Hi, today I watched a Casey Neistat video on social media addiction and it felt so in-tune with the problems I was having with social media that I really wanted to share.
Essentially, he talks about why we feel the need to be on social media all the time, why waning yourself off for the first couple of days actually brandishes painful withdrawal anxiety, how you can give yourself “training wheels” on reducing your social media intake, and the logistics of how algorithms are literally controlling our lives every single day.
Algorithms! AGH! Curse you!
I’m going to start with the fact that I’ve been aware of how toxic social media is for me since probably around the 6th grade. It started with Facebook and always wanting to capture the most amount of likes; I knew something was probably bad about the way I would refresh my phone every 5 minutes (I’m not kidding). It got to the point where I understood I needed to step away, so I did…only to find another avenue of consumer intake: instagram.
Instagram and I go way back – I mean this in a I-want-to-break-up-with-it-but-somehow-I’m-still-here type of history. I made my first account freshman year of high school and not gonna lie, most of my pictures were about cross country and track and how much I wanted people to know I was one of those hard working scholar athletes. Granted, I didn’t know that was my intent at the time, but when I got caught up in not getting enough likes and worse – seeing other people post about how well they were doing in school and how many hospital volunteering opportunities they had or how they scored nearly perfect on their SATs – I deleted my account. So for the latter half of junior year and for the rest of my high school career, I was instagram-less and twitter-less (twitter was a WHOLE nother top tier mess; my power lies within words so imagine me CONSTANTLY thinking about something clever or funny to tweet so I could get the validation I wanted. deleting it was the best decision) and it was GREAT.
Flash forward to high school graduation: I decided to make a new Instagram account. “I can handle it now.” “I’m more mature now.” “I’m going to be more careful now.” These are all things I said to myself before I dove back into social media. I mean, I do admit I take pride in my captions and pictures, especially with my first photo announcing: “fran’s back ft. fran’s back”.
But that’s exactly my point. The more I invest in how I want myself to look on my Instagram page, the more I can feel it destroying me from the inside out. I know I have the tendency to be overdramatic but I promise you – this addiction is real! And it’s extremely problematic!
Let me walk you through my Instagram thought process and my exact intentions when I post something: I want it to seem like I don’t care. I’m this random, care-free, wholesome soul who showcases all that is good and beautiful and who just DOES NOT CARE about anything superficial. ALSO I try really hard to make it seem like I have a life outside of Instagram by deliberately being idle for a certain amount of time before posting another photo. “The Enigma Effect” I call it. People give you more likes when you’ve been gone for some time.
Anyway, let me get back to my most recent Instagram meltdown. Last year (sophomore year of college) I was constantly sad. And naturally, seeking validation from social media was my way of coping. I also want to point out that I followed quite a few finsta accounts, which were constantly normalizing the publication of your daily struggles and so even when I didn’t have a personal finsta account, I thought I could do the same: to be open and vulnerable so that people would give me more attention. It was really bad. AND THEN, one day, as I was scrolling through my profile, reviewing how appealing my squares looked overall, I saw a bit of clarity and said to myself “This is literal bullshit.” All of it was – me smiling in pictures, me trying to be cute in captions, me plastering on whatever ultra-saturated filter was trending at the moment. I deleted nearly all of my pictures as a way to detach myself from the value of likes (including my most-liked selfie that I worked really hard to caption and now can’t find because yeah deleted forever).
The second time I deactivated my account was the following winter of 2018 (yes, this past Jan-March). It was just bad. Everything in my life felt like it was falling apart and attacking me. I knew I couldn’t handle it so I just deactivated. And during that time away from all the noise, I felt like I could heal and grow properly, just like all the other times I decided to step away from it. So if you’re constantly depressed and anxious, I would take the time to ask: do I have social media? & can I leave it for two weeks? and I PROMISE YOU it makes a big difference. There’s a certain liberation that comes with not knowing what other people are up to. Ignorance is bliss in this case – absolute bliss.
I don’t have the app but I still have an Instagram account and knowing me, I will probably still encounter more breakdowns until I leave that realm for good but I do admit that my new tactic is to share and not consume. In other words, if I feel like I want to post something, I post it and then very quickly log out so I don’t get hung up on the response or get stuck in the rabbit hole of getting too invested about other people.
Here’s another thing: celebrities. Social media is the most perfect place to get addicted with celebrities and what do ya know – kpop. I always thought that it was just me feeling horrible about how addicted I’d get to kpop and kdramas but I found a couple articles validating the way that that whole industry is (one of many) designed to be addictive. It’s designed for maximum consumerism, it’s designed to have people all over the world be invested in regular people. High-tech music production, pleasurable appearances, charismatic personalities – it is their job to make us like them, whether they do it intentionally or not. The toxic part is when they take over every aspect of your life, when you invest not only your time but your emotions, when you start seeing superiority in their ethnicity and devaluing your own (This is what my poem “Sincerely, a Jungle Asian” was about actually)I might do a different post on how I tried to (and still trying to) cleanse myself and detach from the kpop addiction because all my friends know about me constantly berating, “I’m on a cleanse!!!” whenever this topic is ever brought up.
What I’m trying to say is that…I am insanely terrified with how much influence social media has on me. Sometimes I think about how my brain and my thoughts, my likes, interests, desires, art are all eerily similar to everyone else’s. Just when I think I have something for myself, a hundred million other people are on the same boat. And true, that is very much in part of a possessiveness problem that I should probably work on but also, I’m starting to understand that the outlets I’m consuming my interests from are the same outlets that are being programmed to millions of other screens. So when a certain creator is on the rise, or some new internet phrase is being circulated, or a catchy dance, a rapidly expanding fandom, a particular makeup/fashion look is getting popular – when something is trending abnormally well and it bothers you that you can’t seem to tear yourself away from contributing as a hungry audience, maybe spend less time consuming and more time…I don’t know – creating, exercising, conversing, just anything else basically? I’m still working on this myself so I definitely NEED tips too.
Here are some articles if you want to read more:
Social media being deemed as an “opiate for the masses”: “Social Media Addiction” by Washington Post
I like this article because it acknowledges the trend of toxicity for vulnerable teens/adolescents which correlates with what I was going through pretty spot on : “Social media apps are ‘deliberately’ addictive to users” by BBC
Getting over kpop addiction (I like the first response about understanding that the idols we often worship are just regular people. It’s hard to ingrain that in my mind because they’re so perfect all the time but dude as Ann Atwater says ‘the same God made them made me’ … right?!) : “How can i get over kpop addiction?” Quora thread
More history about kpop and why it’s designed to be addictive: “What is kpop history explained” by VOX