Does Social Media Control You?
A lot can be said for social media. But is your relationship with it healthy?
I remember the first time I ever logged onto Facebook. I was pretty young. I might have been thirteen or fourteen. And it was a new world for me. It was an identity thing. A place to make about you. It wasn’t about family back then. It wasn’t about politics. It wasn’t even about memes. It was about you. You and me.
I’m one of the younger generation that grew up on social media. If I didn’t have time restrictions turned on on my Facebook timeline, you would probably be able to see all the way back to the very start of it all. As it is, I have pictures from the middle of high school on my Facebook –because those pictures are what my life was about when I joined. I’m sure a lot of you can relate.
But the funny thing is, over time, I grew lukewarm to the platform. The reason for this had nothing to do with anything you’ve read about on the news. I’m sure the things you hear about in the news are all valid reasons to dislike the platform. But regardless of what Zuckerberg did or didn’t do with my information back in 2018, my dislike of Facebook didn’t start with him.
What really turned me off to Facebook went beyond how political it became. And not just in regards to actual politics. That stuff’s pretty gnarly, too. But beyond that, there’s the drama with family. There’s the politics of “should I say this, or not say this?” “How will people react?”
Simply Put, Facebook Just Got Stale.
We used to post little artsy/angsty status updates when were teenagers, because our “wall” as it was called then, was an expression of what we thought about ourselves. It was my own personal space to figure myself out. Now it’s become a placard to show other people how great I turned out, or how “together” my life is.
Overtime, my Facebook profile lost that feeling of being a space where I expressed myself. It became something I used in order to update family members on what is going on in my life. It became a place for other people to tag me in pictures. I hid my birthday from the feed because it was a point of pride for people to count their well wishes and compare them with the next person.
It became a place to post engagements. It became a place to brag about accomplishments. It became boring.
But it never became something that made me feel bad about myself.
That isn’t the Case for Everyone.
Plenty of people flock to their phones each day to check their Facebook feed. People whisper over their computers in offices and under tables in computer labs that Facebook is dead. But people are still checking it. It’s become ingrained in us. How could we not check? What did mankind do before the advent of Facebook? How did they gossip about one another, and see how they measured up? Surely, that’s all Facebook has become, right? A place to share political arguments and ironic memes while maintaining the perfect image that we turned out alright.
When we got tired of Facebook, we migrated like pioneers onwards to the next social media platform that hadn’t yet been fully settled. These new lands of Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and beyond were tempting because they offered so much of what we had lost with Facebook. But overtime, our longing for that isolated place of belonging and longing combined faded away to a new list of concerns, jealousies, and insecurities.
Greener Pastures Offered Us What We Had Lost
Perhaps every social media platform has its own vice. If I were to look carefully through my Instagram feed, or try and explore things interesting to me, I would probably be inundated with enough content to write a few more pieces on the topic of good and evil in social media.
After all, it’s something we, meaning you and me — young people — born just before the turn of the century, have grown up with, and struggled with, for all of our young adult and teenage lives.
YouTube has become a strange culture, perpetuating views and ideas wholly shaped towards its own audience. Motivational speakers have blurred the lines for us between what is possible and impossible, and what we think life looks like, and what we know it doesn’t look like.
Twitter has given us a way to engage with people who have forever been out of reach. Playboy Bunnies can retweet my Tweets, and we can start hashtag movements to impeach the President, and discredit the Pope.
LinkedIn has given us a way to compare job titles, salaries, connections. It’s given us a way to cut out our aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas from the equation in favor of employers, recruiters, and less successful friends. Now we are smiling people wearing suits, and those smiling people are oblivious to the things we post on other platforms.
Surely, we are those smiling selves all the time. We are the perfect office employees, the contented to have grown up, our trail of social media faux pas lying in the waste basket along the way.
We long to be LinkedIn influencers, and write posts about our industry, inspire others to live the way we do (even if they really don’t want to) because social media has taught us, particularly the “influencers” on social media, that if we have a camera and internet connection then it is our God given right to tell other people how they should live their lives.
We do this in order to stay relevant. Or some of us don’t know why we do it. We just do it because that’s what everyone else does. Right?
Does Social Media Control You?
Depression amongst young people can be linked in part to their activity on social media. Better known as FOMO (now you know what I’m talking about) or “fear of missing out,” the act of viewing the lives of others leads young folks like myself to gaze wishfully at the supposed lives of those they see on social media, wishing that they themselves were either traveling, or married to that guy, or had that purse.
The list goes on. But how many of us stop to think about the exorbitant amounts of money that our friends are shelling out for that new trip? How much of a loan that needs to be taken out in order to pay for that new car. Or how much personal sacrifice is going into that executive job title at the top of that LinkedIn profile. Is this what life is really about?
Does social media control you? What kinds of patterns do you see yourself falling into with social media? Are you just a passive observer, hanging out like a fly on the wall of your friends’ big life events, milestones, and vacations?
More often than not –social media controls us. We start thinking about places to go based on how those places will look on our social media accounts –how they will reflect on our own sense of self worth and achievement. You may be reading this thinking to yourself that this sounds familiar –that this sounds like you. If this is you –there is still hope.
How Much Time Do You Spend…On the Content of Others?
