Social Media is Bad for You

The First Rule of Leaving Social Media is You Cannot Leave Social Media Without Announcing on Social Media that You’re Leaving Social Media

Say “Social Media” Again!

Or Why I’m Finally Putting Effort Into My Website & Starting an Email List

Updated 10.3.2020

My decision to get off/drastically reduce social media use is simple.

  1. It’s bad for your mental and physical health
  2. It’s a waste of your time
  3. I loved it so I could share music with friends, and it’s not about that anymore

To my last point, I’m old enough to remember when you needed a college email address to sign up for Facebook. We were stoked to sign up. I still remember logging in for the first time sending friend requests. Then they added the news feed, which pissed everyone off. But once we got used to the Newsfeed, I loved sharing music on my page and sending it to people. Remember writing on someone’s wall? Facebook just isn’t fun anymore.

Do we even need to talk about Twitter? Holy shit, that’s a toxic dumpster fire. MAGA vs Resistance, all the bots, the fucking President tweeting threats to our enemies and allies. Imagine being single and meeting someone new only to find out that this grown ass adult argues with strangers in Twitter threads? Gross.

Instagram annoys me because I spend too much time on it. I recently unfollowed most of the meme pages (besides doggos, of course) and mainly just follow my friends. That’s really the only one I tend to miss, because my friends are all over the world, so it’s an easy way to keep up with them, see pictures of their kids, and all that stuff.

We could just send emails with pictures and updates, Facetime or actually call one another, right?

TL;DR version (quick links):

  1. Listen to Sam Harris interview former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris
  2. Listen to Tristan Harris’ TED Talk
  3. Read Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now
  4. Listen to Michael Shermer Interview Jonathan Haidt on the effects of social media on Gen Z
  5. Watch The Social Dilemma, a documentary on social media’s effects on society, on Netflix.
  6. Listen to Sam’s follow up podcast with Tristan after the premier of the Netflix documentary

Let me rewind a bit.

We all know social media sucks. From a marketing and user experience standpoint, it’s continually rolling downhill. But I really started thinking about it in April of 2017 after I listened to the above interview with Tristan Harris. Just stop what you’re doing and listen to that right now.

I deleted all socials from my phone besides Instagram, so for me that is Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr (where my previous blog was hosted), and LinkedIn. I live in front of a computer for work, just like most people. There’s no need to have those apps travel with me at all times.

I’m also addicted to email notifications, so I turned off all email notifications on my phone. There are always emails, so many emails. I know emails are being sent. Your phone doesn’t need to constantly vibrate and interrupt your non-work life. Your significant other will thank you for it.

In May on 2017 I quit my job to take some time off, move out to Los Angeles to be with my future wife, and regroup mentally and physically.  I noticed in my newfound free time that I was spending a lot of hours looking at my phone (Instagram) and staring at the Facebook and Twitter feeds on my computer.

I installed an app called Moment that tracks how much time you’re looking at your phone, and it was alarming how many times I picked up my phone per day, and how much time I wasted on Instagram. [Apple has since released a new feature called Screen Time, which you should definitely activate.]

At the top of the year, we typically do Sober January, meaning no booze or weed for the month. This year, we also threw a Keto Reset Diet into the mix. About a week into January I realized I should also delete my socials.

I deleted Instagram from my phone, and logged out of all social media accounts on my computer. I installed a Google Chrome plugin called StayFocused, where you can block/set time limits on distracting sites, like the above, but also Youtube, Reddit, etc. Since I have to login to these sites for work sometimes, I only allowed myself 15 minutes a day. So whatever I had to do, it needed to be quick.

The results?

Amazing. Liberating. Absolutely blown away by how much clearer my life felt, how much more time I had in the day.

After you break the habit of looking at your phone/computer at the slightest hint of boredom or anxiety, it’s a breeze. I read more books, got outside more often, exercised more, had more time to think…the list keeps going. You don’t realize how much time you waste until you step back.

There is also mounting evidence of the negative effects social media is having on us personally, professionally, culturally, and of course politically. Besides my anecdote above, I wanted to highlight some interested articles and notes.

The former Facebook VP of User Growth regrets building tools that destroy how society works

  • Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for User Growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”

The former founding President of Facebook, Sean Parker, says the company was aware that they were exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology

  • “It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he said.

The Facebook coder who created the “like” button blocked Facebook on his computers and cell phone.

  • There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.”

Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has spent several years consulting for the tech industry.

  • He explains the subtle psychological tricks that can be used to make people develop habits, such as varying the rewards people receive to create “a craving”, or exploiting negative emotions that can act as “triggers”. “Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation,” Eyal writes.

Tristan Harris, who has been branded “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience”, insists that billions of people have little choice over whether they use these now ubiquitous technologies, and are largely unaware of the invisible ways in which a small number of people in Silicon Valley are shaping their lives.

Did you know that from a small sample survey, the average user tapped, swiped and clicked their phone 2,617 times each day, on average.

One Study, specifically with Facebook and people around the age of 34, found that after one week of decreased use, there is an improvement in mental health.

Now imagine going through puberty, junior high, high school, with social media and the levels of alienation, isolation, and online bullying it can cause.

Enter Gen Z. Born in 1995. They’re 10 years old in 2005. 20 years old in 2015. It’s 2018 and they’re 23 years young, and have only known a world of constant connection through their phones, social media, and the internet culture that has infected our daily lives.

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased 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.

Now what, you might be asking yourself?

Check out those podcasts and articles I posted above. Take a week or a month off social media and see how you feel.

After that, decide what’s best for your mental health and where you’re at with social media in your life.

  1. Activate Screen Time on your iPhone, Digital Wellbeing on Android or download the app Moment for additional features.
  2. Remove social media apps from your phone. (If you need baby steps, trying turning off all notifications from the apps first.) Delete your accounts when/if you’re ready.
  3. Turn off email notifications, or at least work emails.
  4. Turn off all notifications from your phone besides what you feel is necessary (texts, calls, calendar, etc.)
  5. Install StayFocused on your browser and block or set daily time limits on these distracting websites.
  6. Install Rescue Time to monitor how much time you’re wasting online. The visual graph is alarming and helpful.
  7. Stay logged out of these sites so you don’t find yourself mindlessly scrolling through timelines.
  8. Take back control of your digital life via The Social Dilemma’s website.
  9. Create limits for your phone use, not only through time spent on applications on your phone, but also through physical use. For example, do not bring your phone into the bedroom, no phone use at the dinner table, don’t check your phone the first hour of the day, etc.

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