If only your life could be as cool as your Instagram Page!
Before I start, I would like to clarify that I am not a Social Atheist, I am as active on all the social media platforms as you are. In fact it amazes me, how intricately it is woven into our lives and how it impacts us so much- way beyond what we realise, acknowledge or understand.
However, off late I have also heard a lot about digital detox, digital minimalism, digital noise and like. People are cutting off social media completely or learning how to declutter their digital life. Many researchers has been working on how social media has become an addiction, which in many cases can lead upto depression, anxiety and what not! Look at UPenn (University of Pennsylvania)’s published research here.
This makes me wanna decode this emotional roller coaster
Whirlpool of Emotional Drama!
Here are three ideological pitfalls of Social Media which we should be aware of.
- Blind Spot
- YOLO (You Live Only Once)
- FOMO ( Fear of Missing out)
1. Blind Spot
I use the gram a lot, I love clicking pictures and that’s how the love for Instagram. I am so much into travelling, so my feed is essentially filled with all kinds of travel diaries — Way to go digital marketers, SEOs, Data scientists! No really, let us take a moment to contemplate this, I say contemplate because I am sure most of you are aware of how our actions on the web are tracked by companies and marketeers, everyone has experienced how you just randomly think of buying something and Bam! It’s right there glaring back at you every-time you go online, it entices you, lures you into buying it until the eternity -Exaggerated? Well may be a little, but yes what I want to say here is, in this fast changing world, it is easier to get rid of your ex from your feed than that red top you just happen to take a closer look at last week. However I think we take this “Data Customisation” for granted a lot, I mean we just don’t realise how big this is, how I have a personalised feed, and how this affects my life. Today if I like a post, they know my preferences, and then they show me what I like. Say you read an article and hit the like button, somewhat bent towards a political view , not completely biased, but just an opinion, that’s it, now they all know what you think and will tailor make your news and friends’s status updates — this is done because they want you returning to them, and hence they show you what you like. You may think, this is a great thing right! but not really- The problem with this is — as Eli Pariser calls it “Filter Bubble”.
Filter Bubble is defined as a state of intellectual isolation that results from personalised searches where algorithms choose information that the users like to see or approve of. This selection is made completely by the algorithms based on where you are, what is your age, who your friends are, what posts are they liking, your reading history. Every time you click on something, some algorithm is recording this and learning something about you. The algorithms have just one objective, you to keep coming back to them, and they can do anything to get there. As a result, you are loosing out on the view of the grass at the other side, you get too biased because you don’t even know the other perspective exists in, let alone not believing it. Your thoughts have been re-moulded, without you realising it. You are living in a bubble, protected with the data, information, news and thoughts that suits your affirmations.
Get this -
Travel — you might have liked a picture of a travel blogger who went to Bali, slowly your feed is induced with more of Bali pictures, why? because algorithms have written a code in your description that #bali excites you, and a result you might think — Oh wow! Everyone’s just going to Bali! ;) But no, it’s just what the feed is showing you.
Politics — You might not be so inclined towards that one political view, but as you clicked on some posts, your feed will keep populating itself with the same kind of posts over and over again, without realising it, you might have just been brain washed and you don’t even know that you have not heard the other side of the story.
There is another concept I would like to introduce here “Groupshift”!
Groupshift is defined as a phenomenon in which the initial positions of individual members of a group are exaggerated toward a more extreme position. What appears to happen in groups is that the discussion leads to a significant shift in the positions of members toward a more extreme position in the direction in which they were already leaning before the discussion; so conservative individuals become more cautious and the more aggressive individuals take on more risk. And we are so busy to realize this, we don’t even know our views, opinions, thoughts are all being meddled with every single like!
So to summerise, all of us are getting group shifted into this invisible Filter Bubble, where we think our opinions are formed based on facts and what is happening around, but to be honest we are all living in this bubble where we are blind to the stories and reality that is outside the scope of our bubble.
Eli Pariser talks about this in details in his book, Filter Bubble.
