(Reading time 4 minutes. Commenting? Add a couple more)
Inconceivable as it may seem nowadays, it is entirely possible to live without social media. I’ve been doing it for over 18 months and survived.
Flirting with Facebook
I did however have a recent flirtation with Facebook. During the Extinction Rebellion protests in London I borrowed, with permission, access to someone else’s FB account. I told myself that because I had friends and family there I needed it. (This isn’t true, you can in fact access many FB pages without an account)
What a-mistaka-to-maka! But, I learned a few more things from this foray:
- Never borrow someone else’s account, an account is an account. It engenders, in me at any rate, a desire to check. Whether it’s hourly, daily or weekly the invitation is there, hovering in the ether, beckoning you back.
- There’s something very odd about profile photos. It was weird for me to witness the stream of self images, very odd indeed. To have one photo I understand, it’s good to see who you are communicating with, but the repeated uploading of more, no……that’s not right. (We know why right? It’s driven by self-esteem issues, a need for external validation and affirmation, a desire for connection or something else now artificially fixed but never resolved). Very sad.
- Just because you can do something does not mean you should. This applies, obviously to the self images mentioned above, but also to social media in general.
- You never get back the time spent/wasted on-line.
- My life is calmer and simpler and more deeply connected to what matters most to me when I live without social media.
We are the product
Whilst it’s true that it’s not all bad and it does make some sorts of communication easier, there are costs. This “free” service is exacting a price. These platforms are not there for you and me. These businesses are engaged in selling our personal information to third parties, for profit. We are the product on offer.
These sites are designed to manipulate our psychology. They need to be highly addictive so as to capture as much of our time and attention as possible. In fact recent research showed that,
“PSU (Problematic smartphone usage) was reported in approximately one in every four CYP (children and young people) and accompanied by an increased odds of poorer mental health. PSU is an evolving public health concern that requires greater study to determine the boundary between helpful and harmful technology use.”
We have a huge and mounting problem going on in our society and I believe we, the adults, are the ones who need to face up to our own use so we can help our children. The sophisticated algorithms highjack our minds and create addictive behaviours to keep us on there. The longer we stay the greater the chance we will click a link, follow an advert or explore a suggested or sponsored post. All are potential cashflows to the true customers of social media, the advertisers.
“The like feature evolved to become the foundation on which Facebook rebuilt itself from fun amusement that people occasionally checked, to a digital slot machine that began to dominate its users’ time and attention.”
Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism
What are the advantages?
Of course what they proffer feels beneficial, it has to be to keep us on-line. However my suggestion is that you look carefully at what the gains actually are?
- Have you ever stopped to measure them, to consider their true worth in terms of your life, ambitions, dreams and desires?
- Does being on social media support your life, enhance it’s quality and bring you more of what you seek, or does it in fact extract a price not worth paying?
For me the latter applies.
I largely know what I want from my life. Life is short and it is precious. It is a gift to be here on earth with all these incredible opportunities, with this chance to deeply embody what it means to be truly human.
I haven’t always felt like this. For decades I struggled with depression, anxiety, deep self loathing, chronic illness bla bla. You get the picture? These dis-eases manifest, from the adaptations we made to cope with and survive unexpressed and unresolved issues in our lives. It takes time and energy to heal these, but I believe it’s a journey worth taking. To become more acquainted with my true self is liberating.
I am curious to understand more about who I am free of all the confines and constraints, of learned behaviour, social convention, norms, and of course the limiting beliefs I formed as a result of my particular experiences.
“Now, the question Do I like myself? has been replaced by Am I liked?”
Nancy Colier, The Power of Off.
Fear of missing out
For me social media and many other on-line offerings are a distraction from this endeavour. The purported benefits distracted me from real life here on earth. They often created more suffering and angst, not less. When I indulged I felt harassed, anxious, overwhelmed and driven by a feeling/fear of missing out. There was always too much, to many and too little time to keep up with it all.
I felt bombarded.
