Returning to Social Media after a 100-Day-Long Break
December 16th, 2020
I decided to take a break from my personal social media platforms in September of the current year. I felt as though I had spent much of my COVID-19 summer online, seeking experiences to post about them as opposed to living them. As a student-athlete that enjoys challenges, I wasn’t intimidated by the social media detox. That being said, I was fully aware that I would experience F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) while the majority of my friends and family remained online. It didn’t take me long to realize that (despite the efforts of the few that have escaped the online world) social media isn’t going anywhere. For this reason, I have constantly asked myself the questions (during my break from social media):
Is it possible to use social media responsibly? And if so, how?
The sources that I have linked below helped me develop a better understanding of how to use social media responsibly; and not coincidentally, many of these resources are accessible via social media. I’ll highlight both the downsides and upsides to social media usage, how they are becoming more ingrained in our lives, and how I plan to use my personal accounts in the future.
1. Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health? | Bailey Parnell | TEDxRyersonU
In Bailey Parnell’s TEDx talk, she addresses the impact that social media has on mental health. As a digital marketer and masters student at Ryerson University (studying social media), she is quite familiar with the growing reliance that we have on social platforms.
Parnell acknowledges 4 stressors on social media, which include: the highlight reel, social currency, fear of missing out (F.O.M.O.), and online harassment. In my experience being offline, I definitely felt F.O.M.O. as my friends and family would mention things that happened online that I was unaware of. We’ve become a culture that reports everything that happens in our lives online, prioritizing our online persona over reality. My online detox has made me realize that the fear of missing out is inescapable. People on social media feel jealously towards the experiences that their followers post; meanwhile, the people that choose to opt-out of social media are left out of the loop altogether. A double-edged sword, so to speak.
As a marketing student myself, I am also aware of the stressor that relates to social currency. Business professors preach the idea that successful marketing is about having the ability to navigate the attention economy. While the attention economy used to involve traditional media sources (i.e., newspaper, TV, etc.), it has increasingly moved to social media. In other words, social media is a from of social currency that is connected to success in the business world. During my time offline, I realized that while social media can be advantageous for networking; broadly speaking, technology has a more influential place in professional success than does social media alone. In reality, the majority of interactions that take place online relate to personal matters, news updates, and entertainment, as opposed to business activities/exchanges. We are infatuated by the potential of achieving celebrity status online, when really, few make the cut and those that do give up a large amount of freedom as their life becomes a virtual reality that is far-fetched from real life. This also connects to the stressor of the highlight reel. Even as attempts are made to showcase both the good and the bad, I have yet to come across an influencer/online celebrity with a profile that is truly authentic to the unedited realities of life. In my opinion, it’s not possible to depict these true realities in such a distorted world.
Parnell’s last stressor is online harassment. While this isn’t something that I have had traumatic experiences with, I am aware of how unkind people can be to one another while on the other side of a screen.
Beyond the 4 stressors, one of the most important points that Bailey Parnell makes in this TEDx talk is that social media is not going anywhere anytime soon. So maybe the way forward involves being online; whereby, the key is to act responsibly to ensure that the good outweighs the bad.
2. Social Media is Making Us Unsocial | Kristin Gallucci | TEDxBocaRaton
Kristin Gallucci has over 2 decades of experience in the marketing industry. Within these last 2 decades, social media has taken the marketing world by storm. I was intrigued by her opinion that social media is making us unsocial and I sought answers to the questions that I asked myself about how to use social media responsibly. As a marketing student, I wanted clarity whether marketing was right the career path for me, if it meant that social media would be at the core.
I was encouraged by Gallucci, as she is a marketing expert that advocates for taking our lives offline as much as possible. It also helped me to establish clarity; while nowadays, marketing is closely connected to social media, you could argue that it is just as ingrained in our personal lives and other industries, as it is marketing.
Gallucci makes a statement that I believe many of us can relate to:
“The more that I was creating online and building relationships online, I was losing touch with people in real life.” (6:16-6:25)
She also advises how to use social platforms for good:
“We need to use social media as a support to building real relationships, not a catalyst to losing them.” (7:04-7:12)
Lastly, Kristin Gallucci acknowledges the scary truth that was revealed in the documentary The Social Dilemma; the intelligent minds of Silicon Valley exploit our basic emotions, feelings, and desires, to make social media addictive. Her steps to mitigating the addiction and using social media responsibly include: turning off notifications, deleting the apps from our phones, educating others (especially youth), and as previously mentioned, using it as a support for offline relationship building.
