If you’re like me, you grew up in an age before the social media boom of the 21st century. A time when you actually had to call your friends to find out how they were doing. Yet, somehow in the last decade, we’ve become so dependent on constant connection; we fear disconnecting from social media means missing out on something important. That fear keeps us from “de-friending”, “un-following”, and in some cases deactivating our accounts. FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out. Missing out on what? On something we perceive to be important or interesting.
Please understand I am not totally against social media. There is an upside. (In fact, if you like what you read, feel free to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.) But social media continues to rob us daily of our most valuable resource…our time. I’ve had mornings when I woke up and noticed the notification light on my phone blinking. After scrolling status updates, liking Instagram posts and chatting on Messenger, an entire hour had elapsed. Be honest. We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced the pull of the social media black hole. We’ve all fallen prey to the bewitchment of ridiculously irrelevant stories strewn across our news feed. I mean whose life isn’t enriched by a video of a man punching a kangaroo in the face?
Nothing, however, consumes more of our time than toxic circuitous debates. Social media has given us a platform to express what’s on our mind. Consequently, these thoughts occasionally bring us into sharp contention with others. (Actually, I’ve been wondering, is it me, or does everyone seem to be easily offended nowadays? Anyway, that’s another discussion for another day.) I know I’ve spent hours zealously defending my convictions, only to be met with obstinacy. These disputes have always left me stressed out, exclaiming, “I just can’t with ignorant people!” Maybe we’d all do well to heed the counsel of this wise sage and “avoid foolish debates, […] quarrels, and disputes, for they are unprofitable and worthless.”
While some of us publicly altercate, there is another class of “imagined participants” living vicariously through others. What do I mean? For example, let’s say we’re scrolling our social media feed and we stop at a post that reads, “Beyoncé is a better singer than Whitney Houston”. As an avid Whitney fan, we’re immediately incensed at such blasphemy. We peruse the comments, not necessarily typing out our own, but finding satisfaction and enjoyment from the injurious statements of those who share our disgust. Some may find this point a bit exaggerated, but imagine if the post read, “Black Lives Matter or Make America Great Again” instead. The bottom line is that imagined participants rarely comment, but they can take pleasure in the hurtful comments of others, which can feed into their overall negative perspectives.
Ultimately, we’ve ingested a lot of “toxins” via social media. And by now, some are wondering—is it time for a digital detox? Should I unplug from the malignant virtual world for an unspecified period of time? (Some of us need more time than others for the detox to take full effect.)
Well, if you’ve resonated with anything that was said, consider taking a digital detox.
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Michael Altshuler