Before we had the internet, we’d have to go to the library and source information from books and textbooks with withered paper. It took a lot longer to find out a small piece of information, which we can now have in a mere matter of seconds. But it also provided a source of genuine, real information that was factually based. Now, we can open the internet, read one sentence about something, and believe it’s true when it’s a complete lie. Misinformation now spreads like wildfire thanks to social media.
The algorithms we fall into aid in the spread of misinformation. “To keep users engaged and therefore sell more ads, entities like Facebook and Twitter monitor our interests and feed us more of the same, columnizing us by a variety of factors, including political affiliation. As we gather news from like-minded media and read comments from like-minded avatars, opinions become hard-set and immovable, while opposing stances become not only disagreeable but disgusting” (via Listverse). The algorithms know what we want to read about and see, and it does anything they can to make sure we get that information.
Instead of arguing with someone face to face, people now rely on their computer screens. It gives them that confidence boost they’ve been looking for, all of their cowardly lives. People say hateful, racist things to one another. They seem to get their rage out with the black keys on their keyboard. People don’t have to look each other in the eyes. They don’t have an argument that’ll likely cause them quite a bit of discomfort. These loudmouths can now flex their phone muscles and have a way to act out their disgusting behavior for no other reason than to boost their fragile egos. Most of them don’t even dare to use their real names (via Listverse).
Believe it or not, social media isn’t free. We’re paying for it with our lives. Our mental health is at stake. While it may not seem like it, in the long run, we’ll eventually notice it. According to Psych2go, Jacqueline Sperling Ph.D., a psychologist at McLean Hospital describes how social media is designed to be like a slot machine. If players knew what they would be rewarded with for the game, there would be no interest to play in the first place.” Most of us would never play a slot machine at a casino, but we all have multiple social media apps we’re not afraid to use every day. She goes on to say that “the idea of a potential future reward keeps the machine in use. When the outcome is unpredictable, the behavior is more likely to repeat.” Social media is recording and remembering every scroll, click, like, the question asked, and dislike. It’s becoming smarter and smarter, and soon, will probably outsmart us.
Think about it. Instead of picking up a book, going on a run, or taking a course to learn a new skill, you’re picking up your phone and scrolling social media, hopelessly devoted to something that’s only making your life worse. If the first thing you do in the morning is roll over and check your messages, you’re not alone. Those first moments in the morning set your mood for the entire day. The first 20 minutes, call the alpha stage, after waking up are the most impressionable part of your day. It’s like a sponge. It soaks up the most valuable information in those first waking moments. So if you’re rolling over and looking at social media, you’re using those precious moments to put false information, judgments, or negative comments into your brain.
If you thought we were a lonely generation because of social media, think about the generations that are born with a phone in their hand. According to Medium, “the generation that was all but born with a device in their hand, 18-24-year-olds, are four times as likely to feel lonely “most of the time” compared to those over 70.” Most of the time is a lot of the time. It’s too much. Social media has backfired. Instead of bringing us closer together as a society, it’s causing us to dig our graves.
If you’re ever waiting in line for something, what’s the first thing you do? Pick up your phone! Like the rest of the world, you feel the need to distract while waiting for more than a minute or two. Why focus on the real world when we could distract ourselves with Twitter and Instagram? An interview on Mind Matters speaks about this. Author Doug Smith said, “but not only are we distracted, we almost have to be distracted. If we have five seconds to wait in line, we first think about pulling out our phone and seeing what happened on Twitter. And that’s by design.” We lose focus and feel an immediate urge to reach into our bags and check the latest news. And it’s only getting worse.
Instead of spending precious hours focusing on our new business or writing a book, we’re spending those hours scrolling social media and comparing ourselves to others. “Online stardom is often considered an alternative to a prestigious job. Instead of working hard and acquiring the skills to gain a decent job, people are often distracted by social media. Achieving our goals takes a lot of hard work and drive, but we may take the easy route and become distracted” (via Medium). Thanks to social media and the ease that comes with falling into scrolling and posting for immediate gratification, people don’t have enough of an attention span to spend enough time focusing on their goals.
We’re not talking about working harder at your job. We’re talking about working harder to break the addiction and negative feedback loop many of us have fallen into. One of the ways to do this is to set a timer for your apps. It’s challenging to monitor how much time you spend on social media, especially if you’re not paying attention to it. It suddenly becomes second nature, and you’re left mindlessly picking up the phone. To combat this, “you can set a timer (or even better, a time limit!) to do the work for you. Most timers will give you a warning when you are about to exceed your time limit. This can help you become more self-aware while providing you with better self-control” (via Psych2go).