There I am again, waking up 10 minutes later from a self-induced Twitter fugue. What was I even reading? Why am I so angry? What was the point?
Turns out there never was one. I’m done with social media. I’ve deactivated my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I don’t intend to go back.
If you’ve spent any time using Twitter or Facebook in the last decade, you know exactly the experience I’m talking about.
You open Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram/etc. on your device of choice, start idly scrolling through, and something strikes you. Maybe it’s a politically-charged conversation between friends, or maybe it’s an ongoing argument between people who are just famous enough to be highlighted on social media — but not famous enough to be doing something more important with their time. You dig in.
If it’s a particularly entertaining argument, maybe you pseudo-participate by adding in an animated GIF of Michael Jackson eating popcorn. Or perhaps you prefer the one of Stephen Colbert? I prefer Michael.
Either way, you’re “involved” — until you realize you’re not, of course. And that none of this is important, or even really entertaining. What was the argument even about? Who cares?
This is the reality of using social media in 2018. Congratulations! You played yourself.
Rather, you’ve been played just like I have so many times by social media use — convinced by your emotions to react to something on social media that almost certainly has no real impact on your life. It’s intrinsic to how the whole system operates, from the foundational level of people wanting their social media posts to be seen. I better make this post interesting and engaging, lest no one likes it!
What you’re really saying, of course, is “Pay attention to me.” (I should know — it’s what my whole career is based on.)
That you were taken in is not a coincidence: It’s by design.
If you were just passively scrolling, finding little of interest, then social media feeds would be of little value. You might bounce off them and move to something else (like reading Business Insider!).
Instead, they’re designed to draw you in and keep you interested.
Twitter’s move to a non-chronological timeline is a perfect example — the service is less useful as a result.
Twitter’s chronological timeline was an excellent way of presenting the world as an ongoing stream of mass consciousness. Was it messy? Sure! Was it occasionally hard to navigate? Absolutely.
But changing it to a non-chronological feed wasn’t intended to fix those things — it was intended to surface content that might keep you more interested, and less likely to bounce off and check a different app. Nevermind the fact that it undercuts the entire premise of Twitter — as long as you’re staying longer, that’s what matters.
That the experience is worse is besides the point.
Facebook also changed its algorithm recently, in an attempt to “encourage meaningful interactions between people.” The change? “Less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote back in January. Instead, you’re more likely to see popular posts and photos from friends — statuses that they actually wrote.
Sounds pretty good! Fewer brands, more actual people!
But the result is that posts from friends and family with the most comments seem to be the ones surfaced the most frequently by the Facebook algorithm.
And what gets a lot of comments on Facebook? Arguments! Posting a strong opinion is a great way to stay at the top of my news feed, as people issue their own strong responses to the original opinion.
In other words, Facebook’s attempt to breed “meaningful interaction” between its users has actually resulted in a more argumentative platform.
Have you ever opened a new tab in your favorite internet browser and, without thinking, started typing in a social media service website? Or pulled your phone out with a specific purpose, only to have that purpose overshadowed by your muscle memory as it guides you to Twitter once again?
I find myself putting away my phone, having not done what I set out to do, only to realize that I’ve not completed my task. I pulled out the phone again and got distracted by a new Facebook notification (or whatever it may be).
And then I sigh, and re-focus, and consider for the hundredth time whether I should just delete my social media accounts. Did I even learn anything from that brief social media aside? The answer is never yes. It was always a distraction, and it likely made me feel something I didn’t want to feel: anger or sadness or frustration or, just as likely, disappointment in myself for being unable to simply focus on one task at a time.
Worse: The more I’m distracted by social media, the more likely I am to be distracted by it in the future. I’ve had to repeatedly fight the urge to open a new tab and check my Twitter replies while writing this. Seriously!
That’s not just because I’m a flawed person, but because human beings repeat learned habits. It’s hard to not go check social media because I’ve done it thousands of times before.
The good news is that there’s a simple solution to this problem: Stop using social media.
Not just putting your accounts on hiatus, but closing them.
Originally published on www.businessinsider.com.
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