This Is Why Social Media Is So Harmful
4 good reasons to spend less time there
I thought I had greatly reduced my daily social media consumption.
But according to the screen time function of my iPhone, on average, I am still spending 26 minutes a day just on Instagram.
I know, for many people out there, it would be very little overall, but I still find it sad. 26 minutes for what? To see food, unrealistically attractive people, and memes?
I really should use less social media, and I think it’s a good idea for all of us. An exciting book about this topic is Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier.
Lanier’s book discusses the various reasons to delete your own social media accounts or change your own consumption.
This article offers some good reasons to think more critically about digital media. The book mentioned serves as a source for this.
In the end, you will find a few tips from me on how to I am effectively reducing my social media usage.
It Is Fun, but Also Addictive
Push notifications, algorithm suggestions & posts that are no longer accessible after 24 hours — everyone should be aware that social media benefit from our use. From our excessive use, ideally.
Platforms like Instagram live by showing us ads, and of course, the more we see, the more money they make. More ads can be shown to us, the more we use the apps. Quite simply, actually.
And that’s exactly why the platforms have come up with all kinds of features and tricks to make sure that we quickly click on the app logo on our mobile phone screen over and over again each day.
Sure, it might be fun somewhere, and we can stay in touch with the whole world, but if we are honest, memes and selfies from strangers are just a waste of time.
Whether we look 20 times or twice a day on Instagram and Twitter does not influence:
- How many likes we get
- Which friends have posted stories and pictures
- Which messages we have received
Sure, we could miss some of the 600 people we follow online, but if we are honest, most of it is just low-quality entertaining content that we forgot the same evening. It’s a waste of time.
How many times a day you go to social media has no influence on what is posted, shared and commented on, when and by whom. Once or twice a day should be enough.
Big Brother Is Watching You
Not only do social networks keep getting us to use them, but they also try to get to know us more and more. And we do this partly voluntarily.
Data protection in social media is already quite controversial, not only when it comes to image rights, for example.
But the algorithms of the big players are also learning more and more about us, and therefore provide us with tailor-made content.
It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Up to a point, maybe.
Of course, it’s nice to see the things you’re really interested in, but each of us should see how much time we spend on our media's explorer pages because we’ve been hooked by what the social media offers.
So this has little to do with free will.
It gets especially bad when it’s no longer just a question of how long we use it and what we buy.
Advertising in social media is completely normal, and we all like to make purely emotional purchasing decisions. Could this be related to the fact that the media can target us as customers better than ever?
It becomes even more extreme when it is about political content, as it was the case in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved social media in influencing the US presidential election in 2016.
A Completely Fake, Parallel World
The claim of social media is actually that we can network and exchange information with each other. That we can share pictures of us, our vacations, and our dogs to our friends and followers.
That’s what we do — but in the end, we are the ones who decide what we post. And this is the big problem with social media.
Nobody would post a picture of the pizza from the day before.
Not even a picture of that one dirty beach on vacation.
And certainly not a picture of Saturday morning, shortly after getting up, dressed in a bathrobe.
But this is the reality. Every life has ups and downs — but what we show on the internet is only half the truth. And even though we should know this, it seems that we can’t handle it properly.
Every one of us has certainly been envious of what others have shown on social media. We become self-skeptical, ungrateful, and think that other people are better off than we are.
Social media creates a fake world that actually claims to depict reality — but it only partially does so.
The Distribution of Fake News
Fake news is always a big problem in today’s debating culture.
Of course, not everything about political discussions in social media is bad. Thanks to the Internet, we can uncover Fake News almost as quickly as we spread it, but the problem is simply the thoughtless exchange of information.
We have more information available to us today than ever before.
It feels almost like a duty to share new, relevant information with everyone we know as quickly as possible.
And this is exactly the problem. Of course, it’s great that we can spontaneously invite all our friends to a party, but it’s a shame to set the wrong time in our invitational post.
In a few minutes, everyone probably reads it, invites more people, and now really goes out at this wrong time, in the worst case without us knowing that we mistyped something in our invitation.
A huge network of people is created that we can hardly traceback — you can only imagine how bad the consequences would be if we had sent a sensational political message with false information.
Be as skeptical as possible about all news. A simple Google search can help to expose fake news even before you share it a thousand times.
How to Manage Your Social Media Time
Now we have gone through a few good reasons against social media.
But it is not so easy to do without them completely.
The good news: You don’t have to, because at least in terms of the time, we can improve our behavior with a more conscious approach.
Unfollow other accounts
On Instagram, I follow almost 500 other accounts. Amazing, considering the fact that I hardly get everything they posted on the feed on one day.
Nevertheless, we do get to see what they have posted from time to time — but most of the time, we don’t even know why we are following them.
And after that, we continue — we scroll through the page, where the latest posts are shown. After all, we have been trained to do this by the social networks, and we scroll almost unconsciously, simply because there is something new to see.
To avoid this, it makes sense to avoid many accounts that don’t really interest us simply. E.g., meme pages, pages of organizations or companies, and private persons we don’t really know.
Track your time usage
IOS has a feature called Screen Time that records all your time usage. There you can automatically view daily and weekly reports and see the average usage of your apps.
Go to the Settings, then relatively high up, you will find Screen Time.
Android devices should have the app Digital Wellbeing pre-installed. So look for it on your smartphone; if necessary, it is also available on Google Play.
Set your own times
Whether we visit Instagram once every 24 hours or every 30 minutes — we don’t really miss anything.
That is why I have set a time frame for myself. Right after getting up, and before I start reading in bed in the evening, I get to check out social media in detail.
I don’t miss anything, but this way, I am using the time more effectively because I check everything by opening the apps just twice.
20 year old writer from Germany - Tech, Finance, Philosophy & Psychology