Over the last few years, people have been telling you to delete all social media because it is ruining your life, keeping you up at night with addiction, distracting you, or making you miserable with comparison. Mark Manson, the popular author of The subtle art of not giving a f*rk, wrote a whole book as a sequel about this topic called Everything is f*cked. While there’s a lot of truth here that I agree with, I’m here to argue that deeming all social media to be bad and swearing off it is too simplistic of a conclusion. Social media has done a lot of good for me with up-leveling my life and knowledge base.
I do agree that many people don’t understand how addictive they are. I recently had a quick debate with an elderly gentleman who loves Facebook and LinkedIn, and argued that discipline and willpower was enough to keep up these platforms. His belief was that it’s your responsibility to use your raw willpower to get off these platforms like you said you would once you get on them. However, I assert that raw willpower is not the answer because of the addictive, emotional nature of these platforms that trigger abundant primal stimuli that are species isn’t wired to ever experience given that were still adapted to ancient Savannah times. It’s kind of the same effect as walking through a house full of sweets and desserts versus just eliminating those foods from your house so you don’t have to eat them and become unhealthy.
It’s true. It is addictive. But it’s not really hip anymore. I keep a close ear to the pulse of social media trends at all times. In the last couple of years, most people my age and younger doesn’t really go on Facebook much. It’s died a bit for this generation. In fact, I can pull up a dozen know profiles of my Facebook friends right now and their timeline will be close to nothing but a few photos they took and the last three years of happy birthday messages, many of which they then respond to. Yet if you go back a few more years, you’ll discover how active they were. They were posting their own photos, tagging others in their photos, getting tagging others photos, checking into restaurants, and so forth.
Plus, I would say every 20 to 30 people I meet my age, I will meet one that already has no social media and is already bought into why there’s more cons than pros. So for those people, you’re preaching to the choir.
That said, Facebook has blown up for the older generation. I see a lot of people my parents age or my grandparents age that are loving Facebook for its ability to connect and communicate with their loved ones or people they lost touch with. I think they will eventually hits a tipping point in a couple years when they realize the downsides of social media, such as the sadness or jealousy it can cause when you see others succeeding more than you do or living better lives, which will tone down their enthusiasm, something the younger generation is already savvy about.
With that all being said, I still know a good amount of young people my age and younger who use Facebook often. They use it to find new events to attend, to communicate with like-minded people in groups, to post their opinions to the world in status updates, and to post the occasional photo. I am one of those people, and I know it can get addicting. It’s easy to jump into a group about fashion and style or my local CrossFit group and get lost in the viral, entertaining videos or photos that are posted. It’s easy to get on there to browse the marketplace to see if there’s any call bargains or to see if anything you posted has interested buyers. It’s easy to just tap your notifications to see if anything important or interesting came up today, to see if there any interesting events or new pages that you got invited to.
There are pros and cons to everything. The utility of the marketplace for making some side income and getting bargains and the events page to find cool events in my area to do so I’m not just home alone is appealing. In fact, they can be used as excuses or crutches to lean on so that I can’t and when I do those, it’s all too tempting to explore the other nonproductive avenues of Facebook I mentioned. One pro can’t come without the cons.
Social media also functions as a free resource to store and organize all the photos and videos you take to document your life and memories.
So is it addictive? For some. I would estimate half of my generation and younger don’t give a crap about it, and only go on to respond to their happy birthday messages. It’s lost its appeal. The other half find valid, viable features for it, but it also opens up a can of worms for tempting nonproductive activities. So for these people, yes, it is addicting. But does addicting always mean bad? Not always, if you’re getting a lot of productive use from it.
Now, can you separate the productive activities from the unproductive ones? Yes, but it’s hard, even with strong willpower. Tapping an icon is just so easy to do and that will lead you down a rabbit hole. So then, the question become what’s the net effect of Facebook for you? Positive or negative? I find that you can determine this answer, and will be different for everyone, by deleting Facebook for a couple weeks and assessing the net affect at the end of every day when you use Facebook.
For me, I found the net effect of social media to be positive on a weekly or monthly basis. If I completely delete the app because I use a ton of other apps on my iPhone, and almost all of them allow for Facebook quick login. I’m saving a ton of time connecting to a variety of other beneficial apps, whether that’s my meditation app, health app, fast food app, or dating app, by connecting to Facebook rather than creating a brand-new account with an email and the new password I have to remember for dozens of apps. It also ties my data that I have stored for each of these apps with my Facebook for easy access. Facebook has really wedged a permanent place in the marketplace by being sometimes the only go to social media login feature offered for many apps. And I do manage to find out about new events and activities and news for my CrossFit gym and local festivals, both of which are very important to me. I want find out about them in our wasn’t any other way because that is still the medium that the people who organized these things prefer to communicate. On occasion, I can find call bargains for shoes I can buy on the marketplace, and have sold a decent amount of stuff myself on the marketplace that has given me a bit of side income. I also get to find out cool news about classes, events, and activities because I follow a lot of cool companies and things I’m interested in, such as boxing, restaurants, and other outdoor activities.
