It’s been a while, I know. A month ago I watched the Netflix doc “The Social Dilemma” and then deleted all the social media apps from my phone.
They cast the actor who played Pete on Mad Men in the role of social media’s evil algorithm. I know it was a good casting choice because as I deleted the apps I actually felt like I was punching the the social media billionaires in the jaw which is how I always felt about Pete.
After deleting everything my mind felt quieter. My phone felt like a phone and a camera and that’s all. I felt free. Free from the challenge of sharing. Freed from wondering if my thoughts had resonated with anyone.
I was pretty motivated to get “out of the matrix” after watching the documentary and being that I was distracted with other things I didn’t miss it much to begin with. I sold a bunch of stuff on eBay, read the most incredible book, made some new ice creams and became obsessed with the planning of a new knitting project(s).
But after another week or so I did feel a bit of a loss. I seemed to lack purpose. Like, “if I’m not sharing all these ideas and projects and funny stories, then what am I doing with them? Is there a value to them unshared?”
I would liken this part of the detox process to withdrawal.
Which makes sense because according to the film the social media platforms are engineered to make addicts out of us.
Originally I thought that the real “dilemma” was mostly for the billionaires—the ones who designed these platforms. They are the ones who transformed their communities and participants into “users,” their products into the drugs.
It’s their pockets that are being lined to the detriment of productivity. Their bank accounts overflowing by our mere attention. Just a short scroll is probably worth more money for them than we’ll see in our lifetimes. Would you call encouraging addiction for financial gain ethical? Hello, cigarettes. Hello, opioid crisis. Haven’t we had enough of this business model?
Obviously I’m disgusted. But I see that it’s my dilemma as well:
I don’t want to be involved in this. I find aspects of this business model to be deeply problematic for our future. At the same time I really missed commiserating with people around the world over the joys and struggles of expat motherhood. I missed sharing recipes and successes, nerdy nature facts and greetings. Laughing together (even virtually) made a community out of something that is often very isolating. Sharing things lightened the load, especially during this pandemic…
Is there a way for me to participate without adding insult to injury?
A few more days helped me to see that a refusal to participate at all could be less powerful than a commitment to participate strategically.
And maybe, just maybe as part of the conversation I can also be part of the evolution to a better form of social media, right? Or am I just rationalizing my own addiction?
Regardless, I’d like to control who benefits from my attention. I wouldn’t mind throwing some cash or at least some attention to the people who are using these platforms to be inspirational or informative.
The first step for me is simple: I will engage in a way that brings joy. That is to tell stories and to shine a light on the ideas and people that are making my own world a better place.
People bringing something funny, thoughtful or delicious to the conversation deserve the love and I’m here for it.
So check back here on Monday for Delicious Episode 1: Homemade Ice Cream
Until then I highly recommend watching “The Social Dilemma” if you can. If nothing else, it makes it clear that like Pandora’s box or Atomic energy, social media’s effects are far reaching. The algorithm that runs things has potential for progress and for profit, but many of its negative consequences cannot be controlled or reversed.
Relationships, self possession, independence and trust—All these things are being threatened by social media. You owe it to Yourself to Stop and figure out how you want to interact with it. Do not let them decide for you. Together maybe we can turn social media on its’ head. Stay tuned.
A resource I found helpful is a book called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. He’s another one who answers when you write to him. Ah letter writing, one of my favorite lost arts, but that’s a topic for another day.
Until Monday ,