Note: as I was writing the notebook version, this became more about Facebook than social media in general; which says quite a lot, I think. Facebook is basically ubiquitous. It IS social media. Period.
It’s hard to remember a time before the social media boom. Before smartphones solved the issue of having to carry around both a cell phone and MP3 player, before baby announcements were sent in the mail instead of Facebook, before our entire lives were recorded for posterity on the Internet whether we liked it or not. For all the fun and good that social media does (brings us together, eases the pain of making plans, stores and catalogs memories, etc.), there are definitely a lot of pain points as well. Most of us are able to soothe or ignore them, but for others, these issues can be enough to take social media sabbaticals or quit social media altogether. As a digital native, here are five large problems I’ve noticed when using social media:
Problem 1: We compare our rough cut to everyone else’s highlight reel. I can’t remember where I heard that the first time or who coined that statement, but it’s perfect. Sure, you’ve got those people on your feed who post every blessed, mundane detail of their day and you’re like “man, when did I become friends with James Nguyen?” To explain this joke because I hate you and myself, James Nguyen directed the shitsterpiece film Birdemic: Shock and Terror, where a good chunk of this movie is following the main character around all day: driving on the highway, getting gas, driving some more, eating, etc. All in glorious, equally mundane SD. Anyway. Other people just post what is going well&mdashperfect job, perfect significant other, perfect smol pup (rescued, of course, but who rescued who amirite?) that they walk every day past the local Whole Foods, perfect nights out with the perfect gang, perfect everything. Of course it seems that way to us because we are only privy to what these people allow us to see. But it becomes so easy to look down on our own lives, fearing we’re not doing enough, being enough; rather than recognizing that what we’re seeing online is someone’s diamond–studded tip of the iceberg. Worse, you might end up resenting the person who is supposed to be your friend. We’re all just a mess anyway so really who cares. Don’t forget that perspective is everything.
Problem 2: It’s a breeding ground for armchair politicians/economists/medical professionals/delete where applicable. Great googly moogly. With news and (mis)information so plentiful and accessible and instant, suddenly everyone knows everything about the hot–button issue du jour and dammit, they are going to make sure you know they know. And don’t think that I’m trying to absolve myself of this behavior. I’ve been in my fair share of Internet “debates.” You’d think that the advantage of debating online rather than in person is that you don’t have to reply to a comment right away and use the time to frantically Google things to support whatever you’re arguing so you can QED the shit out of your clearly imbecilic adversary. Instead, the advantage is you get to partake in a rapidly devolving shouting match on mute. And even if you did find sources you believe are reputable, whose to say that they are? Everything is written to fit some narrative or another. How can you be sure they’re impartial? To what frame of reference could you possibly compare what you’ve found when everything has an agenda? Man, trying to prove how right you are is exhausting. Thank god I can scroll down a few inches to see the latest cat video my mom shared and forget all about this.
Problem 3: It’s addicting. Oh my god, and how. I eventually had to turn off my notifications on my phone just to get some peace. But then I grew worried that I was missing out and then checking it became reflexive: when I’m bored, when I have a second of downtime, when I wake up. Just trying to get my minute dose of endorphins because people keep “liking” the comment I made on a photo with a Holes reference. Blech.
Problem 4: It gives everyone a voice. The greatest double–edged sword of our time. It’s great that everyone gets their own soapbox to state what they want. On the other hand – oh, god, who allowed this? What have we done?? It’s the 24–hour opinion channel. But what are we really adding to conversations that are happening? Why is what we’re saying important? We forget to ask ourselves these questions too often creating a cacophonic echo chamber with the end results being more pointless debates, more redundant thinkpieces, and more outrage than we know what to do with. It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted. Why did I start writing this so late? One more…
Problem 5: The more friends I accumulate, the less I like people in general. I know, that sounds terrible. It really does. But out of the 400+ friends I have currently, I genuinely enjoy spending time with about 30 of them. Of those 30, I regularly keep in touch with about 8. Now you’re all wondering which group you fit into. Ha! But actually, if you really were, please don’t. I’m sure I’m a bottom–tier Facebook friend to you, too. Besides, it makes Christmas shopping less and less expensive every year. I digress. How do the chasms between the people I really like and the people I might have added out of politeness form? Well, because of numbers two and four on this list. Someone in the larger pool, an acquaintance or friend from high school I barely talk to anymore will post something that doesn’t sit well with me (it’s almost always something political) and then I gotta be like “Aw, dude…I thought you were cool.” If it’s especially egregious, I might call them out on it, but I generally don’t. It’s not worth it anymore. I’m an Internet debate veteran. I served my time and blogosphere. My guns are in a cabinet next to a helmet I stole from a GamerGater I killed in the trenches of reddit. Now I am old and weary, and my jimmies prefer to remain unrustled. Too bad that’s impossible anymore.
In short, social media, like everything else has its pros and cons. No shit. There’s no denying its usefulness and the impact its had it such a short amount of time. But dear lord, people. Let’s all learn to find our chill and unplug once in awhile.