If you are spending all of your time on social media gazing at the content of others, you might be controlled by social media. Why aren’t you creating your own content? Why aren’t you creating your own lasting memories?
So many of us when we get interested in getting involved on social media stop at the very first step. Becoming absorbed in the content of others. Too often we get turned away by their success or by our own insecurities. We remain locked in this place, watching how great other peoples’ lives are. We give up on making our lives into what we want them to be. We give up on growing our own online presence.
We don’t ask ourselves, what good can I do through social media?
Social isn’t like the other forms of media that came before it. It isn’t like a magazine, or a book, or a TV program. Its very nature is to be perpetually created by people like you and me. So why don’t we use it to create? Why is it so often instead using us? It cuts into our time in the library when we should be studying, into our hours spent in front of the computer at night. It haunts us in the morning and at work. Rarely do we stop to think about what we are getting out of it in return for the hours we spend on it.
Ultimately, Social Media is About Connecting
Not a single platform is without social interaction. YouTube you subscribe. Instagram you follow. LinkedIn you connect. Facebook you friend. This is at the heart of social media. It’s why social media has the power to hurt and harm, and the power to build and empower.
What side of the equation are you on?
In the end, it’s up to you to decide. You can use social media to make millions. You can use it to make friends. You can use it to hate others. You can use it to do good.
What kind of good? Saving the dolphins and cleaning up the planet kind of good? I suppose so. But isn’t there an easier way than this to do good? Who is it that sees your content, long before anyone has a chance to make the decision to save the planet?
It’s About the People.
If people are opening their phones every morning to see what you’ve posted the night before, what obligation do you have to them? If they are living by the feed of what we are all throwing out there, creating one living, breathing consciousness –well, what do we do about it?
What are your friends going to see in the morning when they wake up? Influencers, what are your followers going to see? Another business add? Maybe one of your own sponsored adds? Are they going to see your expensive cars and feel good about themselves? Are they going to see news about the end of the earth and be motivated to go to work?
I think you know the answer. Whether you are a content creator, like me, or a fly on the wall like so many other people, it is inevitable. You are going to have to decide what to do with social media.
Whether you are a content creator, like me, or a fly on the wall like so many other people, it is inevitable. You are going to have to decide what to do with social media.
It has become such an intimate part of our lives, that there’s no way we can choose to avoid the impact it has on us any longer.
A lot of us probably wish we had explored and taken advantage of these platforms sooner. We could be rich and famous now if we had, right?
But I think you’ll find something is still to be done on social media. Because amidst the insane amount of content uploaded to social media everyday, in the form of posts, Tweets, pictures video and on — how much of it is intended to uplift those who engage with it? How much of it is intended to make them smile, or laugh, or dream about something outside of themselves, that’s good, and challenges them to create, love, be kind, or help somebody else?
I don’t know.
A simple Google search brings up about as much positive content as a look through the obituary in my local newspaper.
But there is good stuff out there. And if we can
a. control what we see on social media (not obsess over the content of others)
b. share meaningful, powerful content.
and c. express what is helpful and uplifting
then we can create a happier place for everyone, young and old.
Don’t Become a Social Media Entertainer
We have enough social media personalities. Do you know what we don’t have enough of? People who are willing to use their talents to help others. Ask kids what they want to be when they grow up and they will tell you “I want to be a YouTuber!”
What have they forgotten that we had when we grow up? They’ve forgotten how important it is to develop a skill. How much better is it to desire to become a writer and then transition into the digital space, than to want to be a famous vloger and make do with writing in order to help your digital presence?
What talent do you have that can make you stand out from the crowd? How can you harness social media to make yourself stand out even further?
How to Control Social Media – Not Let Social Media Control You
Now, I’m building a career out of it, so I honestly hope social media isn’t going away anytime soon. It sure is a heck of a lot more fun to work with than traditional media. Still, I did not spend my life on social media growing up. Thank goodness!
I lost faith in social media at a young age. I kept it at arm’s length, even in high school when my friends were flocking to it. I checked out books at the local library as a teenager on social media marketing. But I had zero interest in exploring the latest social media trend for what I could get out of it alone.
I grew up like kids used to –playing with one another in real time. My teen years, people still texted one another, and made phone calls. And in college, I read great books, not great blog posts. I became a well rounded person, before I ever got into the social media game. This is important to remember as the next generation comes up. They might not have the same luxury. They might think that people always slept with their phones that connect to Facebook LinkedIn Instagram and Netflix on their nightstands. They simply might not know.
At the same time, they might be even better with it than we are, and take even more advantage of the Internet to build better lives for themselves. But what can we do to start helping them, ourselves and everyone else for that matter, today?
Let’s start by getting really good at what we do. Let’s work at that talent, that thing that we love, and let’s work at it hard for a long time before we start even thinking about making money for it. And then, once we’ve done that, let’s pursue it with all we’ve got. Let’s use social media purposefully. Let’s ignore the content of others if we can’t learn from it, and let’s deploy an effective strategy that builds real relationships, real connections, over time, and ignore the vanity metrics that mirror adolescent fears of not fitting in.
Let’s come to a holistic approach to social media, and let it stop ruining, and controlling our lives. Let’s build something worth watching, reading, and listening to.