relationships off of.
Human relationships are complex, emotional, by turns delicate and by turns solid things. To have a true friend or family is one of the greatest things life has to offer any of us. We most traditionally become friends or family by seeing each other and having conversations. We help each other through hard times, and we celebrate the good times. Being a friend entails so much meaning, and the mortal tools of social media are insufficient to make of someone a “friend.”
In order to be a friend, you have to express a desire to see someone. You have to risk your want of friendship with a person being rejected. You have to have a first conversation with the person… and let’s not lie, it will be an awkward first conversation. You have to *gasp* put on real pants and go meet them for lunch… in public, even if you’d rather stay in bed.
Snapchat and Instagram take all the effort, rejection, commitment, and delicious social awkwardness out of our relationships. We do have a compensation for the awkwardness, however, when in real life we wave at someone we’ve been snapping for days and they don’t look up.
Social media is different from calling or even texting, precisely because of the lack of physical or emotional investment. If someone Snapchats you and you don’t pick up, they feel less rejected than if they had called you or texted you, because we all know that it's much easier to miss checking a snap than a text or a call. Therefore, if a call or text message is rejected, it will hurt much more than the snap, and furthermore, calls and texts are much more likely to be rejected because they take more time to reply to. In this way, laziness in human interactions is made more socially acceptable when Snapchatting is increasing and calling is decreasing. This facilitation and sanction of laziness can, however, be said of most technological advancements since, well, fire and iron. However, with each new advancement, we lose the effort that partially made our gestures meaningful, and this is especially so with social advancement. At a certain point, we may advance so much that in the grand scheme, of what it is to be human, we go backward.
This is why social media is insufficient to use to keep strong relationships alive over the years. I suppose if you are satisfied with your friends being online, and the meager amount of commitment that entails, and your online friends are also satisfied with knowing you from afar, then you should enjoy those relationships. I, for one, have never been satisfied to have 400 Instagram followers and no one to hang out with one Friday night, and I don’t believe this is a position reserved to just myself.
This is a sad conclusion, however, if you are connected with people via social media who you don’t want to lose. In that case, I suggest you put in the effort to call them and talk through an actual conversation. That is difficult, given that they may not reciprocate the desire to put in the effort of a call into your relationship like you do. In that case, though, are they worth your time?
And that’s all I have to say about that. Social media is only bad if you use it badly. But two of the main aims it is used for have bad outcomes or ones insufficient for their intended purpose.
As a final note, some information I feel you are privy to is that I do not have most social media apps. I do spend time on Medium, but I think Medium is less easily classified as social media in the negative connotation I have showered upon it in this article, and Medium seems to be free of the vices I have mentioned which are present in other apps. I have had Instagram and Snapchat in the past — for years at a time — but I did not like them because they did not do anything for my relationships or my happiness. Occasionally since giving up social media I will look at the Instagram on my friend’s phone for amusement, but every time the drop in my mood after looking at the Instagrams of people I know is so blatant, I find that even a small dose of social media once in a while is not a good thing. And seeing as it’s hard to stop once you start, avoidance and not having Instagram or Snapchat is better for me.