Where is the harm? A like there, a comment here, a pic here, a share there. Social media can't be that bad for you, can it?
Yes, we're already hooked on social media. But isn't it worth knowing why? This article contains secrets used by social media platforms to keep you coming back for more. If you are happy staying hooked and you don't see the harm, there is little point in you reading on. Continue your naive bliss.
When you walk into a casino, they dazzle you with lights. People laugh and have a great time as they unwittingly spend their mortgage money on the roulette table. The ding ding ding sounds coming from the fruit machines entice you, as does that lovely looking lever that just needs a good yank. The sweet smell makes you feel comfortable and at ease as the last note goes down on the table.
Yes, that's right, smell. There is actually a smell casinos pump into the room that is designed to get you spending more!
None of your senses stand a chance. They are all brutally attacked as the only winner walks away with your last penny.
Social media platforms can't attack all your senses when you are sitting on the toilet or when you're sitting in your living room. They have to get clever. And they are. Very clever.
The Leprechaun in this picture looks shady for a reason.
Social media platforms get you hooked with endorphin hits. All those likes, shares, comments, pictures and games are all designed to give you a hit of the happy chemical to keep you on and keep your attention.
Social media platforms employ people called 'Attention Engineers'. Using Vegas casino-style tactics, it is their sole job to keep you on for as long as possible. The longer you stay on, the higher their profit.
YOUR ATTENTION = PROFIT
It's your attention that is the real issue here.
Yes, social media causes anxiety and depression. Even Facebook has come out to admit that one. But the real insidious damage caused by the addiction to social media comes from the attention you give it, and the long-term effects of that attention.
If you are spending most of your time being distracted online, what is happening in 'real life'?
Answer: very little.
It's all well and good boosting your online social media presence and having thousands of online 'friends', but what happened to meeting your real friends in real life? What happened to experiencing something firsthand, rather than just reading about it online?
We weren't made to stay indoors. We need a healthy dose of lux (sunlight). Neglecting your real life can have serious long-term effects.
POP-UPS & PUSH NOTIFICATIONS
It's little wonder we fear missing out.
Have you noticed how many pop-ups and push notifications there are that come through on your phone?
You are minding your own business, plodding along quite nicely, and the phone is constantly buzzing.
Come and check this out.
Your friend, who you hardly know, has just posted a picture.
You must get this once in a lifetime deal right now.
Those pesky attention engineers know what they need to do when you have the gumption to put your phone down.
Social media platforms did a poll to find out what sort of comments and subjects get the most attention. What do you think came out on top?
- Cute kittens?
- Grandma's cataracts?
- The most pretentious coffee?
None of the above.
The overriding comments and subjects that get the most attention are all related to hate. The more hate, the better.
It turns out when someone agrees with you, that might get you a few likes. But when someone disagrees with you, you'll get a whole lot more. Not likes, but certainly a lot more comments.
As far as those attention engineers are concerned, attention is attention. If hate is what it takes to keep attention, so be it.
It's only since we learned to write that we have documented how special we are.
As well as social media's few good points, it has a very unique way of highlighting and extenuating everything that is bad in our society. Narcissistic traits are way up there.
Everyone is entitled to have their view. But there is something about social media and its culture that makes its users believe attention is deserved, whatever they decide to put out.
The precise time I chose to move away from my personal account was when my friend (I say friend – I hadn't seen him for about ten years) posted a picture of his dinner for the fifth day running.
Sorry, friend, but who gives a fuck?
To social media, we aren't individuals – we are little bits of data. Little, but when combined, very valuable.
All the information you feed into social media gets used to distinguish which products are best marketed to you. This information includes your age, gender, occupation, marital status, income, location, and any keywords you type in when sending messages etc.
The mass data from all users is also processed and translated as trends. When you can predict trends, it's like predicting the future. Big bucks.
But that's not the biggest deal when it comes to algorithms. The biggest deal is the thing influencing the algorithms in the first place.
As private companies, social media platforms decide what information to put out. If they choose to put out a biased idea to their billions of users, they can hit each and every one of them with that idea. They can, of course, do the same thing when they want to shut an idea down. Removal of accounts and channels is rapidly increasing. In some circumstances, rightly so. But in other circumstances, there is a strong debate about having free speech unfairly censored because a view might not fit into political correctness or someone else's viewpoint.
I care less about the underhand tactics and the conspiracy of social media than I do about the future, including our kids getting so easily and quickly hooked and addicted to this stuff.
In such heavy doses, it has been proven that social media isn't good for us. And that is the conclusion, right there: in heavy doses.
Most things in life tend to be OK in moderation. But with so many tactics used to get us hooked, it's not a fair fight.
If you ask most kids nowadays to put down their phone and stop using social media, they look at you like you've asked them to remove their right arm and hand it to you. That is a very real addiction, however you look at it.
Maybe a detox is the answer. Maybe it's moderation. Maybe a ban. Maybe you just don't care. Only you will know what is best for you and your loved ones.
To help, here are a couple of probing questions:
How do you feel when you use social media? Does comparing yourself to others make you feel anxious or depressed?
Are you willing to come away from social media for a period of time – to see how different you might feel? If not, why not?
How does using social media make the people around you feel? How do they communicate with each other?
What do you use social media for? To connect? To get hits of endorphin? To feel significant?
Could yours and your loved ones valuable attention, the most precious asset you have, be used in more constructive ways?