By Real Jema
I remember a time before social media when we weren’t all glued to the screen of our phones or computers. The utility of technology is undeniable and smartphones are the biggest invention in the 21st century, no doubt, but they do feel unnatural to an extent. They are slowly changing society in a major way, in contrast with technologies like cars which are objects we use just on occasion, smartphones are things we literally use every single day and sometimes for hours on end. It won’t be an overstatement for them to be classified as an addiction somewhere in the future because for the new generation who don’t know what life without this technology is, they can easily get addicted from a tender age.
I decided to take a break from all social media for a month and just receive calls, the old fashion way, to really see what will happen to me. It really came to me after I had literally spent 6 hours on TikTok, I was genuinely concerned for my health because if I could easily spend 6 hours on a spot looking at a phone screen without doing anything productive, then that was a major red flag. I don’t know what the future holds but I don’t think our eyes right now are adapted to spending so much time looking at white light.
Very few people cared
The first thing I noticed was that very few people cared or even noticed that I was gone. There was just so much more content out there for them to even notice that one person was missing from the infinite feed. I didn’t receive any message for probably half the time I was gone and the very few conversations I had, didn’t acknowledge my absence. Basically, nobody knew I was gone, they just spoke to me like everything was ok. In real life if you noticed a person was missing even for just a couple of hours, that would raise a red alert and a search for that person, but online you don’t get to see what people might be going through or even care actually, you are constantly distracted by other things. Unfortunately our lives are only going towards a digital world and in such a world, empathy and care are lost in favor of going viral.
It was like quitting drugs
It wasn’t an easy thing to do at all, having to force myself not to open certain apps, I had to uninstall others as well. I put my phone few feets away from me and would turn it off at night but the temptation was real, every second I would be thinking of just going back. It was like quitting drugs, for the first few days, I couldn’t spend an hour without thinking about my phone, even food didn’t matter at that point. This is no surprise because social media feeds produce dopamine releases in our brains which make us happy, thats why quitting this rush feels a lot like quitting drugs. The difference between social media and actual drugs is in the quantity of dopamine releases and how long it takes to peak in our high.
I felt lonely but not bored
We all have to acknowledge that before we were definitely way more bored, we literally didn’t have anything to do in our spare time. We would just look in the skies or rewatch old movies a couple of extra times, but now, we have a continuous stream of new content we can watch. Netflix has more movies than we can watch in a lifetime, Twitter has more tweets than we can read in a lifetime and Instagram has way more pictures than we can see in a lifetime. The emotion which comes out from such an experience is loneliness and not boredom, while online we always feel like we are part of something, be it in the comment section back and forth or in the likes we get on our posts, once we come back to real life, we realize that not that many people like us and there are less fun things to do out here.
Artificial Reality replaces Reality
I fear a point in time when artificial reality will eventually replace reality, it just has much more perks. While in real life we have to work hard to eat, we are constantly surrounded with problems, in this artificial reality we can get to do whatever we want with very little consequences in the end. Its important that we start defining what we should consider as human standards and how far we are allowed to go to alter the trajectory of evolution.
Confusing Distraction and Utility
Its undeniable that our productivity is exponential when we are online, we can do things faster, get access to way more information and so do more, we do learn a few tips here and there on YouTube and TikTok, but we should not confuse distraction and utility. We may learn a useful tip here and there but that only comes after countless hours watching useless content, you should be intentional about everything you do online, when you go online you should have an objective either to distract yourself or entertain yourself, never wonder just for no good reason. Doing so you will realize that you spend more time entertaining yourself than anything else.
Society is able to evolve through the productivity of its people and we have all what we do have right now through the hard work of our predecessors, I think social media decreases productivity and so should be regulated. The same way you won’t let your kids play games all night long, it’s the same you should control their online presence.
Real Jema is Software Engineer at CAMTEL