Befriending the Social Media Monster

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“There are only two industries that call their customers “users”: illegal drugs and software”  – Edward Tufte  

This is a strong statement that was brought up on Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma.”

In complete awe and intrigue with that production, I wrote an article about it last month with the question “where do we draw the line?” when it comes to this technology, which then lead me to write this article today. (If you didn’t get a chance to read it yet – I suggest you start there and come back here!)

We all know the strong turn social media has taken from whence it started. Humanity has never witnessed anything like it throughout history, nor experienced the speed of its growth, let alone take part in it.

 

With all this expansive technology however, arose a few consequences that we’re all facing today, more or less. Short attention spans, lack of motivation and low self-esteem, wasting time, reading less, poor interactions and no real connections… all of which can be detrimental to our health and the structure of society as a whole. While the digital world did take on this bad reputation, and the industry itself is not so innocent either, how can we make it less of a monster in our own lives?

 

Whether you’re a full-grown disciplined adult or a free-flowing young teenager, we can’t deny that social media has a way of creeping into our life like a sneaky third person looking for trouble. It all seems like fun and games until you find yourself addicted to it, helpless about it, and even in denial. Now that may not be the case for everyone, but let’s be honest, it is highly addictive and people are not born equipped with full self-control. Much like any addiction, the need behind its consumption requires a healthier or more productive replacement, and to each his own on that one. 

 

Having said that and before I get into it, I would like to state that what I’m about to say may be quite common. I am no preaching expert, nor am I superhuman who has full control over my social media usage. In fact, let’s just say I didn’t have the best attention span long before my engagement with it. I’m the kind of person who jumps between tasks and somehow that’s how I tend to get things done, though I’ll tell you first hand it is not an easy way to go about things… so applying what I’m about to share is especially challenging for me, more so because I enjoy being social online and I do believe it doesn’t need to have such sinister consequences if it’s being utilized in a proper manner.

 

It was only recently and during the pandemic that I noticed I was losing more control over how I spend my time, and what I’m spending it on. Some of us might have had a drastic change in our routines, leading up to our habits going out of whack, which is okay given the tough circumstances… Let’s be real, as much as we try to do things perfectly, we can’t do it perfectly 100% of the time and that’s what makes us human. We can only do our best to get back on track.

 

I think the wisest thing we can do during such situations is to firstly and most importantly, bring our awareness to it. Once you are aware of the flaw, you are able to take steps to resolve it, slowly but surely. If you are doing something excessively that you are not ok with, the trick is to be aware of the fact that you are not ok with doing this or that excessively, and then catch yourself while you’re doing it. I find it helpful to count down from 3 when I want to act fast following an internal confrontation of this nature. 3… 2… 1… put the phone down, or you know, the cookie… whatever the case. Don’t think twice. Practice this every time you face yourself in the moment. Easier said than done for sure, and this has a lot to do with how present you can be, but more on that in a few… 

 

The other day I was scrolling through my instagram feed endlessly, unaware of how many minutes or even hours I must have spent just viewing random content that is deliberately put ahead of me to keep my attention invested in the app. The fact that I’m aware of the science behind why that was happening, whether on instagram or otherwise, (once again thank you The Social Dilemma), I quickly snapped out of it. I didn’t want them to win, although they already had, but that wasn’t the main reason I chose to put my phone away. I thought to myself, I had no reason to keep scrolling, I’ve been gazing at my screen for too long, and I can do something better with my time – apart from the fact that I had a pile of work and errands to get through! This is where I figured I needed to give myself a set of rules that will help me get out of this spiraling hole and gain more balance in my life… because you know what’s cool? Being on social media while staying human at the same time. Let’s dive into it.

 

  • Mind who you follow

 

Let’s face it, content can be overwhelming. Sure, it’s easy to hit the follow button… but what kind of substance are those sources or individuals bringing into your space? Do they inspire you or deplete you? Are you falling into the trap of comparing your life to theirs? Does their content compliment your aspirations and values or do they go against them? While it’s okay to disagree with others, and sometimes we have a lot to learn from people who are different than we are, notice how you feel when you come across certain posts. You wouldn’t let those who make you uncomfortable into your home, would you? Be more selective with the energy you allow onto your feeds. Similarly, the news can be very toxic, and it hasn’t been very pretty out there… but you can stay up to date without the information overload. Try to find a balance by alternating between the heavy and more lighthearted or entertaining content. Memes and fluffy animal videos can be a breath of fresh air. 

