Are we using social media to our benefit, or our detriment?

I’ve cut back on social media lately and I do think I’ve felt happier since. It does raise some interesting questions. Like, how the younger generation (in western like cultures) mindlessly take part in behaviours that might actually be bad for them.

The behaviour I refer to are our use of the internet, mainly due to smartphones. Having access to the world, right in our pocket. At all times. While also always being accessible.

Our brain, although highly evolved and adaptable, was probably never really intended for, or fully adapted to, our modern way of living. We are collectively engaging in time consuming activities that are re-shaping our lives, and behaviour, often without giving it a second thought.

But spending hours per day, looking at highlights of other peoples lives, through apps like Instagram, can actually make many of us feel depressed and inadequate. I’m definitely one of them.

We never really needed to know what everyone was doing, at all times. But now that we can find out, we do. And being inclined to share the happiest and most extravagant parts of our lives, we are all fed a very skewed and curated “reality”.

Does spending hours on social sites like Facebook really make us feel part of a community, or is it actually making us feel lonelier?

Is it making us reach out for IRL experiences, or does it isolate us?

And do dating apps, using a swipe method, affect our view and ability of developing long meaningful relationships?

The abundance of options in this regard, of dating, might not be making it “easier” to find a partner, the abundance of alternatives can actually psychologically cause uncertainty and anxiety. Potentially making us feel there might be a better option around the corner. A feeling of uneasiness and dissatisfaction.

And how does it affect our brain, that we’re getting used to consuming shorter and shorter excerpts of information, developing shorter attention spans? Dreading longer texts or videos.

Even if we would try to focus for a longer period of time, we are constantly interrupted by the distractions, and urges, of checking notifications, emails, feeds, etc.

I recently read this Forbes article, stating:
“Cisco predicts that, by 2020, 82% of consumer internet traffic will be video and total global internet traffic will increase at 22% per year, making internet traffic in 2020 95 times greater than it was in 2005. “

When the technological evolution is exponential, and so much faster than the human adaptation, I wonder how, and if, the future of technology will have our biology and potential side effects in mind.

Will the market keep tending to our urges with quick fixes, or will it evolve to create interaction that, in a long term sense, adds value to our life, happiness and well being?

Not to say social media doesn’t have amazing uses and outcomes, it does, but we are still in an age where we are figuring out how to use the internet to our advantage, and how to integrate it into our lives in truly meaningful healthy ways. Perhaps we’re simply in an age of learning to set our own boundaries, and figuring it all out.

I look at my parents generation, from the 1950’s, who understand computers at a basic entry level. I used to think of them being rookies, but I’ve slowly been realising they’re the ones doing it right.

They’re more practical than for example the millennials. They use the internet to google things they want to know more about. To send occasional emails or messages. They’re not caught up in social media to the same extent as the younger generation. They’re generally better at knowing when to turn it on, and when to turn it off, since they have, during most of their life, lived a computer and internet-free life. Well aware that they don’t “need” to be online 24/7.

Now a days turning off our phone is a “luxury” we might only grant ourselves on a vacation. And Facebook is such an integral part of our society that deleting our Facebook account can appear practically inconceivable. Did we really need this? Did we really choose this?

Questions are raised regarding who’s really in control. Are you using your phone or is the phone using you?

The internet is an amazing platform and it has helped our world evolve in a rapid pace for the past decades. I love the internet, for all the things I’ve learned, all the people I’ve gottten to know. But as we move forward, will we learn to use technology to our advantage, or will we become slaves to it?

Will money be the main incentive when developing the future of social media and tech, or will true happiness be a viable form of currency and wealth, in a society and culture where depression has increased throughout the years?

Wether the over-use of social media causes depression, or if it increases the risk of depression in already sensitive people (like me), I don’t know. But I surely hope we go towards a culture of creating meaningful, enriching content and interaction. Rather than appeal to our lowest form of intellect by creating “fast food” content.

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