Leaving it all behind, no social media, no Netflix, no Amazon Prime, no subscriptions and no TV, although not always easy, is definitely far more rewarding, (p.s. I do still watch stuff, I am not a digital saint). I do still occassionally wonder if I am missing out on something important, but I don’t think so.
It’s not the potential loss that’s important. Instead I find it more rewarding to focus on the added blessings that I reap from living a less digitally connected life. Gradually I am creating a life more deeply grounded in real life, intimately interwoven with the people, places and things that I love and which genuinely enrich my life.
Life is short, how do you want to spend your precious time, online or connected to all the raw beauty of a deeply embedded human life on earth?
At Blackwater Pond
At Blackwater pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stones, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
Fantastic Mairi, always a pleasure to read your considered thoughts. Although I do still indulge in Facebook I do so less often and curb time spent there…you are right about it being a place to gather information for marketing, also looking at other platforms I use and wondering where I can cut back time there. One thing I’ve rediscovered is significant time to READ which has been a real blessing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, always appreciated.
Thanks Joy, yes to reading! I’ve also been reading more and loving it. I am finally moving books from my unread shelf to my read and it feels good. X
Thanks, Mairi, for some very interesting thoughts.
Personally, I would not want to do without facebook or whatsapp, regardless of what anyone may say. The reasons are manifold. Most importantly, I’ve got lots of family and friends overseas, some in places where snail-mail will never arrive, and these services allow me to stay in touch reliably, and to share messages and images without “breaking the bank”.
More recently, whatsapp has proven essential to be able to stay “on the same page” with my immediate family in Switzerland, especially now that both my very aged parents are having to deal with serious health issues (terminal ones in my father’s case – unexpected, but not surprising as he’ll be 92 in about five weeks’ time).
It’s given me great peace of mind, and I can barely begin to fathom how helpful it has been to be able to stay in touch with them both, and with my younger brothers – as well as with my niece and three nephews.
Next, I’m still working as a translator and language-service provider, and for the last two seasons I’ve done quite a bit of tourist guiding work. Most of my translation clients are in Switzerland; new ones rely on finding me via facebook and linked in. I’ve been commissioned as a tourist guide because my name has been listed on relevant online platforms.
As a self-employed/freelance business person working at the edge of Europe, I rely quite heavily on online networks. They’ve been instruments of support and connection with clients and colleagues alike.
No matter how much we resent them, social media are essential vehicles – and they are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
As for updated profile photos, some of us actually update them to show our friends what we look like now – how age has added wrinkles to our faces and changed the colour of our hair, for example 🙂
Having said all that, facebook HAS often sucked me in and spewed me out before I managed to do what I actually logged on for in the first place. All the same, I will argue in favour of (some) social media. And I do appreciate decent broadband, e-mail and phone connectivity, and for good networks for business and friendships alike.
Just as we can reduce our climate-relevant footprint by reducing our consumption of lots of things, including meat, we can reduce the “busyness” of our lives by staying away from the computer for a couple of days a week; by taking a walk early in the day or late in the evening; by joining a choir, a creative/crafting/art circle, or a group that does some form of physical exercise – and/or by indulging our yen for reading.
As I know you know, there are endless possibilities – even in our rather remote area 🙂
That you Margret, your examples show your level of consciousness around the value these platforms offer you. That is really what I am trying to suggest, not that everyone needs to leave, but let’s at least get more conscious and aware about our use, rather than stumbling into it without having considered whether indeed it enhances our lives.
I am unconvinced about the need for social media to stay in touch with friends and family per se/ However I see that WhatsApp has benefits as does texting, but am well aware that nothing is private.
As far as profile photos go I am unconvinced, though there do seem to be many reasons people use them. My concerns are again to bring awareness to the dangers and downsides of these issues.
What I hear is that you have a full and interesting life with lots of social contact and activity, my hope is for more of us, where possible, to reconnect at a face-to-face level in these ways.
Great to have your input in the discussion.