‘Dear Contacts, I am on a Social Media Detox for an Indefinite Time. And I am Fine’
I consider myself as a good user of social media. With ‘good’ I mean using social media for my intentions such as creating valuable new connections (that’s how we met with Rudy), learning from each other and creating impact beyond our borders. Beginning of this week, I wanted to take couple days off from social media and deleted all social media applications on my phone; Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Snapchat, Linkedin and Instagram.
First of all, it impacted me more than I assumed. Here are my thoughts and emotional swings;
SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX DIARY:
1st Day: I reached out to my phone min 15 times to check social media, which takes 5-15 min on average normally. I felt happy I saved couple of hours, I rested more, focused on reading and writing.
2nd Day: I checked my phone less. But started to feel angry about not being able to share something that happened or I thought. Each time I asked myself ‘Why do I want to share what I want to share?’. The question was new, and my answers didn’t worth re-downloading the apps. I started realising most of my usage of social media was out of habit, not by conscious choices. I admitted my addiction.
3rd Day: I started noticing most of the content was directing me to read/ see the rest on social media, from searching for the photos of a new product to learning about a new discipline, to accepting a friend’s party invite. Social media is everywhere, with its content, engagement actions living and growing through our lives. I resisted re-downloading the apps, i went on my detox.
4th Day: Without being on social media, I started feeling odd and confused. Imagine you are in a party, lots of people around you and very loud music. You switch on the lights, the music stops and you notice there is no one. That made me question, what type of connections and engagements I make on social media? And what do I get in return? I wondered how life was like before social media and how I changed after social media.
5th Day: I started planning about ways to use social media more consciously. How can I limit the time I use on SM? How can I make the most out of it instead of just consuming? I decided to set goals (learn, share, respond, enjoy), define slots and reflect after these slots. It looks like a lot of effort in the beginning but I’m sure it’ll be a natural flow as I make it a habit.
6th Day: As I had a better understanding about my situation, I focused on planning to make an impact for others, starting with my family. How can I become a better role model to my daughters? How can I -instead of banning or trying to protect them all the time- support them so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.
So secondly, I became more aware of the growing threat to our children, who are and will be born into social media and exponential technologies.
Research with 14- to 24 year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increase feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children’s and young people’s body-image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.
It’s easy to guess without any research that social media plays a role in unhappiness by just observing ourselves and growing addictions of children, but it also has many benefits as it does negatives. We need to empower our children (and ourselves) how to cope with all aspects of social media -good and bad- to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is no winner in the blame game, so beyond just critisizing social media companies, we all need to realize the urgency of taking the matter in our own hands as parents, business people, entrepreneurs, governments, designers, associations and educators.
As Michael Harris states in his book ‘The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection’;
‘We embrace the gifts of technology, we usually fail to consider what they ask from us in return-the subtle, hardly noticeable payments we make in exchange for their marvelous service. We don’t notice for example, that the gaps in our schedules have disappeared because we are too busy delighting in the amusements that fill them. We forget the games that childhood boredom forged because the boredom itself has been outlawed. Why would we care that an absence has disappeared?’
And he encourages us to ask these two urgent questions at each juncture;
‘What will we carry forward?
What worthy things might we thoughtlessly leave behind?’
I’d like to add a third one to his questions;
What are the new possibilities with/out technology that can enhance our human evolution?
The third question is a curious one to me; we know what is good for us and yet we fail to plan, design or implement towards what is best for us. We all know that our and our children’s learning to be more conscious about technology and social media usage is the most obvious and sustainable way.
So why don’t we implement this on a broader scale?
What if we rewarded social media companies based on how many responsible services -such as a warning feature for the potentially negative content or amount of time you spend- they created for children and communities?
What if there were tax breaks based on the number of pedagogues, ethics experts and educators a company hires for the design of their services and communications?
What if there were extra fundings for start ups where communities grade as ‘conscious businesses’, responsible and sensitive to the values and wellbeing of children and communities?
What if we thought of businesses as true agents of social change and rewarded them for doing the work for the wellbeing of communities such as paying learning programs for children? More businesses would become conscious businesses — they’d strategise and plan in order to achieve more social impact. We’d have a new powerful category of business emerge — conscious business —, which would receive conscious support from the people and governments, and we’d see entrepreneurs lining up to enter this space.
With love and gratitude,