A place where you can stalk your ex, watch cat videos and send memes to your BFF! It’s the third most downloaded app in the world after Google and Youtube and it reaches 2.5 Billion people worldwide.
The series on Digital Well being series is about giving you information that helps you make conscious decisions on your social media usage. We do this by sharing our personal stories of the app backed by ways you could try to feel better.
P: I joined Facebook in 2012, about the time I was in 9th standard. One memory sticks out like a sore thumb. It was a time when my friends and I were so enamoured by Facebook, I would rush off home after school, have lunch, quickly change and sit in front of dad’s desktop and scroll through the pictures we had taken an hour before in school.
N: Well, unlike Payal who was surprisingly still in school in 2012, I was in college and Facebook back then was definitely the in thing. My friend and I would post photos of ourselves in the college canteen, by the lakeside, chilling in our houses, tag each other, comment on the photos and be too cool.
Those were the days when writing on each others “wall” was cool, and we used to use it to stay connected to people. And see what others commented. Like wasn’t the only option, commenting and typing stuff was what we did. Unlike Instagram where now we can like a post and feel like we did our duty, Facebook wasn’t like that for me. I used to write on it, I was so active.
Designed To Keep Us Hooked?
We are constantly scrolling and seeing other people’s lives. Of course, we think that’s not harmful, but it does affect us at a deeper level. We are constantly comparing ourselves with the people we follow. It’s either your friend travelling to exotic places or getting a promotion, and you’re just sitting there *insert your mental status* there!
Social media is designed to keep us hooked, so don’t feel bad if you just can’t stop keep yourself from using Facebook. There’s a famous saying in the drug business that goes, “Never get high on your supply.” So don’t be surprised that successful actors, directors who are in the Tech business are extremely strict with their kids about their technology usage at home!
Meet Triston Harris
He’s an ex-Google Design Ethicist, President & Co-founder of ‘Centre For Human Technology’, Co-host of the podcast ‘Undivided Attention. He was described by the Atlantic as the closest thing the silicon valley has to a conscience.
Tristan was the first few people that spoke about the immense power social media has in holding our attention and how we need to have a more humane aspect to it. The founder of Pinterest said, that he doesn’t allow his kids to use technology for fear that it will get them hooked.
Many actors have made their kids work or study to earn their social media hours. One hour of reading for two hours of Netflix. The whole concept of phone addiction is inspired by slot machines. When we refresh our email, we’re actually playing the lever like in the slot machine to see what new email we got. The same goes for Instagram when we swipe down to keep seeing what’s the next photograph.
Even when we don’t know what the outcome is we still want to check it, same goes with our phones, it gives us a dopamine hit which is basically our bodies ‘feel good’ hormone and rewarding system.
Again we are just putting out information that we think you should know. After all, we should be “conscious” about the choices we make. I want you to make decisions that make you feel good and in control.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
P: Just being mindful of our social media consumption would be a great place to start. According to Yale professor Laurie Santos on her podcast ‘The Happiness Lab’ she talks about having reference points. “Reference points are people, data, and situations we compare ourselves to in our mind. They are the alternative reality that you’re paying attention to – even if you might know better.”
N: I used to be on Facebook to simply stalk others. It was the best place to know everything about someone I thought. Be it my college crush or my boss, they all live different life on Facebook. Usually almost nothing like the life they live in reality.
We might have spent the whole day at work, having screwed up a project or feeling shitty about something we did, and to cheer ourselves up we might go buy a cupcake. On social media, however, there will be no evidence of the bad day before, and the only post will be the cupcake. So when you see stories of posts p on Facebook, realise people only share their best lives online. We honestly have no idea what their real lives are. So take it with a pinch of salt.
Give Yourself Perspective
With the constant flood of email notifications, Twitter alerts, missed calls, Facebook tagged posts our minds aren’t able to grasp all this new information at once. It’s easy for our mind to get overwhelmed. That’s why Laurie Santos talks about having reference points where we step back and evaluate our situation, and see things from a larger perspective.
N: I have not logged into Facebook through my phone app. I log in through the google webpage when I want to and that drastically reduces the number of notification I get from my phone. So yes, I can stalk people as much as I want, but only WHEN I WANT. The rest of the time I don’t get any notification about it, dragging me in.
P: We must set up personal reference points to help keep us on track, ask yourself if you don’t have the latest Nikes or you miss the latest Trevor Noah show, what’s the worst that could happen? You won’t be able to discuss it with your friends. Put your stuff into perspectives really!
The reason I am talking about reference points is that we need to remember that we are in a culture of consumerism that if you don’t have it ‘NOW NOW NOW’ then you feel less. Our brain is still prehistoric so it takes time to digest the information. In the meanwhile, we may be hit with tidal waves of emotions.
So take a step back and legit just breathe, sounds simple, but we do it wrong!
Breathing helps reduce anxiety, gives you a sense of calm and you don’t crave that control. While scrolling through social media gives us that high.
