The Dystopia of Social Media
“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Have you ever taken the same picture multiple times until you found one that was just right? Have you ever considered deleting a post because it didn’t receive enough reacts? I’ve been there.
I sometimes find myself reviewing all of the reactions on a Facebook post, looking to see who liked it, as if the reactions were some sort of coin collection.
While I took some time this weekend to watch a documentary on Netflix titled “The Social Dilemma,” I thought about this a bit more. I thought about where social media is taking us as a society.
The film discussed a few issues that I felt resonated with me, as much as I hate to admit it. I’ve studied at the University of Florida for a semester now, and for a good part of the time, I have been paying attention to how much people react to something I post.
I’ve scoured over impressions and new follower counts; I’ve researched hashtags, and read articles on how to take advantage of mere seconds for my posts to capture one’s attention.
While these are great things for growing a small business, and while social media is great for connecting with others, the reality is that there is a negative side to social media. What sometimes starts as a simple way to connect people and businesses can in fact, turn into an addiction.
There are plenty of things to be addicted to on social media. Some are addicted to reactions, while others are addicted to content.
I feel like I could go on for days about how people use applications such as Facetune or one of the endless number of filters out there. I could talk for days about how we create memes or eliminate all respect for everything including ourselves for a bit of “clout.” Then there’s the increased rates of depression and anxiety. Here’s a 21-minute Joe Rogan interview of Jonathan Haidt, NYU professor and social psychologist from the movie:
One of the craziest things about social media is how it has shown us that humans are able to simultaneously love themselves so much, but respect their agency and value so little.
When the interviewees spoke of how we know longer know what is real, that hit pretty good because I have felt this way for quite some time. We cannot even begin to debate the solutions to our problems when we cannot even begin to understand the facts.
Social media isn’t entirely bad, however. I’ve been able to share information on businesses that I support, connect with work colleagues, and have healthy discussions on the issues of the day.
Taking it more personally, in July of 2019, I received a message on Facebook messenger from a woman living near San Diego, California.
The woman told me that she was the maternal half-sister of another woman who was looking for me. That other woman turned out to be my biological paternal half-sister. She’s a wonderful person, and thanks to social media, I was able to meet a half-sister I never had known existed.
Social media isn’t inherently bad, but when put into the hands of the wrong people, it can be. There should definitely be age limits to using social media. This technology requires responsibility and control. Some people cannot go anywhere without their phone.
I broke my phone screen in January 2019, (I mean this thing was shattered), and I couldn’t use my phone until my replacement came in. I have to say, I felt free during those four days without my phone. My phone comes with expectations and I’m supposed to respond to people immediately. However, when my phone was broken, I had an excuse to take a social media vacation.
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”
— Mark Twain
We need a break from everything at times, even the greatest connection capability that the world has ever seen. On my own phone, I have a setting that sends me a report of how long I spend on social media. I have another setting that limits my time on Facebook to two hours total per day. I have no notifications from social media apps, except for YouTube (which I need to cut off), and I keep my phone on silent about 95% of the time. That last part really annoys my wife, who insists I take my phone off of silent.
At the end of the day, we should really examine whether or not we’ve been using too much social media, or if our behavior towards others has changed because of social media. It is hard to compete with the vast potential of artificial intelligence, and without good reflection and good habits, we can really get sucked up into the chaos.