The Digital Detox
You won't actually die if you uninstall social media
by Sam Moore
Last summer I made a big decision: I deleted Facebook and Instagram. It had been a long time coming and I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t done it sooner. Like many Facebook users, I didn’t feel like I was actually connecting with people, instead of having every detail of everybody’s life forced upon me. This was not something I wanted to take part in - I wanted to keep myself to myself - yet privacy seemed to be something that Facebook feared. Instagram was the tough one to kick. I loved it and was able to post photos that people I had never met before engaged including some professional photographers. It felt like I was engaging with a community of like-minded people, the type of utopia social media promises us. But it wasn’t long before I was endlessly scrolling Instagram just to kill time, and I felt my appreciation for truly beautiful images begin to diminish. Then there was the social pressure that went with it. I could present myself however I wanted, and suddenly found myself trying to condense my vast complexity as a human being into a singular aesthetic. And so, Instagram had to go.
Social media has always been demonised, and so the question stands: Did deleting it actually make me happier?
The answer is a resounding yes. I have more space to think without a constant flood of information. I still struggle to break the habit of checking my phone, but when I can overcome it I have time to read, write, listen to music or do literally anything else that I want to do but neglected because social media was an easier fix. I don’t feel that need to condense my life to just an aesthetic or a highlights reel. Best of all, I actually value the time I spend with friends, not just the pictures I post of them.
It’s not as if social media is an inherently bad thing, but that how it has been designed and how we use it have incredibly negative effects. We need to take a step back and re-evaluate how we can use this platform for good. The frightening truth is that social media is designed to addict - even former Facebook president Shawn Parker admitted it. It takes advantage of our need as human beings to be connected and amplifies it. It understands that talking about ourselves fires up the same pleasure sensor in our brain as sex or alcohol and so provides us with an endless cycle of self-gratification and validation. People prioritise social media over everything else and being to feel anxious or uncomfortable if they are without access to it. It is an addiction. It is a drug. We are letting it hijack our brains.
So how do we change this? How do we cut out such a powerful drug from our lives? Well, there are small things you can do individually, including as monitoring time online and taking regular digital detoxes, but I strongly believe that we need to go a step farther. We need to completely redesign how we use social media. Instant communication and information are a fantastic thing but constant communication and information is just suffocating. Let’s design social media that allows people to communicate and discover without endless scrolling and self-validating feedback. Let’s design more sites like Reddit that creates communities based on shared interests with guidelines on how you can and cannot engage with said communities. I know it’s been said a thousand times before, but we need to make sure that we control social media, not the other way around.
I would love to go back on Instagram someday, but only if I know I will be engaging with a positive community that respects my space and privacy. Is that too much to ask?