Social media: Why is it so hard to quit?
“Something is wrong with social media,” said Kevin Roose in The New York Times. Recent polls have found a precipitous drop in popularity among the industry’s Goliaths—Facebook, Twitter, and Google—over the past few months. Once envisioned as a space capable of “producing healthy discussions” and “connecting people to others with similar interests,” social media is now seen by a wary American public as a source of discomfort. A scroll through Twitter will render you “anxious, twitchy, a little world-weary,” not unlike the unease you feel watching your child watch YouTube videos, knowing she is only “a few algorithmic nudges away from a rabbit hole filled with lunatic conspiracies and gore.” Then there’s Facebook—its recent scandals a reminder “you’ve entrusted the most intimate parts of your digital life to a profit-maximizing surveillance machine.”
“Here we go again,” said Shyam Sundar in TheConversation.com. Yes, Facebook users are rankled at being reminded that the social network tracks their every online move and that their data has for years been available to the highest bidder. But most will end up staying. “As in all abusive relationships, users have a psychological dependence that keeps them hooked despite knowing that, at some level, it’s not good for them.” The truth is that billions of people get gratification from using Facebook, and that will make it unattractive to log off permanently. This time feels different, though, said Charlie Warzel in BuzzFeed.com. “The impulse to unplug is nothing new”; humans wanting to understand the importance of something that takes up a great deal of their time have always tried to remove it temporarily and reflect on it. There used to be a fun, curious element to unplugging from our online lives. Today, though, the rising level of toxicity in our “maddening, all-consuming, and unsustainable” internet ecosystem means that getting offline has far more urgency “and even a hint of desperation to it.”
If you can’t “stop cold turkey,” start by setting boundaries, said Ash Rao in FastCompany.com. Trying avoiding social media before lunchtime; early in the day, it will “cloud your thoughts” and hamper morning productivity. Mute or unfollow those who post nonstop, and physically log out of your accounts to reduce the temptation to check your feeds again and again. Deleting every social media app from my phone “is the best thing I’ve done” this year, said Jake Swearingen in NYMag.com. Now I access my social media accounts only in small bites, like when I’m on my laptop, rather than every time I get in line at the supermarket or step onto an elevator. I was tired of feeling like a hostage, spending portions of my day on “an endless and addictive scroll.” If you vacantly graze through social media too often, give this strategy a shot. It’s “the smartest decision I’ve made so far in 2018.” ■