I’ve also gotten some good deals on food prep kits food delivery services and other products (like dress shirts) that are out of this world because of Facebook ads. A lot of people, maybe even all the people, I’ve talked to about Facebook ads seem to view them in aggregate as a bad thing, but I see them as a good thing because some of the ads are pretty entertaining or useful. I get some good deals from them. They’re not even that annoying.
On a daily basis, I often feel at the end of the night that the 30 minutes or hour I invested in Facebook or Instagram was unfulfilling and useless. I spend the time browsing, searching, for something to improve my mood or some opportunity that could change my life or something amazing. What I’m really looking for is to pass the time and some comments or message I make to take off to form a new relationship, event I can attend, or career opportunity. That almost never happens. I’m better off not touching the app more frequently than once a week.
In fact, I think what’s much more dangerous is whatever is the hot new mainstream app. For the last couple of years, that has been Instagram. It’s much more addictive and most of the young generation have opted for Instagram’s, sometimes in place of Facebook, to connect with friends or stay up-to-date with what others are doing. In the future, that might move to tick-tock or some new platform. As always, this new platform will have some new spin on it that will make it more interesting and entertaining. But then, when the hype dies down, you’re left with the bad parts of social media, the comparing and unproductive use of time and end the or unhappiness that may come from watching others better off than you live their lives on there. That’s when you may be better off cutting the cord with the app before its addictive nature prevent you from doing that. Of course, that becomes even harder for any influencer or business person because there’s always that excuse that posting on here will eventually lead to greater income or opportunities. I would say give it a year of dedicated work, and interests still seeing little to no traction, cut it off. Because otherwise, and this is from personal experience, you simply use it as an excuse to keep going on there and then you get sucked in to all the people you follow and you waste more time (Yep, I’m still at just 2,800 followers on Instagram at 1,500 posts).
That brings us to our next point that people argue is that Facebook has too much data and knows too much about us, and can get creepy with the personalized details they know about us in their advertising. I work in the Internet advertising space, and it’s true that they can pull a lot of information about you that can get pretty creepy. But at the same time, it’s also limited for legal reasons. Sure, they can figure out your general age range or even in the industry you work and income level and maybe even restaurants you frequent, but advertisers usually struggle to get sales. What’s all that really going to do to help them? Sure, the they may put their ad in front of the right people more often, but many of them still aren’t good at their skill, and that comes down to having a great offer. There are people just like you and me, and a lot of them aren’t trying to invade your home, they just China get you to buy their socks or meal delivery kit. Sure, you can save the Russian government or some other sophisticated political organization is going to use this data to brainwash you or something like that, and maybe they can exert some influence. But what I’ve learned from working in the Internet marketing world is that it takes a lot of work, full-time dedication, to be able to understand human psychology, wiring, influence, and most people are too lazy to do the work and implemented. Plus, even if you do, you’re limited to showing one ad every 10 or so pieces of content in someone’s newsfeed. Is that really going to mind control you?
You’re probably wondering where Facebook gets all the state about you. In fact, some people get paranoid and think that it can lifts into your conversations via Siri and Alexa, and then use that to promote products to you even if you only mentioned them once in the conversation. Maybe we’ll get there one day if Alexa voice really takes off. But the truth is, were not even close. Facebook and Amazon and Apple are competitors so they’re not gonna be working together. They’re not legally allowed to just listen to your conversations for extended periods of time. They’re just getting the data based on your Facebook profile information and then extrapolating from there with algorithms. For the admit advanced marketers, there often paying for other data sources and software that extrapolates and correlates your data from other databases, which gets your information from your profile and browsing history on Google Chrome or LinkedIn and so forth.
The next point that is made is that social media, including Facebook, really only cares about getting as much attention as possible for as long as possible, so they can make money by putting ads and taxing your attention. If all they cared about was money, they never would’ve gotten to the heights that they’ve gone to now. Of course, they do care about money. But if it was the wasn’t for their extreme dedication to providing the best content, entertaining or informative, to bring value to users, they never would’ve gotten to the popularity that they have.
