It can be arguably postulated that anything that acts in a mind-altering manner and ends in addiction can be classified as a drug. We tend to think of drugs as physical substances which are physically ingested. But few of us stop to consider the fact that a drug does not need to be material in nature. A drug is something that makes you feel good about yourself, but which ultimately creates a dependency which is hard to get rid of. Within certain limits, food can be a drug. Or religion. Or love. Or social media.
Social media is not essentially negative in nature. I mean, it is not a bad thing to connect with old classmates, see what your co-workers are doing, or share pictures of your latest excursion with a select group of people. It’s how social media comes to be used that makes it toxic.
The tendency to foster narcissism is always latent within the purlieus of social media. And that is definitely worrisome. I understand, of course, that people have ideas, opinions, and observations that they like to share with the rest of the world. This is a free country, right? But most of us feel, at some point or another, that it was wrong to give a platform to Joe Stupid. And that is exactly what social media does.
From the has-been hottie who lives vicariously through pictures of the past, to the nutball who endlessly posts political rants, there is something within social media that sets people slightly askew. Besides the addictive element, it more or less fosters exhibitionism. Even though that exhibitionism is of the ‘lite’ variety, and does not involve anything illicit, it reeks of the worst of high-school histrionics.
It encourages play-acting. Let’s face it. People don’t put their real selves forward on social media. They carefully tailor their public images to meet their ideal conceptions of themselves. That ideal may be far removed from reality. But who’s to know the truth? One never really gets to know who a person really is on social media, because SM encourages one to cherry-pick his/her best traits and hold them forth as a representation of who they actually are. The ranting may be real enough. But the avatar isn’t.
On sites like Facebook and Twitter, social competition is also rife. As games can be addictive, so we feel that the level of competitive interest engendered by social media contributes to dependency. It may be one thing to post pictures of your latest outing. It is another thing to make sure you are outdoing every one else. That takes a level of time-investment and energy that is a bit morbid (or at least misplaced) when one considers how make-believe social media really is.
Despite the fact that SM platforms are selling your personal information; despite the fact that they control what content you see and what you don’t; despite the fact that many spend untold hours each week sifting through social media while more important things get left undone: still so few refuse to delete their accounts and move to healthier, saner activities. The reason is pretty obvious. They are addicted.
The desire to be relevant is, of course, inherent in us all. We want to feel that we are not just a grain of sand in the midst of millions of grains of sand. We want to have a voice. We want to have a platform. We want to have lots of friends and feel their beaming approval with everything we do. But that isn’t how life really works, is it?
To a certain extent, all of us are selfish. All of us put ourselves first. We listen to others not so that we may hear, but so that we may respond. We don’t CARE what other people are saying. We just want to have OUR say. What we need to do is mortify our pride a little, and realize that we don’t always have to be saying something. We don’t always have to be on display. Sometimes it’s nicer to just sit in the bleachers and take notes. For that is how we learn the real nuances of life.
Humility can be an excellent trait to have, because it helps one get a real sense of perspective. Unfortunately, it’s not found on social media. The humble person on SM is really a non-entity, and may as well not exist at all. But in real life, the humble individual is often one who decided to take acting lesson first before hitting the stage. I mean, we all act. But we need to make sure that our acting is relevant and true-to-nature, so that our lives don’t play out like a B-movie.
But you say, “I can’t leave SM. That is where all my friends and family and co-workers and classmates are.” Well, it is admittedly difficult to leave it all behind. But addiction is always a hard thing to beat. The good news is that it can be done. Only when it’s done does one realize what a wise move it was weaning oneself off of the drug.