Anti-Social Media


(Courtesy of Julia Comerford/The Fordham Ram)

By Jimmy Sullivan

Like many of my peers, I enjoy using social media because it’s fun and seemingly harmless. If you’re like me, chances are you’ve lost precious minutes, if not hours, on various platforms such as Twitter, SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram, etc. Truth be told, when you’re doing it, it can be very enjoyable. Memes are funny, interaction with our “friends” can feel rewarding and — you cannot convince me otherwise on this — there is nothing in the world better than a perfectly-used GIF.

But as has been documented, there are downsides which necessitate a re-examination of why we use it and how it affects our lives.

There are any number of studies on the negative effects of social media, but you can find that stuff on the internet. I would rather speak about this issue from my personal experience, which has been a rollercoaster.

Today is the last Wednesday in January, so if you go on social media, you will see #BellLetsTalk trending, in what has become something of an annual tradition. For each social media interaction today, Bell Let’s Talk will donate five cents to various mental health programs, which is great. However, there’s a subtle irony in this, and that has to do with the anxiety-inducing effects of social media.

A 2015 study found that 48 percent of teenagers who spent five or more hours per day on an electronic device had at least one risk factor for suicide. This is a big problem, and it’s one that will get worse before it gets better. Social media lead us to compare ourselves with others, which is one of the least healthy things we can do.

We will never be good enough compared to all of our virtual friends, who always appear to be leading better lives than us.

When we spend too much time on these platforms, our fear of missing out skyrockets (trust me, I’ve been there). There is another juxtaposition there, as well: as our fear of missing out escalates, we miss out on the important things in real life.

Another issue with social media is the constant distraction it causes. While these various media are fun to use, they also take a lot of time out of our days. One minute becomes ten, which becomes an hour, then two hours. Soon enough, the day is done and we haven’t accomplished anything. Again, I’ve been there. It still happens more than I would like to admit.

Is this to say that the answer to this conundrum is to disconnect from social media altogether? No. I tried to do this various times in 2017, and twice, I was able to do so for over a week. Both times, however, it felt like how I would imagine a drug or alcohol detox would feel.

I had much more time to myself, but I was on edge and came to the painful realization that I was addicted. I couldn’t quit. Social media was, and still is, an addiction. In fact, in the process of trying to write this article, I have veered in the direction of Twitter at least a half-dozen times. The tab with the little blue bird is still open in my browser.

However, we should try to rein in our use of these networks. For starters, we will be much more productive with our time. But, more importantly, we will likely be a lot happier, too. We have the power to dictate how we can use social media, not how social media use us.

This isn’t to say there are not benefits to using social networks. I often connect with friends on social media, and there is nothing wrong with using it in that way. However, a person needs to know his or her limitations; too much Instagram, Twitter or SnapChat is not healthy, and almost no one can handle it.

Instead of wasting time on social media, you should allot a specific amount of time in the day to use it. If you can do that, you can take back control of these networks, and maybe even your life, too.