In 2005, I logged into Facebook for the very first time. Back then you had to have a university provided email address to create an account. I lived through the “Stephanie is” phase of Facebook when you could only select from a list of things provided by the site. The time when social media was used to meet people with whom you shared classes or a dorm. This was also a time when internet on the phone cost money so you most likely browsed on your desktop or laptop in your room. What a time to be alive.
Whether you lived through Facebook 15 years ago or you recently joined, I think we can all agree that right now, it’s rough.
Maybe it’s the election, maybe it’s the algorithms, maybe it’s your friend list — but it’s frustratingly addictive. Over the last few years, my use of the social media platform has drastically shifted. I was an over-sharer, my Facebook memories are proof of that. I posted thoughts, plans for the day, and photos of embarrassingly random things. Then the concept of the “highlight reel” came to surface. Only posting the beautiful times. The perfect photos. The perfect days. The perfect vacation. The perfect life. Of course, who wants to post or see all the ugly, drama-filled posts? I know I have unfollowed a few for those.
During that time, I would delete the app for a day or two only to find myself back on it for hours a day. Here’s a pro tip: you can track your time on the app in your settings on the app. Over the last few months, I was shamefully engaged in the app for one reason or another for often 2+ hours EACH day. I knew I needed an intervention over the app and mindless scrolling.
Enter: The Social Dilemma, a documentary on Netflix diving deep into the addictive qualities and algorithms of social media.
For over 90 minutes, I sat there with a pit in my stomach. I was addicted and I couldn’t control myself. Any amount of downtime, I scrolled. I watched those pesky “suggested videos” like a puppet. I can’t even tell you how many purchases have been made by seeing the advertisements that pop up on my newsfeed. The algorithms are scary. Facebook knows what I want to purchase or see, often before I even realize that I need it.
Social media is bittersweet. Living away from all family and childhood friends, social media helps to connect us. It’s an easy spot to post life and family updates and photos. I love seeing my friends landing big jobs, having babies, going on fun vacations. I love seeing the happiness and the joy. I love being able to be easily updated on a friend’s breast cancer battle and to feel like I am part of that journey with her.
But, social media is ugly. So much hate is lurking there, especially in the comment sections. Jealousy rages as you see others living what seem to be perfect lives, going on perfect vacations with their perfect families. Opinions are thrown around with words that are hurtful, often directed at your “friends.”
One of my stop-me-in-my-tracks-moments was when I was about to post some photos from our day. Our day was great, we had gone to an amusement park with wonderful weather, no lines, etc. As I was writing out my post, I asked myself: Why are you posting this?” Was it for the likes? Was it to let everyone know we had a great day? Was it to show that we could afford to go to the amusement park? Was it a #humblebrag? Yep. So, I deleted it.
As is discussed in the documentary, there is that deep desire for the likes, for the attention. That’s part of the addiction. You want more attention. More likes. Cuter photos. Bigger vacations. Case in point: “National Days” of celebration such as Son Day, Daughter Day, Dog Day. Y’all, if we are friends on social media, I’m pretty sure I know you have one of those. But here’s the point: we crave the likes and the attention and it’s such an easy post to make; search your camera roll, add a short caption and immediately, the likes and comments start rolling. If it makes you feel good, that’s great. But, the darker side of social media plays into the fact that so many of us struggle with depression and other mental health issues that the lack of likes and comments is almost unbearable.
There are so many jaw dropping issues with the current state of social media that are discussed in the documentary. Some people won’t care at all, and that is totally fine! We have to make our own decisions on what is important to us and what is not. If you are one of those people, please still take the time to gain knowledge of how social media is using you and your accounts.
After diving deeper into learning the inside scoop, I have deleted the app from my phone. I still have my accounts and still may post occasionally, but I wanted to take my life back. The hours that I spent scrolling are now focused on my family and creative activities that actually force me to use my brain. And, I can honestly say I haven’t unfollowed anyone recently…and I no longer see all the political posts. I have gone from spending 2+ hours a day scrolling, reacting and commenting, to around 30 minutes total for the week. I do miss the life updates, funny stories and cute photos, but right now it’s exactly what I needed to do.