Unplugging ‘da’ vice

Isn’t it ironic that social media is making us less social? There are people everywhere on their phones, not talking to each other. Maybe we are going too far with this addiction? Bodegraven, a small town in the Netherlands, installed LED traffic lights on the ground to avoid accidents caused by those who can’t take their eyes off the small screen.

Don’t get me wrong, I was that person too. That’s until I got to the point where it became a vice. I used to spend three hours or more a day on social media, watching shows, texting, talking to people or simply scrolling down my feed on Facebook or Instagram. It was fun until it wasn’t. I was tired of the things I was seeing on my feeds. I was exhausted by the bad energy and stress I was feeling from reading posts. Talking to many other people I realized I wasn’t alone.

May Benitez, a Richland student, said she used to spend about two hours on social media. She said it made her feel unproductive.

“I deleted my social media because it was too distracting. I wanted more time to focus on my priorities like studying,” Benitez said.

YouTube once recommended the Ted Talk by Bailey Parnell, a social media expert, titled, “Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health?” The video talks about the relationship of social media addiction to depression between students.

People are constantly trying to impress each other on social media. Users share photos of their “perfect lives” and “perfect vacations,” while on the other side of the screen viewers are looking at this false reality and comparing it to their own lives and feeling depressed.

“For other people [who] may not have the self-confidence, self-esteem or maybe they’re really experiencing something negative, it seems to make that [experience] even more negative,” Karen Cuttill, a counselor at the Counseling Center at Richland, said. She added that posts like these can have an impact on those looking at them.

“If everybody out there is writing about good things, then that one person says, ‘Oh my gosh, I really am all alone’ so it can enforce that feeling of feeling isolated,” Cuttill said.

While I was reading the news one day I read an article about the book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now” by Jaron Lanier. Seeing this article was perfect timing. I needed a more concrete reason to finally get rid of social media and the audiobook was available for free. The audiobook gave me a great opportunity to use the time I previously used to spend checking my social media and instead start listening to the book.

The book is really interesting and makes a lot of good points, like how much time we are spending on social media and how much our habits and humor are changing for the worse. Lanier claims the internet is controlling us, and making us angrier as a society. It has opened the door for more disagreement and conflicts.

Facebook became unbearable during the election year. I got tired of seeing people attacking each other with ironic comments like their opinion was the only valid or correct point of view. Politics is a tense topic and it seems to intensify on social media.

Social media can be a good thing when it’s controlled. The reality is that we are spending more time on our phones than we realize. All those notifications coming up on the screen makes us anxious to find out what is happening, or at worst, make us fear to what is going on without us. This type of anxiety is called “Fear of Missing Out” [FOMO].

I lost track of how many times I checked my phone first thing when I woke up in the morning. I was disappointed when there weren’t any messages. Other times I sat down to check my social media before studying, got distracted and hours had passed.

“Anything, too much of even a positive thing, [can] become a really negative thing,” said Cuttill. As with any other addiction, people shouldn’t delete their social media all at once. Cuttill suggested starting with measuring how much time you are on your phone and the second step is to begin to unplug.

For those who use social media for work, or simply don’t want to cut it out completely, instead of deleting, start filtering the content you are receiving. Unfollow or unfriend people who bring negativity to your life. Stay away from shallow content, including profiles of people who are selling lies. No one has a perfect life, so don’t waste your energy looking for unrealistic “inspiration.”

Turn off all your notifications and focus on you. It’s not going to be easy to unplug, but it will make a difference in your life.

Start unplugging now!