2. You live only Once (YOLO)
Yes we live only once, and now we want to have it all! Social pressure, doing things not because you are having fun, but because you want to show people that you are having fun. Crazy much? At the parties, I see a lot of people dancing harder when someone’s making a story for the post, people hug harder when photographed, they might not even be that close but suddenly you tell them “say cheese”, they right away get into the mood, hug, smile, laugh as if they are the best of the friends. We want the world to know, that we have really close friends, we want to show, that we had a great night, a great party. When we post a picture and get likes on it, it gives us an instant sense of achievement, we don’t realise this emotion, which makes me wonder what is it, what is it that we have achieved, why this release of dopamine, why is getting more likes mean so much to us that we constantly keep checking our phone after posting that story, that how many likes, how many people watched it, rather enjoying the party, living in that moment then? The post is keeping us so engaged, may be because the real reason of our happiness is the post and not the real moment it self!? May be we did not post because we had a fun night, but rather we had a fun night just because we wanted to post it! Too much? You will be surprised to know that, during a survey, it was found that a 73% of the respondents would stay home and relax or take a long drive to calm their nerves after a hectic work week rather than go out partying on a Saturday night. In spite of this they go out partying — I wonder why is it -because YOLO?
But Yes everyone of us experiences a satisfaction with approval from our peers. We want to do everything. Sometimes people just run in the race to make others envy them, the goals keep changing, you have a new benchmark every month, every month there is a new thing coming up, fashion influencers are motivating you to buy stuff, travel bloggers are tempting you to travel more, health influencers wants you to exercise more, I don’t know what is true anymore. We are living our life to make it look beautiful. To some people it just comes naturally, but for some people this is a task, and it shows off, for some people this is taxing, real hard work. If it is a hard work, just stop putting in so many efforts. Think what is coming first for you, whether it is your interst to make your profile interesting or just sharing something interesting things of your life.
Fear of missing out on information, fear of missing out on gossip, not being updated, liking the pictures even if you don’t like it — social obligation — the like exchanges, do not know enough, can’t carry out a conversation, One more kind of fear is that you don’t have enough, you don’t have fun enough, you don’t have enough money, you start envying people,
If only their instagram handle could actually tell you the whole story!
but unfortunately it does not, people show only the stuff they want to show, and guess what no one’s a a fan of showing off their dirty closet. Also reverse, now a days your closest friends want you to find out all the good things through the social media, they don’t tell you that they are permanently moving to another country all together, but would instead post a picture about it, sometimes your friend won’t tell you he is getting married, he would rather get a photo shoot done specially to post it on the media, they want you to know through social media, the mystery makes it kind of exotic I think.
Anchoring yourself in this Whirlpool…!
We can not trust our feed for our daily news, default settings are giving away your personal information, they are making us look the world with only one lens which is much more dangerous than it sets out to seem. The Marketing algorithms have their agenda clear, their business model is fundamentally conflicted with our own life goals and it is high time we acknowledge the elephant in the room and stop getting violated, stop taking our privacy for granted.
Having said this,
Cutting off social media completely is the worse than being addicted to it,
today these platforms are helping us with plethora of information, there is more breakthrough knowledge available than ever before. There is now more diverse knowledge from the world’s top experts in any medium we want, and much of it is free or affordable. Connectivity and Networking has made this world a smaller place to live in. Today there is no dearth of opportunity to showcase your skills, to voice your opinions, to know your worth, to market your products, to grow exponentially just because of these platforms. Imagine you living in a world without this! It will be foolish not to use this to your advantage.
These are some pointers
- Set your priorities, understand yourself, know your reasons to be active on each platform, and use it accordingly.
- Having a personal connect with your friends rather than just through social media. Simple things like talking to them on a personal chat than through comments on posts. This will make you feel less disconnected or superficial.
- Know what platform to use for what purpose. Like avoid using your feed as a source for your daily awareness or as a learning platform, rather use it for daily dose of entertainment and feeding your hobby skills.
- Have a time limit set on your usage, know when to stop. The time at hand can always be used in a better way, you decide the limits.
- Sometimes it is best to surf in incognito mode like for youtube. You will get to explore whats trending and depending on what you search, rather than just based on your watch history.
- Using a knowledge format that has a lowest distraction (often called noise) from unwanted information. Like e-books, audibles, ted talks, short online courses to better use your time and efforts and make it productive.