Have you noticed how the world seems increasingly hostile? I personally was on a run one beautiful morning when some man approached me, phone in hand recording, and began to yell slurs and hateful speech at me. What?! People seem to be losing their cool, and unfortunately there is hard, empirical, scientific evidence that the internet and social media are in-part causing this.
Social Media Changes Us
It is irrefutable. Social media, and the internet, change the way it’s users think and feel (1, 2). If you are using social media regularly, the way you view yourself and the world is being manipulated.
A neutral social media really could be a democratizing force, in theory. But the major platforms are far from neutral. They are deliberately designed to manipulate you, and to manipulate your experience on the platform in ways that will change how you think and how you behave. These platforms do this not just by what they show you, but also by eliciting certain emotions and behaviors from you.
All this digital manipulation, at the scale of maybe hundreds of hours per year, changes you. And not just online, but in your offline life, too. It changes your emotional makeup, the way that you approach politics, your sense of your own identity — even the way that you process right and wrong.Max Fischer, NYTimes
These Platforms Are Designed With You In Mind
Engineers and researchers at tech companies are building their products around YOU. Not humans in general, but specifically you.
The content you are shown on YouTube, TikTok, Twitter–it’s all designed with you in mind. There is never any “randomness” to the content you are shown, even though it may feel like it.
All that said, when social media makes its users anxious and depressed, it’s not just random. Each and every single post is painstakingly selected by super powerful computers and displayed for you to see it just when the computer thinks it is right.
Tearing People Apart
For an individual user — and we now have hard, empirical, scientific evidence for this — the effect can be to make you angrier, more extreme and intolerant, more distrustful, more prone to divide the world between us and them, and more disposed toward hostility and even violence against people outside your social in-group.
This might change you just by a matter of degree. But when you multiply this effect out by billions of users, and often among a majority of the population, the effect can change society as a whole.Max Fischer, NYTimes
This isn’t just an American problem, either. It’s happening worldwide!
What Should I Do About This?
First off, remember you can only control what you can control.
Fortunately, however, there’s a lot you can do!
If you want to be less anxious, more compassionate and understanding, more friendly, and have higher life satisfaction–delete your socials. While deleting these accounts may seem outlandish or extreme, it’s really not as any social media use causes problems.
Sitting and scrolling is so bizarre. If you look at your screen time, just imagine yourself sitting stationary and swiping on your phone for that many hours per week. At 2.5 hours per day (average), that’s 17.5 hours per week sitting and scrolling. Per week! Wtf?! How is that the GLOBAL AVERAGE!??!?!
There is no other way to express social media other than insanity. Millions and millions of people are glued to their devices, scrolling on feeds that are endless by design. Try to imagine the bottom of an Instagram or Tiktok or Twitter feed. If you can’t bring yourself to delete your accounts, investigate why. You likely have gone without TikTok for years, so why is it suddenly critical–consuming many hours per week?
Just One More! And Other Lies People Tell Themselves
Have you ever looked at your feeds and said to yourself, “just one more post and then I’ll stop”. Maybe, perhaps, “I’ll just look real quick… It’ll only take a second!”
Those “quick looks” and “just a second’s” have eroded over a year and a half of my life. For the 25 year old adult spending 3 hours per day on social media–2.4 YEARS have been eroded… so far! (If they became users at age 12). I’ll likely build a calculator soon so you can put your own information in–stay tuned!
Social media usage is measured in years. Years spent looking like the skeleton image here. Is that really worth it?
Life Without Social Media
Life without social media is fantastic. By freeing up many, many hours per week, we are able to find so much more time to actually live.
Becoming more time efficient has allowed readers from this blog to pursue their true interests as well as deepen relationships. I wouldn’t be here writing these posts if it wasn’t making a severely positive impact on my life. I’m shouting from the high heavens, and so are thousands of others, including ex-tech executives.
When you do eventually power down your device and delete your accounts, the world may appear unrecognizable. Social media modifies the worldviews of its users, so be prepared for a bit of a culture shock.