It was a Friday night, and I sat in an apartment loft in the city. I was seated comfortably at the end of a couch with four of my closest friends surrounding me. Some of us hadn’t seen each other in months. It was an exciting time to catch up and have some fun.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket because I thought I felt a vibrate. Blank screen. False alarm. However, without even thinking, my finger spontaneously started tapping the screen, as if to say, Well, while I have it out, why not check Facebook quick. I stared down at my Facebook newsfeed. Nothing interesting, but I kept exploring with the flick of a finger. Flick. Flick. Tap. Flick. Tap. Flick.
When I finally stopped to come up for air, I noticed my four friends – all eyes down on their screens flipping and tapping and flicking and clicking. All on Facebook.
Social media is imperially designed to connect people, yet here it was dividing them.
As I became more attuned, I noted literally hundreds of other incidents like this happen, mostly as I looked in the mirror. In self-reflection, I saw a Dorian Gray figure, crumbling inside, losing brain cells, and wasting life away while staring at a screen. Yet, if you were to visit my pages on my Facebook and Twitter, my life looked amazing! And because I didn’t have Instragram, you could visit my wife’s (then girlfriend) Instagram, and see me: a sporty, clean, smiley husband. Amazing.
Facebook wasn’t always this consuming, but it became so when it implemented the newsfeed, a home page system designed to bring your closest connections even closer. And in addition to your daily news, now you can catch up on your family and friends’ lives as news also. Channel 5 at 5:00 was replaced by the newsfeed… “What’s happening in the world right now?” became an easy question to feed on. And feed and feed and feed. Newsfeed.
Yet, despite the technical genius and wonderful innovative spirit of this change, many users used it to take their vanity to a new level, realizing that their posts would become “headlines” to the world on this feed. Posts ranged from genius and witty to beautiful (or photoshopped), to political and social heresy, and beyond. People realized they could feel important with their status or a picture of their meal or exercise motivation or complaints. It would all show up in the “daily news” for all to see. Look at me, look at me!
I first observed this when I was at an event after college graduation where a group of girls were clearly not having fun. It was hot, we were waiting in a long line, and everyone was impatient. Yet the girls put together the most impressive photoshoot I had ever seen, and the next day, when I ran into a friend of mine, he said, “Hey, I saw the pictures of last night. Looked like a blast!” Little did he know, those girls were actually miserable, and definitely not having a blast during the time of the time of the photos.
This was eye opening to me. It wasn’t about “how much fun can we have at a social gathering?” anymore. Instead, it had become about “how fun I can make this event look on social media?”
The newsfeed was icing on the cake for me. I started feeling that I was living in this alternative reality where I constantly, out of habit, pulled out my iPhone to gain information on the world. Information I didn’t need or even care about. What I found was usually quite thrilling…The cereal my third cousin ate for breakfast, Someone from my fifth-grade class complaining about the weather. Someone else who I didn’t even know posting a new all-time high in Candy Crush. I consumed it all.
To Summarize, I had to get rid of Facebook, and other social media, because it was filling a space in my time and in my mind. I was sacrificing many things: creative thinking, learning, listening, real friendship, being in-the-moment, humility, blood pressure, quiet-time, and many other things. In addition, I saw these effects in others around me as well. The newsfeed was just an ancillary effect of a broader problem. That problem being that modern-day, first-world humans struggle to be in the moment and to unplug from information. It’s a fact. Google it.
Fours years later… It’s been a quite a long time without Facebook and Twitter. At times I’ve even logged in and created new usernames just to see if I’d feel differently. Those episodes usually last less than 24 hours each time. I even tried Snapchat for about 3 hours. That reaffirmed everything for me. No thank you.