Check In With Yourself
P: I remember back in college, if I ever wanted to improve my mental health it was impossible to do so while being online. Many years later, I understood why. It was because memes reinforce thoughts that are damaging to one’s self-esteem. Most of the meme’s that I saw during college were either about being drunk, fat or ugly! But honestly, just realizing how you feel while being on the app is the first step towards living a life of digital well-being.
So much for ‘connecting’ people
N: Facebook when I used it to the maximum was a place where people shared their thoughts, their photos, their updates and played a lot of games and quizzes. i did too. Farmville was an in game, and during my birthday in 2011, my friend arranged his haystacks in his Farmville game, saying happy birthday Neha.
But now the personal connect is lost, and Facebook has become one more of those place s where you come across memes and advertisements more than real stuff.
P: Same, There are just a million memes and a solid disconnect, it’s like an online magazine. I found a disconnect between my classmates on the day of my 12th standard school farewell. I don’t remember talking/ connecting with anyone, I think all of us just spent 3 hours just taking pictures with people I was sure I would never meet again. Now when I look back at these photos ( and even while taking them) I realise there’s no sentiment attached to them. And that’s probably sad and pathetic. But I, like many others of my generation, feel desensitized with it. Because all that matters is how many ‘likes’ you have and the ‘amount’ of friends you have.
Benefits of Facebook:
P: I watched this Ted Talk by a writer, campaigner and broadcaster Gina Martin, titled ‘They told me to change my clothes, so I changed the law instead.’ She made ‘Upskirting’, (the act of taking a picture under someones skirt without their consent) a criminal offence in the UK in 2019. It started when she attended a concert in 2017 when a guy upskirted her, she grabbed his phone and ran to the police and the police didn’t take action since there weren’t any rules around this and told the guy to delete the picture. She was angry and humiliated.
She used Facebook as a catalyst to bring about the change she wanted to see. She used Facebook to create awareness and bring voices together. She used her experience in the media aided with a political strategy to make a difference. “In just 8 months of the law being passed, there was a one report being filed every single day. By Christmas 10 men were procestueted. One was a convicted paedophile that got sentenced two years in prison.” It’s how you use the app that’s most important.
N: A friend of mine started an online business selling Juttis. The first two years were all online, and since the business started around five years ago, most of it was on Facebook. And now celebrities like Karena Kapoor and Soha Sli khan have a pair of their juttis. If we use Facebook in the right way, it most definitely can give you a lot of advantage. You are in touch with so many people, so many you never might have met but here on this online platform you can talk and discuss with them.
I use Facebook now to check on closed groups about mud construction. People share links or post updates on how they plastered with mud or lime and I learn a lot of new things by scrolling down the group pages.
I joined a volunteer abroad for free group and I came across so many places which accept volunteers and helps us grow. Well, thanks to Covid I never really went anywhere in the last two years, but I now know for a fact that opportunities are plenty.
P: In my earlier post, I made a brief statement about the Cambridge Analytical Scandal. The Great Hack is a documentary that speaks about how Facebook is using our data without our permissions and changed the course of the US Presidential Elections. I was beyond shocked actually, I was terrified. I decided to step back and introspect with my life.
After that, I decided to delete my Facebook account. Again this does not mean you must do the same. I am on Instagram and now Facebook owns Instagram which you may say “Payal it defeats the purpose,” it may, but I feel much better without it than being on it.
I didn’t have ‘FOMO’ Fear of Missing Out when I left Facebook .’I couldn’t give two hoots of what I’m missing. Because I know the people I care about know what I am up to (I mean most of the time.) I may have had over 1,000 friends but really what was my definition of a friend? To me a friend is someone I call when I’m happy, to share news or connect with them over grief or to just have a glass of old monk when times are good!
Our Final take:
P: Do what feels right, go with your instinct it’s never wrong. I felt my time was well spent in other places .Make your own choices. To me, less time scrolling leads to more time for other things
I leave you with the heart touching words I recently heard from a podcast. It is called ‘What I learnt’ started by Arriana Huffington in 2016 that talks about how to reduce burnout, the importance of sleep and the ways we can digitally detox like leaving your phone on a table while you sleep.
In the episode, I heard she interviewed Jennifer Anniston. They were in conversation about digital wellness, when Arriana said, “It’s never been easier to run away from yourself” and Jennifer Anniston reply was, “Isn’t that heartbreaking, that we want to run away from us in the first place. We should want to run TOWARDS ourselves.” I couldn’t agree more.
N: Facebook, unlike Instagram, has a place for people to write more, to share more, to put forward ideas in a group, and discuss them. It’s a place where you can see what people are up to, where they went on a vacation, read links they share about their blogs or their youtube channels. its a place where you can grow.
Use it wisely, and take a step ahead!
- Tristan Harris article on medium
- Tristan’s Website
- Arriana Huffington Podcast – What I have Learnt
- Tristan’s Podcast – Undivided Attention
- The Happiness Podcast by Laurie Santos
- Ted Talk by Gina Martin
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