For years I justified my hours spent on Facebook. I reasoned I was connecting with others, raising awareness, offering out support, providing a platform for my thoughts, and paving the way for future vocational endeavors and friendships. While all of these reasons remain just and true, there were aspects about my time online in social media that, until recently, I didn’t want to look at. Overall, I was convinced my hours on social media (ranging from 2 to 10 hours a day) were not only worthwhile, but a necessary part of my every day.
In early August of 2016, on a hunch that my time online was adversely affecting my health, I pulled away from Facebook and Twitter. I went “cold turkey;” and in less than a day, I experienced an increased sense of wellbeing, an increased sense of self-esteem, and increased physical energy. Not only that, but I gained an increased sense of connection to those around me, including family and community. I soon found that the longer I steered clear of social media, the better I felt.
In comparison to the last 4.5 years, my time on social media is now less than 1% of what it used to be. Some days I skip social media altogether. When I do log onto Facebook my time is purposely limited to brief intervals.
How I see my social media time as an addiction:
- The first thing I did when I woke up and the last thing I did before bedtime, was check social media stats, updates, and notifications.
- In times of stress, boredom, frustration, and general anxiety, I turned to social media as my reprieve; only, I typically didn’t feel rejuvenated or satisfied after spending time online; instead, I felt further depleted and sensed I’d wasted valuable hours of my day.
- The more time I spent on social media, the more time I wanted to spend on social media.
- I would state aloud that I would spend just a few minutes on social media; only to find myself, hours later, glued to the computer screen reviewing countless images and comments. Regardless of goals I set for myself, I could not pull away.
- I thought about social media when I wasn’t online—images I liked, quotes that resonated, items I wanted to share in the future, best ways to approach people, the remarks someone scribed.
- The contents I viewed on social media, whether links to articles or blogs, newscasts or videos, affected me through out the day, and sometimes days later.
- I was preoccupied with stats, notifications, numbers in general, formatting, patterns, and the like.
- I viewed social media as a necessity; something I couldn’t go a day without, and often not even a few hours without.
- I experienced a state of sedation, time-lapse, and escapism.
- I neglected family, friends, and myself.
Does social media have its pros? Most definitely. It clearly brings individuals together and serves as a means to reduce a sense of isolation. It fosters friendships—real and long-lasting. It can save lives. Social media keeps families and friends connected. However, there was a time, not too long ago, that these connections and needs could be met offline. A time of tight-knitted neighborhoods, family the next door over, and active volunteering local community. In some ways, online community seems a temporary band-aid of support as lifestyles become increasingly more isolated.
I am thankful for my online friends. I am thankful for the connections social network venues enable. Yet, at the same time, I am hyper-aware of the enticing nature of social media, spawned by the tactics purposely created by agencies to attract and retain online consumers. And sadly, I have seen this consumerism-drive overflow into several other online companies, including Amazon, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and other agencies implementing the popular (and addicting) online rating systems.
Undoubtedly, in all aspects of my social interactions, I am judged and scrutinized, on one level or another, as is human nature. But when choosing to participate in most local community gatherings, instead of social media, I am choosing to not actively partake in a highly commercialized venue that implements addictive tactics, built solely to corral citizens for means of increasing profits.
What is the solution? I do not know. But clearly, there is more to life than a “like” button.
Samantha is the author of Everyday Aspergers, a revealing memoir 10 years in the making. Available on Amazon in most countries. You can sometimes find her on social media. She’d prefer to meet you in person, someday.