A few weeks ago, I woke up around 3:00 a.m. and I couldn't get back to sleep. My youngest cat, Bugsy, kept jumping on my head, wanting to play. I spent the next few hours scrolling through all my social media accounts on my phone, shopping, clicking links, wondering aimless, no, perilously down every rabbit hole. I went from sad to happy to jealous to voyeuristic. I imagined that some boy I had a crush on in high school is also circling back. I was simultaneously smug and envious of my contemporaries with grown kids, racked with guilt for not acknowledging yet another friend’s birthday, filling my cart, checking my ‘likes,’ angry about abuses, horrified at injustices, ‘liking’ super cute puppy videos, and trying to look away from the ever-raging political dumpster fire. During all this mental turmoil, Bugsy settled down and was quietly purring on my chest, not the least bit concerned about such things as how many ‘likes’ he has.
I stopped for a moment and wondered how I got here. What is it that compels me to take the plunge and spiral down this cyber vortex when I should be sleeping?
The answer my friends is explained in simple detail in the 2020 movie The Social Dilemma (https://www.thesocialdilemma.com). I highly recommend you stop scrolling through your feed and try and catch it while it is still available on Netflix. Originally intended as a place for positive social discourse, it would appear that social media, and perhaps the Internet as a whole, has devolved into an out-of-control sci-fi horror movie. Through a very clever dramatization, the movie explains the construct behind social media platforms' effort to tap into our worst human traits – vanity, fear, voyeurism – and the algorithms designed to get and keep us engaged. The volume of automated decision making by these algorithms for the 2+ billion users on Facebook, and Instagram and Twitter, etc., is mind blowing. I was fascinated to hear former employees explain how the business model of “free to users” evolved and describe their own ethical dilemmas working for Big Social.
According to the Urban Dictionary, my go-to resource for all things cool and illusive:
Social Media and all that regarding of, is a pure waste of time, time that could be spent sharpening skills required more then being popular in life.
"I spent 15 hours on Social Media and now I feel like garbage."
Social media, it turns out is really anti-social. Study after study has shown that what was originally intended to bring us together and solve large social problems, appears to instead be leading to an all-out mental health crisis. I am trying to use it less and engage with actual people more. I admit, as with changing any undesirable behavior, I’ve had my setbacks. In fact, I will be posting a link to this blog on my social media accounts. And, of course, I will look to see how many people ‘like’ it. Oh, the irony of it all.
I did fall back to sleep the other night and dreamed a happy dream that I got to the end of the Internet. All my friends and family were there, smiling and beckoning me to come out and play. And my Bugsy was there too, rubbing up against my leg, hoping for his supper.