I am not ashamed to say that I am an addict. I understand that I have an addictive personality and I get obsessed with some things quickly, and most of the time can’t stop. I’m not an addict in the traditional sense, drugs or alcohol or food, but I’m addicted to social media.
You’re probably thinking “oh great another millennial piece about a millennial who can’t stop taking selfies.” Here’s the thing though, I’m not a selfie taker (aside from that time I traveled abroad by myself and selfies were the easiest ways to document my trip). I’m addicted to social media in the sense that I can’t function without it.
I grew up at the beginning of the social media era. We had AIM to connect with our friends and write witty away messages and shame and impress our classmates. We had Xanga and Livejournal because we all thought our lives were SO interesting (newsflash: they weren’t). We had MySpace and our biggest struggle was deciding on the all important “Top 8.” The process was exhausting. As I got further into high school, Facebook had opened up to more people in 2005 and 2006 and my peers and I were flooding each other with stickers and Farmville requests. By the time we got to college, we would leave long obnoxious video messages on each other’s walls with our Macbooks.
For my friends and I, Snapchat and Instagram weren’t really as pertinent to our social status until the tail end of our college careers, although Vine really helped boost people’s egos throughout that time. Now, teens and young adults are so reliant on these apps as a way to share and express their every move and thought. They can’t even take a shit without letting someone on their social media know about it.
To circle back around to my original point, it wasn’t until I watched the show Stripped on Bravo that I realized I had a problem with social media. One of the participants talked about it being a 24/7 chore, having to curate the perfect image, the correct schedule, and the right understanding of how to engage with their followers. For a lot of us, that “like” or little heart releases dopamine, just like a hug does. We get off on it. It’s actually insane that there is scientific evidence for this.
I decided to challenge myself and see if I could go 21 days without social media. Originally I was going to go cold turkey and do no social media at all, but because of my job I need to manage my company’s social media, I would delete all the apps off my phone and only use social media during work hours for no more than 15 minutes a day. That sounded hard at first and I didn’t know if I would be able to do it.
On day one of my challenge, aka my social media detox, I noticed how much I would pick up my phone throughout the day to check my social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, repeat. It was an endless cycle that never seemed to end. I would say that the first few days were the roughest because I had to find new ways to keep myself distracted (although I found I was way more productive because I wasn’t constantly scrolling). While not checking my social media before bed and after I got up did nothing to truly improve my sleep or how I began or ended my day, I did notice that I had a bit more time for other activities or to get ready.
By week two, I didn’t miss social media, but I did find it to be a bit of struggle when I would log onto Facebook for work purposes. However, I would say that I did slip and fall back into using Facebook, at least on a desktop computer the day that the unfortunate and tragic shooting at Douglas took place, just mere miles down the road from me. Receiving a frantic call from my friend all the way across the country with tears streaming down her face telling me about the shooting and that her brother was inside the school still was enough for me to think twice about everything going on. Friends of mine who were alumni of the school and those whose lives were touched by MSD were sharing their thoughts and I could not completely be shut off from those discussions. It was my obligation to stay aware socially and engage in conversation, whether it was difficult or not. That was my way of processing what had happened.
In all reality, we rely so heavily on social media to stay informed, sometimes often using that as a way to get breaking news. We’re not relying on reading the paper or watching the news anymore. We rely on our friends and those companies and brands and journalists to give us the information we need to get through our days. As a society, we receive information at a much faster and higher rate than generations past. Everything is at the tip of our fingertips.
I look at how the students of the shooting have gathered and used social media to spread their message, to get people talking and to gather and organize as one unit. These teens are going to change the country one way or another and their utilizing social media to do so. For once, social media is a resourceful tool to engage and fight back, serve as a positive outlet for a revolutionary cause. While there are trolls that exist on the interwebs and make attempts at trying to darken the world, there is a shining light for these students.
It’s up to me to find a balance and control for how I use social media and when I use it, but it’s because of this tragedy that I understand the power social media holds. It’s a tool that can be used for so much good but for so much bad as well. I want to be on the right side of history when the dust settles and know that I didn’t let social media ruin my life, but instead utilize it to the best of my ability and benefit from it.
Featured Image via Pexels