The majority of people in the world who are using social media are in fact being used by social media. I can point to a thousand articles that prove how social media platforms draw us in, get us addicted, and profit off of us. I think it’s safe to say that’s pretty clear at this point. By the way, I’m not even saying that it’s wrong of social media platforms to do this. After all, they are for profit companies who are trying to make money. Fortunately or unfortunately this likens them to companies in the gambling and smoking industries. In addition, I’m not saying that all social media platforms are toxic and that they set out to do evil. But you have to admit that evil and toxicity most certainly come with the package. If you’re going to have 2 billion users on a platform, clearly there’s going to be some negative ramifications. But let’s just say I’m not here to talk about the positive or negative influence of social media platforms. I’m not here to talk about their moral responsibility to the public or how they should do better. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s their responsibility to do better. It’s ours. Which is why I’m here to say when it comes to social media, you can either use it, or it’s going to use you.
How do you know if it’s using you?
You might think that I’m starting to veer you toward a “if all you’re doing is looking at pictures and feeds all day you’re wasting your time.” That’s actually not the truth. The truth is “it depends.” In my eyes, social media is using you if you are wasting your time. You might recall I actually wrote an entire article on what I thought a waste of time was. Let me summarize. A waste of time is any spent time doing something that doesn’t result in an intended outcome. So by that definition if you’re scrolling around social media all day looking at pictures and finding out what’s up with your 1000 fake friends, then by all means do so. If that’s your intention? Then you might not actually be wasting your time and therefore you are using social media properly. However, I think many of us would agree that’s probably not the best example of using your time properly on social media. Put it this way. If you’re spending any “extra” time on social media that doesn’t serve a purpose then you’ve gone from using social media to social media using you. So how exactly is social media using us?
It’s using most of us
The fact of the matter is that the majority of people on social media are being used. How so? Well, the whole privacy thing is one of them. In my case? I couldn’t care less about being tracked. I mean I understand the fundamental issue with applications and privacy. But for the most part, who cares? Honestly I don’t give a shit if some cookie follows around my browsing habits or even knows where I am for that matter. I’m not in a top secret job. I don’t have government secrets. I’m not in an industry where things have to be kept incredibly private. But again, I get it. So yeah, for one, social media collects a ridiculous amount of information from us so that we can become better targets for sales. We are consumers after all and the more information companies have about us the better they can target their products to suit our needs. How else do they use us? Well, a gazillion ways but the other main one? Time.
They suck the time out of us by making us addicted to their platforms. We get shots of endorphins and dopamine every time we are “liked” or get a follower, or when anything positive comes our way. On the flip side we freak out from anything negative and spend even more time to prevent said things from happening. It’s a vicious cycle. But the bottom line is simple. The more time spent, the more money these social platforms make, period. So they’re going to do everything in their power to suck you into their web for as long as they possibly can. Whether it’s ad impressions, getting you to look at a video, presentation, it doesn’t matter, the more time you’re on their platforms, the more balls they can throw at you. It’s to their financial benefit to keep you on their platforms for as long as possible and you better believe they’re going to try their hardest to do so.
The second your time spent on a social media platform goes from time you were using their platform for your intended outcome to them using you for theirs, that’s when you’re being used. And often times that line gets crossed pretty quickly, because for the most part, it doesn’t serve you to be on social media for very long. It can definitely serve you, but let’s just say there’s a strong correlation between the more time you are spending on social media and how much social media is using you. But fear not, it can actually be a symbiotic relationship. That part, however, is up to us, and us only.
How we can use it
This is the million dollar question isn’t it? At what point do we have to stop each day? I wish I could answer that plainly but it’s clearly different for everyone. Some people have to use social media for business. Other people do in fact want to keep up with friends, etc etc. I think the best way of looking at this is treating social media like any other thing that you know if you do too much it won’t be good for you. Let’s take junk food for example. We love it. But we also know if we eat too much of it, it’s not good for our bodies. Social media is the same way. It’s totally fine when used in moderation, but once it goes beyond that, you’re in trouble. There are a number of methods to curb your use of social media but it really comes down to discipline and executing on it. Me for example? I have someone else do all my social media updates for my business. That way I’m barely ever on. I don’t even use Twitter or Instagram. Also, I scroll through my feed no more than 2-3 times per day. Those are my limits. I think I spend less than 20 minutes on social media per day. Any more than that and I’m not using the platforms anymore, they’re using me. It’s up to each of us to find our tolerance and happy medium.
Or don’t use it at all
This one’s simple but you need to take it super seriously. If you really don’t need social media, don’t use it. Take a real honest look at yourself and answer this question: what changes if I don’t use social media anymore? If the answer is “nothing” then you really don’t need to be using social media. The last thing I’m telling you to do is to go cold turkey but I will say this: nothing pisses me off more than wasting time. If you’re wasting time, you’re wasting life. Give it some serious consideration.