“I am pain-stricken to say, that today’s so-called modern humans are like the dogs in Pavlov’s experiment. Pavlov used a bell to manipulate the minds of his dogs, and today, social media platforms are using people’s own beloved smartphones to manipulate them”.
Abhijit Bhaduri, Digital Transformation Coach
So my month off social media has come to an end. 30 days without Instagram and Facebook. 30 days of attempting to limit WhatsApp and email checking to once a day. 30 days of generally trying to stay away from my phone as much as possible. Although I feel this was truly successful only when left in the car, ‘Zentember’ actually proved far easier than I expected. Interestingly enough now, I am more concerned about how to navigate my return to a world I have come to be very sceptical about.
There are numerous reasons for this. I have long suspected that the more we engage in social media the more lonely we feel, the more we fall into comparison mode, and the more the locus of our sense of worth becomes externally recognised and validated. Many of us are aware of all this to some degree, but it is far easier to feign ignorance because we are, quite simply, addicted. I was able to make a few observations of this strength of this addiction over the course of the month; The one that sticks out most was watching a ridiculous number of people filming entire live gigs - Xavier Rudd at the Academy was a prime example, but even in the NCH at Olafur Arnalds on Monday the screens were in my face.
And as for myself? Well I hardly took a single photo during the month. I basically lost interest in the camera function altogether when I couldn't share a story or create a post. I experienced the little pangs of regret, but those pangs provided useful insights too. At events where I was dying to post I had to really ask myself just why I could no longer enjoy the experience for what it was, 'as it is', without informing people I was doing so. And the ‘scrolling’ really does die hard - I found myself simply transferring my habit to other forums which couldn’t be classified as social media - Daft, Amazon, Skyscanner! Lucky I had just deleted Instagram from my phone altogether.
It really is by far the worst culprit – we know it contains a huge amount of narcissistic rubbish. We are bombarded with so much absolute shite that our discernment can only go so far. Having a ‘presence’ does seem to be important, but you know what - so too is being wise enough to know when to unfollow the noise. I will be looking at Hootsuite, doing some post scheduling in advance and reclaiming more of my time.
I’m reading a book called ‘Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now’ - compelling evidence if ever it was needed that we are turning into Pavlov's dogs. Yesterday morning on the radio I heard a pretty terrifying statistic that barely made me flinch - 40% of 16-24 year olds feel lonely often. Often?! And the sad thing is that I really do know this is true as I spend my days with teenagers. There is due cause for concern. I would hazard a bet that ten years ago this figure was nowhere near as high. All the digital friends in the world simply don't replace the connection of eye contact.
“I feel tremendous guilt… It is eroding the core foundation of how people behave by and between each other… My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore. I haven’t for years’.
Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president of user growth at Facebook.
It really says it all when the very people who invented these social media platforms won’t allow themselves (nor their offspring) near them. I really think it’s worthwhile taking a step back and take a break for a while. Even try it for a week if a month seems too long… Get the Moment app, track your screen time for a week before you take a break so you can really notice the difference. And you may get the shock of your life, but you’ll also be called to act with a new level of accountability. And in this day and age, well couldn’t we all do with a bit of that.