I never use Facebook and haven't posted any content on the platform in years. 2013 would have been the last time I had the Facebook app downloaded on my phone. It is also around this time that I last logged into Facebook consistently.
Admittedly, I still have a Facebook profile, but this is solely to remain in a group chat with my closest friends which we have had for 10+ years. It is our only mode of communication together as a group. I did try to transition us all to WhatsApp a few years back, but for one reason or another, that wasn't as successful, and we always found ourselves reverting back to the Facebook group chat.
Although the group chat is the only thing keeping me on Facebook, I decided to go through an extensive "friend clearing" exercise around 4 years ago. I reduced just over 1,900 of my Facebook friends to roughly 300.
I used an elementary filter to determine the fate of my Facebook friend. If I saw them walking across the other side of the street, would I cross the street to say "hi" or would I ignore them and carry on with my day?
If I wouldn't bother crossing the street to say "hi", then why are we friends on Facebook, and why should I be consuming their content online?
The exercise of unfriending these people allowed me to focus my attention and consume the content of a small group of friends who shared similar values. Unknown to me at the time, but this was a minimalist approach to dealing with my Facebook friends.
Following this clear-out of Facebook friends, I only log into Facebook when someone specifically asks me to do so, e.g. to see something they have tagged me into, a picture of me they have uploaded or an event invite they've sent my way. Another reason I may log on is if when a friend passively-aggressively mentions that I haven't accepted their friend request...
This is pretty much my approach to all social media accounts I own. The only exceptions to this are Twitter and LinkedIn for a reason I may touch on another day.
There has been a substantial shift in the way I use social media platforms over the last decade. I am much better off for it too.
Social Media Harms Your Mental Health
Social media skews our perception of life and how we should live our lives. We see everyone living their best life - the highlight reels of everyone's best moments. As we scroll through our timelines, we see people appearing to have a much better life than they actually do in reality. They only capture the ups, and not the downs.
We're always seeing photos and videos of people looking at their best, taken on a day they are feeling the most confident and doing an exciting activity or eating at a nice restaurant. Often, these photos have been touched up by a myriad of filters or photoshopped to make them look better. Even if they've not been through filters or photoshopped, these pictures have been carefully selected amongst hundreds of other photos taken at the time and is not an accurate representation of someone's average day.
We consciously or unconsciously compare the highlight reels (and edited photos) of our virtual friends (and often strangers) to our lives on an average day when we're sat on the sofa, bored and scrolling through our timelines. It makes us miserable. Yet we do this daily, keeping us in a permanent state of "miserableness".
If you were to take a step back to reflect on your life, the fact that you're reading this confirms that you have a better life than 99% of humans who have ever lived.
It's why I believe social media is one of the big reasons we are the most miserable generation, despite being blessed with a lot more than our ancestors could have ever imagined. We are also the most insecure generation to have ever lived. Constantly comparing ourselves to others and feeling inadequate every day is not good for our mental health. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is yourself - the version of you yesterday. You are your competition.
Social media use has also caused an exponential increase in anxiety and depression rates. Did you know 1 in 6 Americans are now taking medication for mental health issues? Also, the average patient is now taking antidepressants for 50% longer than they were in the 90s and they're often taking them for decades longer.
Social media has put us in a position where we're continually seeking social validation. Our drug is the number of likes we get on a post. We crave likes. We're addicted.
Those who get more likes have a higher social status than those with less. It turns into a competition. People get anxious before even uploading content to their social media account in case it doesn't get a sufficient amount of likes. We've even reached a point where people are paying for likes.
Instagram taking the responsibility to hide the number of likes someone has is a step in the right direction.
Social media makes it very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you're not good enough, and everyone you know is always perfect and at their best. You then compete with each other to always posting the perfect pictures to obtain more likes/social approval from others.
"We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like". Dave Ramsey
The above quote is what social media has done to us through seeking external validation from others.
It would be difficult to find true happiness if your happiness is dependent on external approval or the validation of others. Happiness comes from within (see my article on the lessons from running 160km in a single month). Your perception of what people you don't even like may be thinking about you should not determine your self-worth.
So stop chasing the likes and seeking external validation. Exercise more. Live the life you want to live. Be the person you want to be. Do the things you want to do. Be happy with who you are, while striving for constant improvement. Be kind to yourself.
Addiction and Time Wasting
Social media is such a big time waster. People spend hours a day on social media, which they can instead use to learn a new skill or even develop those relationships in reality, as opposed to virtually. Time is one of your greatest assets and time wasted on social media will be lost forever.
I would also define social media time to include the time which we are unable to record and not incorporated within the above studies. These would consist of; time dealing with the feelings and emotions (sadness, jealousy, depression etc.) from social media and time spent gossiping or dealing with issues in real life caused by social media usage. These are not captured in the above statistics, meaning 4 hours a day on average on social media is being understated. It should be even more.
Social media is also highly addictive. Tens of millions are spent annually by social media platforms on psychologists to make the apps more addictive for users. Using algorithms to give us more of what we want and less of what we don't want is one way they keep our attention on the apps. There's an incentive for apps to keep us glued to our phones because it is our attention that generates all their revenue.
It's why you see couples out on dates where they both spend the whole evening on their phones or families at the dinner table on their phones. Or why parents decide to keep their young children occupied with the iPad. People keep their phone with them all day - it's the first thing they'll check in the morning and the last thing they'll check at night. You get the point.
Social media is anything but social, and we, as a generation, are addicted.
Social Media Rewires the Human Brain
The codes and algorithms behind social media are intelligent, so the platforms can give us more of what we want and less of what we don't want. It's like an echo chamber, and you start to think everyone out there is just like you, shares the same views and opinions as you or agrees with you on most things.
A result of this is that we become more ignorant of the real world around us. We're fed continuously with content which confirms our biases and further skews our sense of reality, so we can spend more time scrolling through our timelines.
These codes literally rewire the human brain over time. Let the hardcore Trump fans on Twitter be the example here. They are very ignorant of the facts laid out to them and will support him no matter what he says or does. They live in their very own social media bubble, where trump is their God.
These platforms use these algorithms to stalk us. They know precisely what it is we like and what we don't like. They often use this information with little regard for our data.
Privacy Concerns With Our Data on Social Media
Everyone is well aware of the privacy concerns when it comes to social media, so I will keep this brief.
Let remind you of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook had allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest its users' personal data without their consent to use it for political advertising purposes.
I won't even go into detail here on other privacy issues such as identity theft or data breaches. No one knows what the future holds, so we should all be more mindful of the content we post online.
If there's one thing you've taken away from this article, it should be for you to become more mindful of your social media usage, the people you follow and the content you consume.
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