I was late to the game with every social media platform. Except maybe for Xanga, back in the day. Who remembers that one? I got a smartphone after all of my friends, I still don’t really understand Tumblr and there’s something that feels inherently cringey about trying to promote myself across the platforms as a ‘brand’ of sorts.
These days, everybody is a brand. Everybody a CEO of their own life. We all show our best side. We tailor our pages to give our viewers, followers or friends a specific kind of perception of us. We display ourselves as we would like to be perceived. Is there anything inherently wrong with that? I mean, I guess not. You can be who you want to be, so long as you aren’t hurting others or yourself. Social bashing is lame, of course. Cyber-bullying is cruel. But perhaps what’s worse is the way that we’re corrupting ourselves through our use of them. Or maybe I should say misuse.
Below are the main ways I’ve felt social media to be detrimental to my own life. The platforms themselves are not toxic, but my nature as a human being is vulnerable to exploitation.
This is perhaps the worst of them all. Having a smart-phone on me at all times and therefore access to the whole world at my fingertips constantly creates the perfect environment for a kind of passive, mindless scrolling that so many of us indulge in. If I’ve got time to kill, whilst of course my best intention would be to read or write or call a friend or people-watch, I find myself more often than not engaging in zombie mode. By this I mean checking all the platforms, even if I’ve just checked them moments prior as though not doing so will result in FOMO.
It’s utterly ridiculous. There’s so much irrelevant crap that circulates on all of these things for one, but secondly the good stuff isn’t going anywhere. So why the constant need to check? I put it down to a bad habit. It’s ‘dog chewing on furniture’ syndrome, as a good friend of mind puts it. The mind craves to be engaged, fed food for thought. The bad habit of constantly checking feeds that don’t really satisfy you result in nothing but a dark, vicious cycle of anxiety. It’s anxious tapping and it only gets worse the more you do it.
Skewing your Creativity
Each of us creative types has something unique to offer. But it’s so easy to cast your eye on the page of somebody who has massive interest and following to see that it’s really just like middle school all over again: certain things are popular, other things not so much. If the narcissist in us all wants to be adored, we can change ourselves to fit the bill. But what is that achieving? You’re then not being authentic.
With every gal a wanderlusting, yoga-obsessed, beach body, taking pictures of her legs as she lounges by the pool-side, taking staged photographs of her and her friends sipping out of coconuts, capturing a fully made-up face whilst lying in bed with the caption ‘woke up like this’, it’s no wonder that we all feel like the only way to get your name and material out there is to change what you’re all about all for the sake of being #popular.
I have found Instagram to be the worst for this. When I first started using the platform, I didn’t know that hashtags were a thing. I didn’t notice that successful pages had a similar theme. I simply captured my life and posted it as an easy-to-share album. A year or so later I noticed that it was popular to take pictures of your coffee, your face with a scrunched up ‘look how cute I am, even though I’m pulling a silly face’ expression, yoga poses and the sunset. Slowly these things have infiltrated my mind and I find myself taking pictures of them too. This makes me vomit slightly as I upload. But I do it anyway.
Do I actually enjoy capturing these things? Sometimes. Do they ignite the hot-spot of my brain that is inspired? No, of course they bloody don’t. So why am I doing it? Why I am clogging MY SPACE with stuff that isn’t really ME? Stuff that isn’t what I’m trying to create?
Fear of Speaking your Truth
This runs along the same thread as the aforementioned point. With the pressure to put forth your very best side, it’s easy to get into the habit of withholding. The other extreme is being that person (and we all know one) who uses Facebook to moan about their friendship issues with vague, attention-seeking comments. Don’t be that person either. But at the same time, don’t be somebody who withholds their truth because you’re worried about what the masses will think of you.
Whether it’s an interest, topic, creative expression or whatever else, if it feels innately you and you wish to share it with the world, don’t give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks and do it! There’s always at least a handful of people that it resonates with. And that – my friends – is how connection and thus friendship is made.
The Bedside Takeover
It’s like I blinked my eyes and became one of those God-awful people I swore I’d never be. Most nights, the last thing I do before I go to sleep is check my social media. And the first thing I do when I wake up? Lurch for my phone and repeat the process. This is an utterly shameful habit and I hate that I do it. Pre-smartphone, I would wake up with a regular alarm clock and then start my day with a coffee and the radio, perhaps doing some yoga before going anywhere near my computer. I’m a morning person so I’d still start up my laptop pretty early in the morning, but by the point I did I felt ready. I felt prepared.
Now, I am doing things back to front. I’m doing all the checking of stuff that I’m really not gaining anything from and then stumbling into the kitchen to make tea or coffee.
I’m honestly ashamed to admit all of this. I feel embarassed that I’ve become one of these people and I also know that it has to stop. Writing will always come first for me – without a doubt – but I’m done trying to be the well-rounded social go-getter because it just isn’t me. I find it a burden, to tell the truth. And the process does not make me feel good.