I was late to social media. An old high school friend convinced me to get on Facebook because “everyone was doing it”. She excitedly talked about how she reconnected with so many friends from school. Funnily, while I enjoyed high school because I was part of the theatre program, I wasn’t popular, didn’t consider myself amazing in any way, and the people that I had kept in touch with were the ones that counted as far as I was concerned.
But this coincided with me moving abroad, so Facebook seemed like a good way to not only reconnect, but stay connected with friends in a convenient way. I also decided to blog (for real this time!), and the two seemed to go hand in hand on the ‘ol keyboard.
This was back in 2009. Then again, I was late to join the CD party, the cell phone party, and the smart phone party, too. I’m the opposite of the early adopters of technology, I’m more like a straggler, but this has allowed me to hear plenty of feedback before jumping in. When my friend Ingrid got a smart phone she warned me, “Don’t do it! It’s so addicting. I find myself looking at it all the time.”
The problem though with warnings and advice is they are readily ignored until you decide to do something about it. Luckily, I don’t have an addictive personality. I’ve never been addicted to anything, but for a time, smoking cigarettes was a thing that I picked up casually here and there until I decided I had had enough. It’s very true you are influenced by who you are around!
Regardless, I have found myself inching closer and closer to a kind of addiction to my phone and social media. After all, social media is manipulated by those who hack slot machines, getting us users high on likes, comments (through sight), and notifications through phone vibrations (touch) and sounds (ping!). It’s a full-on experience that many of us now cannot live without.
What’s frightening to me though is this link to depression. I, too, have deleted posts/updates on social media that didn’t receive any likes or attention. I have scratched my head over not getting as much as attention that I felt I deserved. I’ve played the game “likes for likes” in an effort to get the system to work for me, but I also grew up before the Internet became something that we took for granted like electricity which means I enter a relationship with social media and my phone cautiously.
First, I have a hard time “liking” something that I don’t really like. Sure, I’ve done it, but I have a feeling that kids these days don’t. So I find it interesting that I have this “old fashioned filter” that prevents me from mindlessly liking. Although, I will say, I do feel like I have to catch up on my Instagram feed. I’ve had to tell myself to stop.
I’ve learned the hard way to not like an article unless I’ve read it. Headlines have become click bait and are often misleading.
And I quickly discovered that the best isn’t always the most popular. And that bothers me. It doesn’t seem fair. And you can “pay for views” and “likes”, and that seems even more unsatisfying. I’m certain folks would disagree, rallying under the “all’s fair in love and war”, but back in my day, kids (*shakes walking cane*), it was often the best and brightest that rose to the top through hard work, talent, and luck.
So while I do enjoy and believe in the democratic playing field of the Internet, unscrupulous tweaks and measures are being used by both the social media aps, the government, and the user to create a false sense of “most popular” therefore “most wonderful”.
I suppose it comes down to two things: I don’t like the idea of being manipulated, and I don’t like being addicted to anything.
I think there was a brief period when I looked at my phone (probably when it was new) first thing in the morning, but this didn’t last long because mornings are sacred to me. I believe in the importance of a good morning routine so I like to use the time to write in my journal, do yoga, meditate, have coffee, and slowly wake up. I’ve almost always been good about not getting online in the morning.
My phone used to go on airplane mode in the evenings before bed and the mornings. Now, it’s on airplane mode for most of the day. Interestingly, what made me do this was friends or family would text me near bedtime. I love to read before bed, and to hear my phone vibrate or look at the notifications would piss me off because I didn’t want to deal! I want my mind relaxing and free of extraneous stress.
Otherwise, when I’m trying to sleep, I’m thinking, What does the text say? Is it important? or Why did she text me a chore I need to do? I didn’t need to see that before bed. Or whatever. I’m a light sleeper. And I don’t function well at all under 8 hours of sleep!
But I found myself looking at my phone throughout the day. Not a lot, but maybe more than I realized. I remember the first time I was at the airport with my smart phone, and I discovered the time-consuming beauty that is social media. My wait time felt like nothing! It was awesome. I totally understand why people do it.
Then I realized that I’d have my phone next to me when I was at the computer. So much for “distraction free” writing. Ha! And why did I have the dang thing next to me when I was on the Internet anyway? Duh! I would have already checked FB or Twitter and the phone would let me know that I got a new like or message. No!
So now the phone is away from me when I’m at my desk.
Next was discovering that the reason why I like Instragram was because I was doing #365 day challenges; in other words, it gave me purpose. This made me think, “What’s my purpose for opening Twitter? FB?”
Now, going on social media is like taking out the garbage. It’s a chore.
Trust me, I have seriously considered deleting my social accounts many times. But as an expat who is trying to get her writing out there, it makes it doubly challenging to do so without the aid of social media. Could I do it? Probably. But I don’t think it has to be an all or nothing scenario for me.
// For weeks now, I have had an Internet-free day. One day a week? Yeah, I can do it.
// For my IG #365 days challenge, I don’t feel the pressure (after all, it’s my challenge to do) to post everyday. I know that runs against the challenge, but some days, yeah, just can’t get to it, and that’s okay.
// I try to be conscientious of what I’m doing on Twitter and FB. I ask myself “What’s my purpose here today?” and I don’t go on it multiple times during the day if I can help it. At a later time, I might reconsider deleting Twitter. I get so very little out of it.
// I’ve noticed friends that barely use FB. I’d like to get to that point. In the meantime, I left a FB writers group that I was getting nothing out of, and deleted my Medium account. Again, nada. (And yes, I tried Pinterest ages ago, and got rid of that.)
// The problem with FB is that Messenger has become the main form of communication. No one emails anymore. So if I do open FB on my desktop it’s to see if I have any messages. I won’t look at my phone. I get so many junk messages from my cell/mobile phone provider that it turns me off. I suppose one day I’ll have to get a proper phone plan.
The thing though that really gets to me is seeing how many of our students are addicted to their phones and social media. I used to get mad when I saw them pull out their phones for a quick peek or check notifications or tell me it’s their mom on the phone and duck outside. But now I know, it’s not me – it’s them. They’re addicts.
Of course, I’ve experimented with taking away phones from particularly problematic students, and then I watch them dive into their English work with their full attention. I’ve talked to them and have discovered that some schools (or classes) take the students’ phones away, or whose parents don’t let them bring their phones to school.
I’ve been teaching overseas long enough to notice the difference between “before smart phones” to now. Before I’d walk into a classroom full of students engaged and talking with one another, now, they’re all silently hunched over their phones playing games or endlessly scrolling or watching a video.
I’m not saying the end is neigh because kids these days are all about their phones, but I do worry that this hypnotic device has far-reaching consequences that we might not be aware of.
What do you think? What’s your relationship with your phone and social media?