In 2016, I left social media for almost a year. We were leading up to an election, tensions were high, and I had enough – mentally, and emotionally (and yet, here I am 4 years later, same sitch).
After about a month of withdrawal and detoxing from FOMO, something magical happened: my anxiety lessened, my productivity amplified, my conversations and connections with friends grew deeper, I began to re-engage with some old hobbies (reading, writing, etc.), I started sleeping through the night, and I felt good…healthier, lighter.
Within the 9 months or so that I was gone, offline became a place of mental solace, just to not have negativity constantly reinforced was a pure joy. I felt like I was living life in color again (maybe because I was actually paying attention to it, rather than scrolling by it).
And then, one day, for no apparent reason, I decided to take a bite from the Zuckerberg apple, and see what would happen. I reactivated my accounts, and almost immediately, I was sucked back into the vortex. And I have been entangled ever since. That was until I watched “The Social Dilemma”
The Social Dilemma is a documentary on Netflix which explores how tech companies influence us by delivering targeted ads, news and features that manipulates our beliefs, effects our mindset, and ultimately drives addiction.
The experts who were interviewed in this film at one time developed these platforms (founders, engineers, product developers, coders, etc.). They drank the Kool-Aid and then spit it out. In this documentary, they collectively expressed three main points that left me feeling uncomfortably exposed:
(1) These platforms are spying on us.
(2) These platforms are manipulating our feeds to keep us engaged.
(3) These platforms are deepening our biases and blind spots by pushing away everything else.
These platforms are basically building systems that are causing polarization, and creating echo chambers that are dividing our country and our way of thinking.
Now, because I work in this space, I wasn’t necessarily surprised by what these technologists were professing. Disturbed, yes, surprised, no. But the thought of being mindfully manipulated really started to freak me out. And then this line sealed the deal for me:
“If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product.”
Meaning these platforms are getting paid by others for our attention. Our time, attention, and ultimately changed behavior (what you do, and how you think, who you are, etc.) is at stake here, and these tech giants are willing to put a price on that, knowing just how unethical & corrupt that is.
Other than The Social Dilemma, there was another important reason why I decided to leave social media. Social media is supposed to create connection, yet lately, I have been feeling anything but. It’s become so divisive, and unkind, and uninteresting. What it came down to for me were those things in life that I truly value: honesty, kindness, authenticity, acceptance, etc. And to be honest, social media these days doesn’t align with any of those key values. So I decided to vacate the premises. I still need to be on social media for work, and to run The Daily Feels. But, personally, I am out.
With that said, I do feel everyone should watch The Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix and then make your own decision.
And for those who just don’t want to know, or just aren’t ready to lessen your time on social, I found amazing alternatives that help put some of the control back in your court:
- Turn on “Screen Time” (iPhone) or “Digital Wellbeing” (Android). Have your phone cut yourself off at a certain time from scrolling. Those microbreaks will do you good.
- Turn off push notifications. Who can resist looking when you hear a ping or even a vibration? We all do it, and it’s killing our productivity.
- Hide the social app(s) on the phone. If you want to keep an app and simply use it less, make it less accessible
- And lastly, just be good to one another.
Hope to see ya IRL (tech talk for: “in real life)!
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths, and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 9-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.