Personal and philosophical thoughts on social media:
Is social media ‘bad’?
To be upfront, I don’t think social media is ‘bad’. Just like how I think that cocaine isn’t ‘bad’ in an ultimate sense.
If you’re in extreme pain or if you’re flying a plane and you (for some reason) need to stay awake in order to NOT crash the plane, taking a line of cocaine seems like a good idea.
Thus, whether we deem something as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is mostly context-specific. And also perhaps the question is:
Good or bad for who?
Does social media empower you or disempower you?
Perhaps this might be a better question:
Whenever you use social media (check your Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, whatever platform) — does it make you feel MORE POWERFUL, or weaker?
For example, when I used to use Facebook and scroll through my news feed, I would often feel petty emotions of envy, jealousy, and not being included. I would see selfies of my friends at a birthday party (me not included), I would see friends in exotic vacation places (I would feel envious of them), and I would feel petty envy towards photographers or people who got more ‘likes’ than me.
Now — when I analyzed this behavior, scrolling through my news feed was a ‘net negative’ for me.
How social media will make you feel will totally be different than mine, but I simply encourage you to analyze your own emotional state and behavior.
Who does social media benefit?
Of course social media benefits both ourselves and the social media companies.
But the question we gotta make is:
Is the trade-off worth it?
For example, is trading your personal activities, behaviors, etc worth the trade of being connected (online) with your friends, family, and other people? Is the convenience of messaging, contacting, and keeping in touch with people you care about worth the tradeoff of having your mind-thought-behaviors modified or ‘nudged’ a certain way?
Once again– this is up to you to decide.
Why I hate looking at metrics
Whenever I see a video of mine on YouTube getting ‘disliked’, whenever I read a negative comment, or whenever I see “low views” or me “losing subscribers”, of course it puts me in a sadder, shittier, more anxious, or more miserable mood. I think this is human nature (framing):
Seeing your ‘metrics’ or numbers go down in any way is a signal that you’re becoming weaker or lesser– which evokes fear, anxiety, and sadness within ourselves.
This is why for all practical purposes, I have intentionally disabled all of my analytics, view counts, etc on my blog, youtube channel, social media channels, etc. I like to keep myself ignorant of my metrics, because I don’t want to self-judge or self-evaluate myself on metrics or numbers. I am an “anti quantified self” advocate. We shouldn’t let numbers dictate our own self-worth or value; only we can determine our own self-worth for ourselves.
And whether we like it or not, in today’s world with social media– to self-quantify yourself via metrics (via follower numbers and number of subscribers) is like publicly showing other people how much money you got in your bank account.
But the fact is this:
No matter how many followers, likes, or even money you got– there will always be someone with more than you.
Which makes me realize:
I don’t even want to play this game.
I don’t want to play the rat-race game of me ‘competing’ against other people to see who can get more followers, likes, number of possessions, expense of possessions, or number of zeros and commas in my bank account.
Thus in this regard, social media is a detriment to me, and I see it as a ‘net negative’ in my life, and I avoid social media like I avoid eating Korean food (when wearing all-white clothing). I don’t want to stain myself; and I know if I’m eating bubbling Soondooboo with a white coat on, I’m going to get dirty (no matter how hard I try).
Ever since I designed and taught my ‘Sociology of Facebook and Online Social Networks (2010)‘ at UCLA as an undergraduate, I have always been skeptical of social media (download PDF syllabus here).
And this is what I encourage you to be: become more skeptical.
Become more skeptical of social media, while also becoming self-aware.
And this is the good thing– in modern life (at least in 2019) we can safely remove all social media from our life without dying. Of course this would make life a lot less convenient, but living without social media is certainly possible.
Hack your own life to how you desire
Let us not blame social media — we should only blame ourselves.
If you still want to use Instagram, perhaps only use it on desktop (Flume app on MacOS).
There are other options. Modify, hack, and keep experimenting with yourself to see what best works for you.