5:04 p.m. today marked my two-day anniversary of living a social-media-free life — cue the balloons and champagne. I am proud and feel somewhat superior to those around me staring at their phones. It is as if I broke some sort of magical spell and can see the days more clearly. But then tragedy (aka 5:05 p.m.) struck. To reward my two-day anniversary, I decided to open my Facebook for a quick minute. That quick minute, however lead me on a downward spiral into the gaping and empty hole of social media.
Three hours later, the balloons are deflated and I have deleted and re-downloaded my Instagram and Snapchat five times.
As the love-hate relationship ensues, I begin to ask — why do I do this to myself? Why do I feel the need to refresh the biography of 500 Facebook ‘friends’ when 400 of them are probably on their phones asking the same question? If I miss a day of Facebook then I miss an entire breaking news story or what’s-his-face from middle school’s political rant. If I miss a day of Instagram, then I don’t get to witness the fixed highlights of the mundane lives of my fellow students.
Social media. This is a term that has been beaten to death by sociologists, psychologists and my Great-Uncle Bob. There have been millions of studies and commentaries on this subject alone, so why even bother talking about it, right? But I am here to demand that we talk about it. We should talk about it because it is such a huge part of our culture. It is important to discuss the significant pull it has on my life and the lives of the people around me. It concerns me that I cannot go more than two days without social media. I hate the feeling I get mindlessly scrolling through the lives of others — as if it is nothing more than a distant fictional movie.
It may seem as though I am posing the question “aren’t we better without social media?” And maybe I am.
Not long ago I was babysitting a young 11-year-old girl. She was upset because everyone in her grade had a cell phone and she did not. I said to her — in what I assumed would be words of wisdom — “I didn’t even get a phone until I was 15.” And then it hit me. As I was speaking to her I heard the echo of my parents, grandparents and Great-Uncle Bob. I suddenly became the “other.” I became that older being who thought they had it better in their days when technology wasn’t as developed. How the hell did that happen? I looked at the young girl I was babysitting, listening to her give me reasons why she needed a phone, and became a bit scared.
Becoming the other (a term I am using to describe the modern generation gap) has made me realize that time is moving fast. It is possible that is why I feel the need to constantly check every form of online interaction — because I can freeze time and control the moments happening to others around me. But instead I should be grasping control of my own moments. Granted, it is important to note that news and politics rely heavily on social media formats these days, and we should be aware of the new medium of information output. Social media has sparked globalization and has connected the world in ways it has never been connected before, and I do not want to belittle the impact social media has had on society. However, the expansion of this ‘new’ form of communication can be dangerous when you tuck yourself behind a screen surrounded by words that support only your personal beliefs — a term psych majors know as confirmation bias.
I am afraid as I am writing this that I am still sounding like the other — that person who thinks they grasp the culture of social media and are better than it simply because they failingly attempt to escape it. Maybe it is silly to even try to escape it. If our relationship is truly a love-hate one, it may be healthier to just let it go. The only problem is that I have been saying that for months now, and most of those months consist of failed two-day anniversaries.
Ellie Moonan is a Confusion Corner columnist who just can’t break up with social media.