Do you remember a life without social media, smartphones, apps and notifications? This time in life is what my generation refers to as ‘the good old days’. When you had to get out of your chair to change channels on the television. Weekends were spent riding your bike around the neighbourhood. And if you wanted to speak to your friends you rang them using the phone attached to the kitchen wall.
Facebook reminded me the other day that it was my ten-year anniversary with them. I’m pretty sure this is a milestone that shouldn’t be celebrated. I’m not a big Facebook user. In fact if it wasn't so hard to do I would delete my account. While it is easy to deactivate your account it’s near impossible to delete it. In fact you have to write a letter to Facebook requesting their permission. How ridiculous is that?
I used to a more frequent user of Facebook but I grew bored of it. I grew tired of people’s updates. Lets be honest, there are only so many updates one can read about people boiling the kettle to have a cup of tea. It also began to feel like a negative platform to be on. Everyone was whinging about something or someone. There’s a time and place to discuss problems you may be facing in life … on social media isn’t one of them.
I do still post on Facebook but very rarely, and more so to let my friends and family know we are still alive. None of our close friends and family live in Tasmania, so they enjoy seeing the odd photo of the dogs and where we live. It’s also nice for us to see photos of our nieces and nephews, and watch them grow up. Social media does make it easier to stay in touch these days.
The only other thing I use Facebook for is to keep up to date with causes I believe in. I am a strong advocate for anti-BSL (or anti-breed specific legislation). BSL is a law where dogs can be taken by authorities and euthenised based on whether they ‘look like’ a dangerous dog. The dog doesn’t have to have bitten anyone, or in fact done anything at all. The dog is judged solely on the way it looks, and its life can be taken because of that with no questions asked. I call it the Bull Shit Law. Facebook is the best way for me to keep informed of where we are at in the fight against this law and how I can do my bit.
I cleaned up my Facebook account earlier this year, so there is very little on my feed anymore. I have un-followed people, groups and anyone trying to sell me something. My time is precious and I don’t need to be spending it scrolling through other peoples crap to be honest.
The only other social media platform I am on is Instagram. I enjoy Instagram, and have met some lovely ‘online friends’ there. But I had gotten to the point a couple of weeks ago where I was a bit frustrated with it. I wasn’t seeing the posts of people I wanted to. So this week I had a clean up and un-followed about two-thirds of the people I had been following. Now I can see all my favourite people and accounts again, and once again it's somewhere I enjoy hanging out. It was as simple as pushing that 'un-follow' button.
My social media feeds now feel clean, simple and quiet. Exactly how I like things.
But that’s not all I want to talk about today. I want to talk about our obsession with social media and how I believe it’s the biggest thief of people’s time.
A scary article came out in The Guardian last month about how social media is hijacking our minds. I have linked to the article at the end of this post if you’d like to have a read. The one statistic that blew my mind was that research shows people ‘swipe, touch or tap their phone 2,617 times a day’. The article is interesting. It interviews the very people that developed the technology that keeps us addicted. Like Justin Rosenstein, the Facebook engineer who designed the ‘like’ button. These same people have begun setting strong boundaries around their social media use. They are deleting the social media apps from their phones. They are installing apps that don't allow them to access social media for certain periods of the day. And they are setting strong boundaries around their social media use. As they title of the article states, these are the guys now concerned about a smartphone dystopia.
We all know that social media is addictive. Social media platforms are cleverly designed. Every time someone likes our photo or comments on our post we get a hit of dopamine. The ‘ding’ of a notification does the same. Some say that the addiction to social media is worse than that of heroin. I would say for some it’s a lot harder to quit as well.
Social media steals time from us by sucking us down a rabbit hole of scrolling. More often than not this scrolling is down in a completely mindless way. How many times do you hit the ‘like’ button on posts you haven’t even stopped to read? Scroll, like, scroll, like, scroll, like. Before you know it fifteen minutes have gone by. Then multiply those fifteen minutes by how many times this happens in a day. Before you know it you’ve lost precious hours. Precious hours that could be better spent doing something far more productive. When people tell me they don’t have enough time, the first thing I do is get them to track the time they spend on social media. The outcome is more often than not both scary and confronting.
I don’t think social media itself is a bad thing. It’s a great place for introverts like me to hang out, meet kindred souls and strike up friendships. It’s a great way to explore your interests and meet like-minded people. Most of you wouldn’t even be reading this post if it wasn’t for social media. But we need to take responsibility and ownership for how we use it. If the time you spend on social media doesn’t bother you, then that’s fine. If you get frustrated with the amount of time it sucks up in your day then only you can do something about that.
I have very strong boundaries around my social media use. I used to post on Instagram every day. These days I don’t. I realised that I was talking to people on Instagram more than I was talking to my close friends and family. The only person I actually want to talk to daily is my fiancé. So the question I asked myself was whether I needed to post on Instagram daily? The answer was simple … I don’t.
Over the last week I haven’t posted anything apart from a few Instagram stories. I haven’t died. The people that follow me haven’t died (in fact I’m sure none of them have even realised I haven't posted anything!). And the people I follow haven’t died. I’ve lost a few followers but I know that’s to do with the algorithm, and nothing to do with me. The best thing about it is that it’s cleared up some of the mental clutter that used to be in my head. It’s been nice not to have to think about what photo and story I’m going to tell each day.
We also don’t have to share everything with everyone. There is something nice about keeping the majority of our lives private. It’s why I always call my partner ‘my fiancé’ or ‘the boy’ in my posts. He’s part of my life but he is also a very private person, and I honour that by not using his name or posting photos of him. Who I am online is exactly who I am offline, but my online presence is only the parts of my life I choose to share with you.
I’m certainly not here to tell you how you should use social media. I'm not even going to give you any tips or tricks for balancing social media use. We all know them as we've read them a million times before. We all know how much time we spend on the different social media platforms. We also all know whether we are happy with the balance between our time online and life offline. But I am going to encourage you to do an experiment.
I'm going to challenge you to take the social media apps off your phone for a week. During the week I want you to take close notice of how many times you automatically reach for your phone. For many of us it has become a reflex action to stop ourselves being bored, or to fill in time. When you find yourself reaching to click on a social media app ask yourself what else you could be doing? Or better yet, what you should be doing?
Like I said, social media isn’t evil. But it has been designed to keep us addicted to the likes, comments and notifications. Let’s be honest, there’s a reason Steve Jobs didn’t let his children have an iPhone.
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