They do bring a lot of value, but that comes with costs. The issue is that Facebook is demonized as this monopoly that is just here to absolutely addict us to death and that other social platforms are exempt. I’d argue that YouTube and Netflix and some of the other seemingly innocent platforms are moving along right in the same direction in terms of optimizing their algorithms to get you to stay on as long as possible so that you feel good about the platform and their Board of Directors can see higher levels of engagement and feel that there users are invested, which implies that they will stay longer with the platform for the months and years to come.
The next point that is made is that social media has made real connections and relationships harder. They made it so easy to just sit passively and create a virtual friendship with people you may know or have an acquaintance with. But if you chat with even a portion of the people my age or younger, we figured that out long ago. At least some of us have. We joked about how many of the people that add you on Facebook or just people you barely know who walked the same high school hallways as you. Of course, for a small portion of socially inept people, Facebook will serve as a downward slope for them to get more comfortable and mark it up as a friendship and sink deeper into a area where they think they’re making friendships when they aren’t. But I also see people for thriving in making friendships. They actively go out and form bonds with people in real life, and they would’ve thrived before the Internet as well. Maybe these are just the more socially talented, extroverted, popular group of kids. But whether intuitively or intentionally, they’re using social media just as a tool an extension of their social abilities. The hosting and throwing parties. They’re going out to restaurants and having a blast reconnecting with their female friends and only using Facebook may be to check in with their friends and let others knows they went there or not at all except the post a picture of their meal.
I do acknowledge that there is that middle group that aren’t completely socially inept but aren’t extremely socially savvy. That includes me and plenty of engineer type mail friends I know. And for them, I do acknowledge that it can be easy to lean on Facebook as a form of activity. But frankly, none of them really spend that much time on Facebook. They go to the gym. They work hard at their job. They may go to a bar or ultimate Frisbee once in a while. Facebook is not the core cause or even main cause that they’re not extremely social or have tons of strong friendships. Perhaps, the real cause may just be
a matter of modern American society lifestyle and lack of awareness. Community and bonding and conversations naturally happened for ancestors because we lived in tribes and villages where we had to talk to everyone else because all the activities and people will write in front of us. City and suburb landscapes have fueled a different type of environment where we have to go out of our way and intentionally join clubs and activities to actively create that community, something that some of us naturally understand and do, while others don’t.
Maybe social is a contributing factor, but there’s also video games, other social media platforms, television, movies, virtual reality, video editing, music production software, Photoshop, and all the other virtual or isolated opportunities at our disposal. And who’s to say that being alone is always a bad thing? Maybe it should be that being alone some portion of the time every day to think and reflect is essential, but too much alone time can reduce happiness and mental health.
So as to the point that people make that social media is one of many virtual things that are replacing the real human connection and destroying happiness and fulfillment and relationships, I disagree that it’s the entire factor or even the main factor. It’s possibly contributing but not everything. I do agree that more people should be aware of that virtual stuff can’t replace real stuff, and I see it among the masses of young adults. There often on their phones on and off throughout a real conversation or real meeting. But is it really the fault of the phone completely? Sure, it’s addicting. But how many of those moments would’ve just been boredom or silence anyways before the era of phones and Facebook? Is Facebook and other social media and phone games simply feeling a much-needed gap?
Now, it’s time for you to make your decision yourself. Everyone’s situation, priorities, and goals are different. Many argue that social media has abused society and become too much of a power, and we must take the control back as consumers by choosing not to partake in it with a boycott.
For me, social media is where I find out about certain events. I have recently been in Miami, and when I ask about cool social events, athletic activities, or things to do, I get recommended Instagram accounts. To abstain from all that, you’re going to miss cool events, like this Sip and Paint event I went to that was free, had a free wine station, and let you paint on the walls, doors, and windows of a house. You will miss out on important information and opportunities: Social media is a valuable source of information, and is often the first place where news and events are shared. Yes, you can arguably survive or get around it by relying on Eventbrite, Telegram/Whatsapp groups, and word of mouth, but it really just depends on how much that matters to you, and for me, I do like to find out about really cool events.
With all that being said, I’ve met many who claim they don’t use any social anymore. I respect that, and I can understand why. I also acknowledge that you can survive and do fine without it. Some people aren’t cut out to be influencers or know how to use social media well. Take LinkedIn: I developed a style of networking and informational interviews that reach out to people in industries and job titles that I want through LinkedIn. That’s something that the average person doesn’t know how to use to secure job opportunities. I had to learn about it through a course I took, Dream Job by Ramit Sethi. The point is that most people, even with social media, could be using it ineffectively with what the post and how they use it from an informational and emotional basis. So, the point could be made that they’re not generating the value they could or ever will.
Ultimately, the choice is yours.