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Human Connection... What Human Connection? I've Got Social Media!
We're users, not customers. Mankind's bout with online presence and the lost art of not having unnecessary need for attention.
This one is about an ineffective plea.
A Story For You
The world circles back to COVID-19 every time there is an article on technology or WFH and we’re no different. We’re living in the undisputed prime of technology and it’s partly taken a bump in its popularity with COVID-19. Even the boomers are in on the action. We’re all digital nomads at this point but long before the virus that disrupted, there was the birth of social media. And that didn’t take a pandemic to become popular.
They say that the people closest to you determine who you will be. Well, I surely hope not because at the time, my friends were obsessed with their phones. Specific plans were made to document and upload videos and photos on their feed. Their page looked enticing, so I was tempted to try it out for myself. ‘Sign up?’ Yes, please!!
That’s a bait. Social media traps you without any glimmer of escape. It increases your phone usage, strains your eyes as you endlessly scroll all day and gives you unwarranted anxiety.
The world of social media, seems just like ours. It has its pros and cons. For the sake of this conversation, I’m going to talk about the cons. What about the pros? We already know the pros, why else will we be on these platforms?
Email is not social media so it’s exempt from the criticism. It’s the only medium that doesn’t engulf soooo subscribe!
I’d stalk people I didn’t even know. I knew which club they’d been to, which restaurant they’re having dinner at and who they’re hanging out with. And then the idea of being stalked would fascinate me too. I was tempted to do the same and after the first few times, it became a routine.
‘Let’s go to XYZ, I’ll get a good story Insta story there’ was the thought behind every visit. Posting your life for the world to see is fun, no doubt. What’s not fun, is what happens after that.
”Let’s check my likes, views, and comments!”
It isn’t about enjoying life anymore, it’s now about the race for attention. ‘Likes’ immediately translated into validation for me. Post after post, I’d be online to check the so called ‘appreciation’ my post had received. My online life took over the offline life (which technically is my real life) in no time. But what about new photos? Well, we’ve #throwback for that!
“Even if you remove the likes, there continue to be opportunities for comparisons and feedback. People still can compare themselves to others, and people still can post comments.” - Dr. Jacqueline Sperling, PhD, a psychologist at McLean Hospital who works with youth who experience anxiety disorders, about Instagram’s recent restriction. (Credits: McClean Hospital.org)
It was more than harmless fun. At a certain point, I even began pondering over why we were called users and not customers. But there’s a reward system that the brain activates when we’re on social media. Check it out!
Social media has a reinforcing nature. Using it activates the brain’s reward centre by releasing dopamine, a “feel-good chemical” linked to pleasurable activities such as sex, food, and social interaction. The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments.
According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media. This puts a large amount of the population at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed, or ill over their social media use.
(Credits: McClean Hospital.org)
After knowing every little disadvantage, what makes you come back to it? The unpredictability.
The idea of getting a certain amount of likes some time in the future (oh, the hope!) pulls us back, with our tails tucked in between. Why does a gambler go back to a casino? In hopes of winning the lottery someday. What if I told them, they’re never gonna win, ever? Chances are, they won’t come back or maybe head to a different casino but not the same one. Because the unpredictability is over.
The thing with social media is, there’s no definitive answer. A person can become famous in split seconds or even lose it all. Just. Like. That. It’s a number’s game.
What’s the real issue though? Is it social media? Not really. It’s us and our expectations of it. Social media is a human creation. It is merely a tool. All the expectations and comparisons attached to it are created, imagined and even sometimes forced upon us.
To boost self-esteem and feel a sense of belonging in their social circles, people post content hoping to receive positive feedback. Couple that content with the structure of potential future rewards, and you get a recipe for constantly checking platforms.
When reviewing others’ social activity, people tend to make comparisons such as, “Did I get as many likes as someone else?,” or “Why didn’t this person like my post, but this other person did?” They’re searching for validation on the internet that serves as a replacement for the meaningful connection they might otherwise make in real life.
FOMO—fear of missing out—also plays a role. If everyone else is using social media sites, and if someone doesn’t join in, there’s concern that they’ll miss jokes, connections, or invitations. Missing experiences can create anxiety and depression. When people look online and see they’re excluded from an activity, it can affect thoughts and feelings and physically affect them.
(Credits: McClean Hospital.org)
These are hard-hitting facts but they’re surely not going to have any effect. Because I still post and I’m decently active on social media today, but it’s merely to get my word out. Yes, I’ve shut my notifications for all the social apps. That’s one thing I’ve done to significantly reduce the amount of time I look at my phone, to sleep better, to have less anxiety and to look at my self-worth based on the work I’m doing instead of others liking my stuff.
But I’m still on the platforms. And that’s because I’m desperate to get the word out.
A Story From You
That’s been my journey with social media. Am I right or wrong in my judgement of the social platforms that consume our life today?
How often do you use social media and what would you change about how you’re going about life right now?