I’ve been framing my argument against social media poorly. Here’s my new stance: social media is bad for each individual. It has certain macro benefits for society and a handful of micro benefits for individuals, but it is overwhelmingly terrible for each person. People are able to spread activism quicker, find groups of like-minded individuals, or more easily become a content creator than ever before. I could rattle off a handful of other benefits of social media, and I’m sure many of them are significant and meaningful. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that debating social media on individual points is futile.
There are a bunch of points on both sides. The argument that I care about is that social media creates impatient and anxious people with low self-esteem who have an inability to readily find joy and peace within themselves. Getting lost in the macro benefits of social media detracts from paying attention to how you, as a human being, are left feeling after spending time on your phone.
Do you feel better after you use social media? I’m guessing most honest people would say no. Social media (and the 24/7 news cycle) leaves people feeling like they are surrounded by the whole world. You aren’t. Some tragedy taking place across the world is unlikely to really impact your day-to-day activity. We can still make a difference in the world without being hounded by all its worst aspects constantly. Books and podcasts bring insight into the shortcomings and tragedies of the world and we can work to make the world better with that knowledge.
I don’t need to scroll for hours to find out how much suffering there is in the world in order to constantly feel a bit uneasy. On the flip side, seeing the best of the world is often equally harmful to people. Seeing people (often random acquaintances you met once) who are more attractive than you, or partying harder in Greece, doesn’t bring joy into your life or make you feel more confident in your identity. Social media leaves the individual feeling worse.
What happens when you shut off the world?
THE DALAI LAMA said that the purpose of life is to be happy. I like that purpose. I think we should be looking out for ourselves first and foremost. We can best give to the people around us when we feel more peaceful and content within our own lives. One of the most harmful impacts of social media that I’m working to rid from my life is my difficulty spending time alone.
I’ve been brought up in a world filled with stimulation and notifications. I don’t like that world. I don’t think any of us should. We should be scared of it. Fear of that world’s consequences should inspire us to take immediate action in our own lives.
I deleted Instagram in January, which was a wonderful decision. I haven’t gone on Facebook in days. I’m feeling more peaceful than I ever have. Sure, that is largely due to it being summer and having few obligations, but it’s also because I’m making my world smaller. I don’t want to live in the whole world. I want to live in the moment and give to the people around me.
You have one life. There is a finite amount of ways we can make our lives better; a lot of life is out of our control. Getting off social media is an almost guaranteed way of living more tranquilly.
The writer is a junior at Washington University in St. Louis and editor-in-chief of Student Life. She was an intern at The Jerusalem Post earlier this summer.