I grew up with Social Media —
In the heyday of MySpace, I had a layout that complimented my aesthetic, personality, and chameleon-like identities. It was a time of self-discovery and growth. I was immersed in music and discovering the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bauhaus, Nick Cave, Brian Eno, Boy George, and all the eccentric heroes whose work would become the pillars of my youth. Without this time, my career as a designer probably wouldn’t exist. Social Media provided an outlet to experiment with graphic design. I still recall writing poetry and pairing it with visuals that complimented the words. The Internet was a young playground that existed in one location—at home. It was mounted on a desk and not portable. Yet, we got along just fine. Social Media still exists but since its inception over a decade ago, it has drastically changed—and I absolutely despise what it has become.
Social Media disrespects, alienates, & does not care about us.
MySpace disappeared and like most people, I flocked to Facebook. However, around Fall of 2017, my affinity and trust of Facebook started to grow weary. Slowly I began to disengage and in late 2017. I deactivated my Facebook only to continue activating it every few weeks to see if there was anything of importance to miss—this continued through 2018.
With Facebook out of the picture, I gravitated towards another popular platform called Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, Instagram is wonderful. It knows exactly what I like and it gives it to me. It knows that I love jiu-jitsu. It knows that I love wristwatches. It knows the films I watch. It knows too much much about me. Or at least it thinks it does, which might encourage my identity to align to its depiction of me. Hmmm… This is exactly why in December of 2018 I quit Instagram. Soon I started to realize that too much of my time was spent consuming content and not enough time was spent creating content. I tried to write more, create more, work on my projects; yet I rarely did. Joining Instagram was never to share selfies or to flaunt my lifestyle—although I did the latter, which makes me cringe. Ew!
What precendented my departure were questions like this:
👉 Why am I sharing this?
👉 Is this important to share?
👉 How will sharing this make me feel?
👉 What gives me the right to subject people to this post?
👉 Am I posting this for myself or for others?
I asked myself other questions too but mindfulness was key in assessing the quality of my posts: but why the hell does it matter what other people think? Well, isn’t it Social Media? I think Social Media is anything but social.
The invasiveness of Social Media robs us of our attention with videos of friends shopping, eating, and sharing curated lifestyles.
Looking back, I am embarrassed by some of the content I would share.
👉 Post-workout photos of the gym; proving to people that I care about my physical health and obviously not about my mental health. Ha! The irony
👉 Architecture photos of my surroundings, showcasing to people that I live an urban life amidst skyscrapers. Look friends, I have made it!
👉 Photos of food to flaunt my economic excess. Fancy restaurants, travel, good looking food, drinks, beer, Instagramable lighting!
👉 Artistic renditions of my surroundings aimed to appeal to the artsy fuck!ng community. Look at this mural! Look at this art gallery! Wow, the colors! The pattern!
👉 Candid fragments of my life in the best angles. If only you knew what the inside of my refrigerator looks like.
Social Media encourages us to appreciate things at their cyber currency.
Inquisitive dialogues took place front-and-center and with hope I clinged onto Instagram with hopes that I would magically one day arise and my relationship with the platform would improve. You see, everything that we engage with converts into a relationship. My relationship with Social Media was not mutual. Social Media does not care if I am tired or if I am hungry. Social Media does not care about my posture. Social Media does not care about germs. Social Media does not care about my real human relationships. Social Media does not care if I promised myself to read more books. Social Media does not care about the fragility of life. It doesn’t care about any of that. It craves my attention and will do whatever it takes to take it—and for a long time it succeeded.
Our morning ritual begins with our phone. It wakes us. It takes our photos. It reminds us. It’s an appendage to our body even though it is not attached. We put our trust into our device and believe that it will improve our life and that it will know what is best of us. We know it’s not perfect and we accept it either way.
We use Social Media to escape the silence that exists between moments. We trust it with our memories and store our most personal and intimate selves. The very fact that Social Media is hard to quit suggests that it’s an addiction. But I can quit if I want to. But you don’t. Social Media has gripped us by our insecurities, fears, and weaknesses. It’s a landscape void reality and before we know it—it will become our reality. The dark patterns continue to feed and we continue to give. I once read an article about a Buddhist monk that suggests that smartphones prohibit us from confronting our suffering. Something to consider.
The glimpses of our lives through Stories are mere fantasies that can never capture the raw beauty of our individuality. Feeds are nothing more than fractions of reality. The economy of time is valuable—we can’t forget this. The paradox is that we know that Social Media is bad for our Mental Health yet we continue scrolling, and seeing if that person watched our story.
Since then, I’ve activated my Instagram multiple times because it has gripped areas of my life professionally that have required an active profile as a means to self-promotion. How sad!
As a designer, I see the appeal of Instagram—all that inspiration is too good to miss but what do we do with that inspiration? Appropriate it? Like it? If we are bombarded with too much inspiration, will it dilute our ability to regard a work of art with the intensity it deserves? The information paralysis is true. I love love love love design but I agree that a book, a film, a trip to the museum, nature, etc, activates way more senses; if you experience things within the contexts of their environment, you see them for their true value. Again, this is my philosophy.
Find what works for you. Find it for yourself.
Quiting social media does not mean that you disengage with the world and that you will be missing out. Without it, you will ENGAGE with the world, the environment, your relationships, and most importantly with yourself.
🗒️ Disclaimer: I am speaking from my personal experience. All I am suggesting is to be more mindful of our relationship with Social Media and our habits. If you believe your relationship is healthy, then I am happy for you. Mine certainly wasn’t.