 

  • Minimize your platform choices

 

More is less here, in my opinion. There are some great apps out there, but how many platforms do we really need to be on? Just because they’re all out there – doesn’t mean we gotta catch them all! I wonder, if it’s bad enough that I find myself drowning in one or two apps, what would my behavior be like if I wanted to keep up with my accounts on Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and whatever else is blowing up these days!? Find a platform or two, maybe even three (if you want to include LinkedIn I guess) that work for you most and stick to them with reason, not just for the sake of scrolling away out of boredom. Identify a purpose for each, and why you choose to engage with them in order to put your presence there into perspective. 

 

  • Use it as a learning space

 

Following the above points, being online can be of great benefit when coming across information, and this is my personal favorite part. The internet is a grand place after all and the possibilities are endless. If you’re going to spend hours on it, make it beneficial so that when you finally put your phone down you’d have at least learned something new. This goes hand in hand with point number one – minding who and what you follow. Identify what your interests are so you can dig deeper into them and follow the right sources or join a community group… but also be open to new kinds of knowledge, because why not? However, while this technology is a playground of information, there is also so much unnecessary and unfiltered clutter, so don’t forget to fact check! Have fun doing it. Maybe even learn a new skill that you can invest more time in, as opposed to spending time online with no specific aim. Who knows what may come of this new hobby of yours? 

 

  • Limit screen time

 

Our phones may be the main culprit but not the only culprit; humans were not made to look at screens for hours on end, all day, every day. To help yourself out, turn off notifications and build the habit of specifying certain time periods or moments in your day where you’d like to dedicate time to your phone, your laptop, or even Netflix. This may be easier said than done given that most of our work requires a screen, but after a long day of being face to face with one, give your mind and vision a break. Take a walk, sit with your family, talk to your pet, catch up with a friend over an old-school call rather than via text, watch the view from your rooftop, get yourself a coloring book, and even embrace doing nothing every once in a while… It can be incredibly refreshing. If you’re bold enough, delete social apps often for some time off, or what is known as a ‘digital detox’. Practice leaving your phone outside your bedroom at night and avoid taking it with you everywhere (like the toilet)…  or better yet, try to purposely forget it at home some day (did I go too far?) I always like to imagine what life was like before we had all this technology…. How did people spend their time? I don’t know about you but that’s a game I’m willing to play. 

 

  • Be present in the moment

 

Having lunch? Waiting for the bus? Bored on a zoom meeting? Fight the urge to reach out for your phone at any given moment and learn how to embrace the external reality as it is. Mindfulness has proven to have many benefits for our personal development. Challenge yourself! Enjoy every bite of your meal without doing anything else during. Practice being fully present and patient in places where you need to wait. Observe your surroundings more. Stop trying to escape the space and time you’re in. Most importantly, try not to resort to diving into your phone when you’re feeling vulnerable! Our emotions demand to be felt and not brushed under the rug… Let it pass without distracting yourself. The more you embrace the moment you’re in, the more you are able to make better choices that align with your needs. Resting well, giving meditation a chance, getting physically active, and eating nourishing foods will help you gain more focus in this area. 

 

Well, this is the end of it for now, but not the least of it. Having shared some of my own tips, I also believe different things work for different people. While the above may be a good place to start, perhaps you’d like to think up some methods of your own that may work better for you. The bottom line is, we can change the narrative when it’s not working for us. Anything in excess can be damaging, and in the case of the interwebz, just keep in mind the significance of how you can utilize it, rather than allow this tool to gain complete control over you and your wellbeing, because we all know it’s not going away any time soon… and we don’t have to isolate ourselves from this modern reality completely. Technology is the future, and we must find ways to accommodate with that without losing our essence as human beings with human needs. 

 

I hope this lengthy article was able to help you in some shape or form, and if you’ve made it this far, I’d be genuinely impressed. Should you have any more suggestions, we’d love to hear them! Just drop a comment on our Facebook or Instagram post.  

 

Don’t forget to follow, like, share, and subscribe… (just kidding).. (or am I?) No really though, someone you know might benefit from this article, so do feel free to share! (No pressure.)

 

 

 

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