June 9, 2021 | General
The last several years have been an interesting time for social media. Government questioning. Privacy concerns. Asking who the product actually is. To an average consumer it's all so confusing. I'm sure documentaries like The Social Dilemma don't help. Where I fall in all this is less of a moral argument, and more of principles and self preservation. Here's why I don't really do any social media anymore.
Generally speaking when you post things on social media sites, you are giving them an irrevocable license to do what they want with what you upload. That photo of your cute baby? Theirs. Your beautiful wedding? Theirs. That DM on their platform? They can read it. Also theirs. Your location? Mine... I mean theirs.
To their credit, they kinda have to do that. In order to run the service and make boat loads of money, they need access to data to create new features. If they had to stop and ask users permission to use your content every time they wanted to work on a new feature, companies like Facebook and Google wouldn't be where they are today.
I'm very cagey about posting photos of my daughter for this very reason. A couple of issues at play here.
To be clear, these terms of service and binding license agreements with our data is just smart business. It protects them and just makes our lives easier. All of this to say I just want to own my shit. Simple as that.
Ever look at Twitter or Instagram for a minute and an hour later you realized you've just spent too much time on it? Yea. Me too. It's a tremendous waste of time if you think about it. I call it the rabbit hole. You start with something small. Flashy things start popping up everywhere and hours later you realized the algorithm has won.
This isn't something I've discovered of course. It's a known phenomenon where social media mimics tricks used by casinos in order to keep people coming back for more. An article by Science Focus details some of this quite nicely. Things like pull-to-refresh, new notifications, bright flashy colors calling your attention are similar to what casino's do to reel people in an keep them there.
I think notifications here are especially sinister. I don't know about other people, but sometimes I feel my leg vibrate even though I didn't get a notification. It's called phantom vibration syndrome. Fun stuff. What I've noticed is social media apps tend to fire off way too many notifications. They'll register me to every notification under the sun, then put the onus on me to unregister from notifications. Pass. Trust me and just shut off notifications from most apps. You'll thank me.
This is a feature I think Hey, from Basecamp, got right. Notifications are off by default. Think about it. You already took the time to download their app. You likely signed up. Now you have to adjust your settings to avoid getting needlessly notified every hour by the god damn app too? Fuck them.
For sure all the notifications and psychological tricks social media apps play to keep you in their apps will begin to affect your life. The casino like vibes will make you an addict. This is because seeing those likes, notifications, and colors fire off addictive dopamine hits.
After a while you'll crave those hits. Rather than fully enjoy that concert, your phone is out recording so you can show your followers. Rather than working, you are wasting time scrolling the feed. Rather than studying you are tweet arguing with someone.
I think Cal Newport, author of Deep Work argues this best. Newport defines deep work as:
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.
He points out that the most successful people tend to focus intensely on tasks in order to produce quality work in less time than most people can. You can in essence produce work in 4-6 hours where it'd normally take a person 8 hours. Instead of focusing on tasks, you drag out your day by constantly stopping and checking social media or doing other shallow work. Newport believes part of the reason for this is because the constant dopamine hits from social media has trained our brain to avoid boredom. Anytime we are bored, we whip out our phone. You can easily see this when you look at people waiting on line anywhere. I almost always see people just looking at their phones. It's almost comical.
It's not consistent to believe we need to be motivated to produce our best work. You'll never be excited for all your tasks. You'll eventually find something you don't want to do, and boredom will consume you. But boredom isn't something people should run from. Rather than fill up the boredom with endless feed scrolling, we should use it to think through problems deeply. This is where we can produce our best work.
The book has really changed my life to be honest. As a knowledge worker, too much time is spent on shallow work, like emails, meetings, planning, and so on. But as I've made the effort to adopt the deep work philosophy into my life, I've noticed an increase in the valuable work I produce. It's easy to appear busy. But how valuable is your work?
The last reason I'm happy to be saying goodbye to my daily social media use is because of the inherent fakeness prevalent on social media. I barely see people post the bad in their lives. When they do it's because things finally started to go well, so they look back on the bad.
Social media is essentially a highlight reel. People carefully curate posts of only the good parts of their lives. The issue with this is most people don't have ridiculously exciting lives 24/7 like movie stars, musicians and famous people. Everyone has problems, and not seeing this leads to an unhealthy relationship with our self worth. Nothing embodies this more than Dan Bilzerian. It's only one example, but it clearly shows the lengths someone will go to in order to portray a fake life they claim to be living.
All of the above are my arguments for why you should give up social media. I'm not completely deleting my accounts though. Social media has a place in society. They still help us connect people near and wide. You can still discover and learn there. I for one choose to use social media as a tool. Use it for specific things and move on.