3. Why Dave Franco Stays Offline
PSA: I am a Dave Franco fan. Who knows, maybe this is because of his lack of online presence, making the roles that he plays in movies that much more believable. In any case, it is no surprise that celebrities are very anomalous with their social media usage patterns. Some are online just as much as the rest of us, but it is much more common to find examples of celebrities taking temporary breaks and staying offline altogether. They already live a life that is out of the ordinary and social media would likely enhance this distorted reality. Celebrities also tend to be targets for online harassment and they give up a large amount of privacy due to their career choice. For these reasons, I find it interesting to take in their opinions surrounding social media.
In the first YouTube video, Dave Franco explains that by staying off of social media, he can create a “bubble” that mitigates the negativity that enters his life. Although negative comments may still be made about Franco online, his abstinence from social media eliminates the potential for these comments to impact his emotions, actions, and mental health.
In the second video, Franco is interviewed about a 2016 film that he starred in called Nerve. The movie revolves around a game that encourages dare-taking, facilitated by social media. You can either be a ‘watcher’ (i.e., a bystander that watches and comments on the people that take the dares) or a ‘player’ (i.e., the person that completes the dares). By the end of the movie, the dares become extreme and the game gets out of hand. The moral of the story is that whether you are a ‘watcher’ or a ‘player’, both contribute to the harmful effects of the game. When Dave Franco is asked about his lack of social media presence, he claims to be fearful of it, as the movie (Nerve) is a very close representation of what the online world has become.
While not all of us are likely to experience the degree of online negativity that impacts celebrities, Franco also says that the number one reason that he stays offline has to do with privacy. This is the driving force that makes me question how social media should be used. We feel the need to update people on everything that goes on in our personal lives, but I’m realizing that those things should really only be expressed to the people that we have offline relationships with. Once again, coming back to Kristin Gallucci’s advice, to use social media as a support for relationships that transfer offline.
4. How to Use Social Media Responsibly | San Diego Virtual School
Now that I’ve highlighted the most pressing downsides to social media, I’ve come back to my initial question: how to use social media responsibly. I like the suggestion by the San Diego Virtual School, that the way forward involves using the acronym ‘THINK’ to decide on the content that is posted to social media. As for general usage, I believe that it’s critical to limit time spent online, as well as, the people that you follow that are not meeting the THINK criteria.
T – True
Another good word for true within this context is authentic. If I’m posting content in the future, I will do a self-check to reveal whether the content is further distorting the social world, or instead, providing authenticity.
H – Helpful
Another important factor that I will utilize involves expressing ideas that seek to help others. While I’ve been taking a break from my personal social platforms, I have continued to utilize the podcast account that I co-founded, @keepitrunningpodcast. I didn’t experience the downsides to social media when I took the personal side out of the equation and focused on producing content that helps/motivates others.
I – Informational
This dimension is the reason why I feel as though social media has gotten out of hand in recent years. We have overpopulated the social platforms with posts that have little value. We use social media as a form of entertainment. Because of this, social platforms are crowded with opinions and noise. We also rely on social media as a news source, as it now has a large impact on presidential elections and other important aspects of daily life. It’s vital to publish reputable information (as opposed to gossip) for the better of society.
N – Needed
Social media becomes synonymous with ‘noise’ when we post content that is not needed. The unneeded content that litters social platforms (that we are all guilty of posting at some point) is connected to the increasing usage rates. While social media has an important place in certain applications, I plan to take my entertainment and leisure-related activities offline in the future.
K – Kind
Finally, kindness is something that I feel as though we could all use more of right now. It’s actually my reason for starting this blog — to spread positivity.
I still have 16 days before my return to the social media world and I will be educating myself further on this topic. Meanwhile, to answer the question that I set out to discover during my break from social media, I plan to take out the personal side of social media and produce content that expresses positivity that is true, helpful, informational, needed, and kind. Using social media as a support to build relationships offline.