There is no doubt that social media is a part of our lives. We use it daily for too many hours.
We use it to be in touch with our family and friends, to stay up to date with the latest news, to promote our businesses, and, let’s get honest, to promote ourselves, too.
Now I know you might want to contradict me, to say that you are using social media to stay informed or build your business, or you’re only using it “for a little bit” when you take a break from work, or you’re tired, or bored. But do you really think you’re the one using social media? Isn’t it a little bit the other way around?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, TikTok, and God knows what other platforms I don’t know about yet, have all the same pitch: “we help you stay connected”; “With us, you can be in touch with everyone in any corner of the world.” And, without even noticing, they’ve got us hooked. I’ll admit it! I am part of the problem, too. I started writing this article knowing I would promote it on Facebook and Instagram. I even thought about what hashtag to use to have more traffic. But I’m not part of this problem only because I want to promote my business. I am part of this problem because I also use social media when I miss Romania and my people there. I also think I’ll just check this quickly, and then I find myself wasting an hour of my life on nothing relevant.
But wasting our time isn’t the only tricky part of this movement. Social media has changed for good a lot of aspects of our lives as we knew. Together with social media’s popularity, it appeared a new wave of “journalists.” People who know how to write (or they think they know it), sho founded online newspapers and magazines. These people became celebrities overnight by writing about their daily horoscope without even understanding astrology. They quickly learned the tips and tricks of the algorithms and used them to maximize the number of views. They started writing more articles for the sake of rating, but with the increased quantity, there was a decrease in the quality of information.
Together with this online wave, the printed media started to lose ground. The sales of printed newspapers plummeted, and, unfortunately, their decline has begun the end of quality journalism. Today we see fewer local news stations and more “super-extra-mega-news” channels built by or with people who don’t care about the validity of information or the truth. They care about clicks, likes, comments, and shares because these are the ones that monetize. The truth can wait.
On the other hand, these huge social networks are all about the money, too, so they want to keep us on their platforms as mucus as possible, which comes in hand with accepting overnight journalism. The less real press we have, the fewer people will want to become real journalists, and the less truth we’ll receive daily. The less truth we know, the more we can be used in whichever direction social networks will see as a good fit.
But again, this is not the only way social media uses us. Now, with all the smart gadgets at our disposal, everyone can become a start on social networks. There are pictures with Jane in the swimming suite, Jane at the mall, Jane and her friends, Jane’s healthy dinner, Jane’s engagement ring, Jane the philosopher who quotes Marie Currie or Carl Gustav Jung; and pictures with Joe at the gym, Joe with the guys, Joe with a fancy car, Joe, the wealthy entrepreneur. And Jane and Joe receive lots of likes and comments and feel encouraged to post, show, and talk more. And after a while, it becomes like a duty to post more and show more. Their Ibiza vacation cannot stay private. And after that, their friends want that, too. And their friends start posting pictures of themselves and their amazing vacations. It is fancy to say you’ve visited 90 countries and to show off. And, if by terrible bad luck you didn’t have the time or money to see more than five countries, you’re not among the “cool kids,” you’re inferior, you’re less. Taking this into account, it’s needless to say that social media has influenced the sky-rocketing rate of mental health disorders in recent years.
And, of course, social media’s algorithms see that Jane and Joe are famous, so they are suggested to more people, and without even noticing, we are all involved.
Again, unfortunately, these are not the only ways social networks use us.
When everyone can express any opinion on any matter, without any repercussions, be sure they’ll do it. And this is how professions and professionals lost their meaning. Today it is very usual for a musician to contradict a doctor in physics, on physics matters, of course, as it is very cool to oppose doctors on medical issues and professors on teaching aspects. The problem is when unauthorized opinions are louder than scientific data and harm collaterals.
The other day I read an article written by a pediatrician about treating young kids with a sore throat. Of course, among the comments, there was a Jane, without any medical education whatsoever, who called the doctor names, claiming that the doctor was wrong. This kind of behavior is not normal; it undermines the authority of an expert in any field and shouldn’t be allowed. And, yet it is. Because social networks want as many users as possible, and it encourages interactions of all sorts.
Another aspect of how social media influences us is our business. Today, having a successful business without social media presence is almost impossible. Everyone, from Coca-Cola to John Doe LLC, is on social media, trying to find clients, sell, promote, and create revenue. Of course, we, the users, are also the clients, and this is how social media uses any information you share to sell you more, to make you spend more. And this is how social media closes the loop of how it uses us. All of us! First, it attracts us with music, lovely photos, and friendly people. Next, it makes us engage and share our opinions, creates competition, and makes us want what the other person has. They, by “miracle,” made the business sell that object we wanted so bad. Our most desired thing is at a click distance, so we buy it. Now, this great empire online gave us something nice, then it started using us to give us more of that something nice, and now it controls us. And this is how we try our best to navigate this sea of information, trying to decipher the truth.
So, the next time you grab your phone to go on one of those social networking sites, ask yourself how this platform is using you today. Is there a way in which I can use this platform instead of being used by it? At least like this, your next interaction online can be a conscious one.