The Struggle Between Social Media and Self Awareness
I’ve been an addict to social media from the get-go.
I begged my parents when I was 12 to let me lie about my age (you had to be 13 to join) and get a Facebook profile with all my friends. It was exciting and new! Being connected to the other kids my age, sharing posts, and messaging back and forth, was the coolest thing ever.
Fast forward to me at 23 years old, and I’ve deleted Instagram once this week already. You didn’t ask, but yes I did redownload it a couple of days later. I’ve developed an intense love-hate relationship with social media at this point in my life, and from discussions with others, it seems I’m not the only one. Finding a balance between online and offline life has been a struggle, but I’ve learned a few things!
Here’s some stuff I’ve been mulling over recently.
Social Media Then and Now
Social media began as a way to connect people, and naturally, people jumped all over it! Few would argue that this is inherently a bad thing, and I won’t either. The opportunity to share ideas worldwide, as well as stay in the loop with your friends and family, is an incredible leap for our society.
Nowadays though, social media has been co-opted by corporations to sway the attention and emotions of the masses. Anyone who knows how the system works understands this is only for one of two reasons: money, and power. These platforms are dopamine machines, and you can guarantee that your brain will get hooked.
Algorithms analyze every click you make, inside or out of your apps. This data is used to feed you more content that captures your attention. What captures a human’s attention? Clickbait and outrage. Never before has the media divided us so strongly, but it’s never been easier for them! These algorithms build echo chambers and fuel toxicity, where people are pressured to take sides, and share hate against the other. It’s simultaneously bringing us together and tearing us apart.
So what can we do?
Success from Self-awareness
Although I knew that social media was designed to draw me in, for most of my life I frankly just didn’t care enough to put it down. Why would I? I was staying in touch with world news, I could hear the opinions of the masses and be tuned in for events I felt were important. Not to mention, I talked with my friends daily through messages and tagging each other. So what changed in me?
There was no tipping point to my view of social media. The best way to describe it was reverse engineering of sorts! When I began practicing mindfulness, staying present in the moment, meditating daily, and doing similar things, I found myself more in tune than ever with my thoughts and emotions. I think this is a necessary step for people to have a healthier view of social media because it allows you a better perspective on its role in your life.
I felt empowered and hopeful with my newfound awareness. Naturally, this led to me becoming increasingly disturbed by how quickly and easily social media would rip this all away from me! I began to value my focus, but I would lose it without a second thought when I heard a notification. Emotions used to put my own wants in the backseat, but mindfulness helped put me back in the driver’s position. Unfortunately, one controversial Reddit post is all it would take to get me hotheaded and diving back into rabbit holes!
Suddenly, social media felt like it was ruining my mind. I wanted peace, I wanted to love everyone, and most importantly, I wanted to focus on my own s***! Scrolling through TikToks and Instagram posts was a one-way ticket to the exact opposite of that.
Finding a Balance
Okay, okay, I’ve bagged on social media enough. We all get how detrimental it can be (I would hope). That being said, I’m not proclaiming that we should all ditch our apps. I think a change of mindset is what we need the most! Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. Honestly, I’m glad we have it! Being able to check in on my friend’s lives is a great joy for me, and it’s always nice to post something and stroke my ego a little. So how can we find a good middle ground?
This is where it becomes a little more personal for all of us. What’s best for you isn’t always best for me! I found that turning off my actual notifications and leaving my phone out of sight when I need to focus really changed a lot for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still trying to quit opening my apps habitually, and it’s a huge struggle. Sometimes I delete an app for a few days to give my thoughts some breathing room. You have goals, you have opinions, you have agendas, yet it’s easy to forget that when everyone else’s is forced down your throat every time you scroll through stories!
Tuning out for a good chunk of your day/week is purely an act of self-love and a step in the right direction for mental health. As cheesy as it sounds, you should value your mind and spend more time alone with it.
We were brought up into a new age for humanity. The internet and social media were massive changes that we couldn’t have possibly been prepared for, evolution-wise. Like much of what we’re creating as a society, it can be helpful or harmful. A certain quote by Robin S. Sharma seems applicable:
“The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.”
When you open a social media app, you’re handing over your focus and attention to other people’s agendas. After enough time, you’ll find it difficult to distinguish between your agenda and someone else’s. We don’t spend enough time learning how to think but eat it up when we’re being told what to think. Is your mind a servant for your wants and needs, or a misguided master at the whim of big businesses? Not to go full Orwellian on you, but it’s time we stepped back and reconsidered who was in charge of our thoughts. We can each take steps to become closer to our true selves and rediscover individuality. Perspective is everything!
Stay in the loop, but don’t get caught in it.