Is Our Addiction to Social Media Here to Stay? I Sure Hope Not.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO—Am I the only one who feels that it’s impossible to disconnect in today’s world? We’ve got laptops to check email, phones for text messages and Instagram, and iPads to browse Facebook. There’s Spotify to listen to music—other people’s playlists, at that, and Snapchat to let others know what a boring—ass afternoon we’re having (that, or how cool our vacation is). There’s constantly something to check—a compulsion that imbues us with the façade of social intimacy whenever we want it.
I’ve tried to be connected. I’ve given the social media thing a real shot, but sometimes it can really be too much. Just as I’ve gotten a handle on my Instagram game—posting my first few #TBT shots this summer—they introduce Instagram stories. Now, if you want to be a participating member of the InstaCommunity, you not only need to spend up to an hour every day browsing, scrolling, liking, and commenting on photos, all the while looking out for sweet new content to post on your own feed to show others just how cool your life is—but you need to show off what you’ve been doing over the last 24 hours. If you want to be Insta-famous, there’s no more hoarding cool photos from vacation and slow-rolling them over the course of a week or two at your leisure…now, you need to show other’s what you’re up to right now. As if we didn’t already have Snapchat for that!
Then, there’s Facebook Live. I don’t know what it is, and I really don’t care to find out. All I’m certain of is that it’s another social media feature designed, likely on purpose, to keep us glued to our screens for just a few more minutes each day. It’s said that falling in love has the same effect on your brain as doing cocaine—that of an addictive, euphoria-inducing drug that we chase with reckless abandon, regardless of the consequences. I think social media has the same effect. It’s a drug that we seek with ever-increasing ardor, and provides diminishing returns with each and every service we subscribe to.
I’m stuck at a weird, in-between phase. As a travel writer and photographer, I understand that social media is necessary if I want exposure for my work. Photographers need an Instagram account. It’s your personal portfolio—your resume. As a writer, I also understand the importance of the Internet, and with it, sharing sites like Facebook. It’s how you get others to read what you wrote, and I don’t know where I’d be without those tools. On the flipside, I feel as if I spend far too much emotional energy worrying about the social & promotional side of things, leaving less time for the work itself. Oftentimes I think I’d be better off in the 70’s, with a typewriter, two rolls of twenty-four shots each—and a clear head.
Today’s incessant focus on branding yourself is counterproductive to the mission of writers and photographers everywhere. We should be able to clear our minds of the business side of things, and focus on producing quality, worthwhile deliverables…not dribble to post on our social media accounts, just so that our followers have something to look at during their morning constitution. It’s anxiety-inducing, the thought of constantly having to update your content so that others can know what you’re up to—and I hope that it’s a fad that will fade with time. I hope we all get over our damn iPhones. I hope we all get over the novelty of logging into Instagram and seeing a little red notification with twenty-nine <3s, signifying that twenty-night individuals have “liked” our photo. It’s all a sham, albeit an addictive sham. I surmise that the little red <3 and the rush of energy associated with it is similar to the brain activity observed when one falls in love—or uses cocaine. It’s my hope that society gets over this addiction sooner rather than later, because it’s destroying all of us.
I seek solace from the endless connectivity by escaping into nature. Nothing beats taking off on a five-mile hike with a phone that’s powered down. It allows you to escape the trappings of everyday life—the blitz of advertising, updates that need to be installed, and the constant notifications that someone, somewhere, has made a tenuous connection with one of your many social media accounts. You can’t check your phone because it’s off…and after a mile or two, you forget that you ever had the compulsion to check it in the first place. You’re left alone with just your thoughts, unencumbered by outside influence. You’ll think of a million things you need to put on your to-do list, and a million messages you want to send someone. But your phone is in your bag—or, if you’re a real badass, still in your car—and you forget about those million messages. If something is truly important, you’ll remember it when it’s time to get it done. The need for immediate connectivity detracts from our ability to process rational thought, because sometimes we need longer than five minutes to think about things. We need to be able to think—and subsequently act—without distraction, and in today’s world, we are constantly distracted.
I accept that social media is here to stay, but does our addiction need to stay as well? Do we all really need to have our phones out on the table as we dine, or catch up over happy hour? Is whatever’s going on on that little, magical box, really so important that you need to forsake the experience that you’re currently having? There’s merit in not taking a photo of every fucking meal you ever eat…because there is merit in enjoying the meal that you are eating, present company included. If you’re one of the few people that still has the attention span to get to the end of this article (which admittedly might speak more to my skills as a writer than your attention span, and yes, I know I’m being hypocritical since you are probably only reading this because you clicked a link on social media), then I want you to ask yourself a question: where do you go to disconnect, to think, and to give yourself the chance to be a person separate and apart from your identity on social media? If you’re not sure, then my advice is to just take a hike. It’ll clear your mind, and you just might find it as addicting as checking your Snapchat stories.