“It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels worthy of himself and claims kindred to the great God who made him.” – Abraham Lincoln
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn each have a specific purpose in benefiting users. The evolution of technology and the cultural rise of social media have opened new and exciting doors for society that would have otherwise remained closed. Fresh faces emerged into fame, old friends reconnected, and the average joe is a pro photographer with an Instagram filter. The problem, it seems, is that we are no longer served by modern technology, but we are enslaved to it, serving its domain and submitting to its every charge. Dependent and unwise use of social media has led us down a dark path of FOMO, anxiety, depression, and more. The reason? We have lost sight of how technology serves us, so that it no longer helps but actually hurts.
Social media is comparable to cigarettes in it’s cultural rising and fall. In the 1880’s, when cigarettes lit up in popularity by the rolling out of mass production, it was the social norm for soldiers, housewives, and paperboys to light one up. Flames started flickering out when the US Surgeon General of 1964 made a claim that smoking led to lung cancer. That was the beginning of the end. A multi-million dollar industry dissipated like smoke into the air. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a Marlboro ad any place other than a boarded up liquor store? Study after study (and study after study) is revealing how social media is bad for our mental health. It does not lead to lung cancer, but people are unhealthy and dying from unwise usage.
As much as I want to front a campaign called “Just Say No To Social Media” echoing Nancy Reagan against drugs, this is the culture right now, and it does seem like a necessary evil. My advice then is to repurpose social media, knowing the specific “why” behind each platform, and reclaiming dominion over our mental health. Call each app to the stand, one by one, and evaluate it. Ask “how exactly is this serving me?” If the answer is unclear or unhealthy, I suggest rethinking some things. For example, Facebook is a fantastic tool for keeping in touch with friends and up-to-date with family. But many users abuse it by treating it as a means of unhealthy comparisons, stalking ex-girlfriends, or revving things up with heated discussions. Much of the population doesn’t actually use it for its intended purpose but as a means of growing unhealthy mental habits. For myself, when I asked what the purpose was for Instagram, I couldn’t think of an answer better than, I like to compare my life with everyone else’s through filters, friends, and double-taps.
Wise up and move forward in healthy moderation, knowing your limits and being aware of danger zones. Know the “why” behind each social media platform, and make sure that each is actually benefiting you. If a platform is only serving to fuel the negatives in your life, toss it out like a burnt out cigarette. It is better to be MIA online than to be MIA off it. Take back control, don’t allow social norms to kill you, and know the “why” of social media.