The time we spend is where we place our value, purpose and energy. The person we are comes from what we feed our mind everyday, who we surround ourselves with and how we spend our time. In a noisy world, it can be those moments sitting in silence with a friend or the self in complete silence that can be one of the most precious moments. I cherish so deeply the friends that when we are in one another’s presence, we can talk about anything, yet we can also sit in complete silence and comfort without the presence of our phones. Being present is accepting and appreciating the moment for what it is. How we spend our time, and what we do in our time is so valuable. It shapes us into the person we are.
I’m currently reading Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, and I feel that his arguments are very true, but in order to actually take the action may be tricky for many of us. After deleting several social media apps that I’d used over the years, it felt like a relief to disappear on those platforms. Yet, messaging apps are the ones I struggle to delete. The first initial thought that many people would have are: I need it to keep in touch with friends, I use it for calendars and events, I need it for work, I read my news on Facebook and so on.
These apps are so infiltrated into our daily lives, that we aren’t consciously aware of it when we are using them. It’s habitual, and to differing degrees, addictive. We are the product of social media companies. Our data, behaviour and actions are tracked and information is sold without our knowledge. However, we live in a society where many people search for validation and acceptance. Social Media is designed to be addictive. It encourages us to share, consume and repeat. Which is why the idea of leaving, seems strange. Just as if a person said “I don’t have Facebook and Instagram,” some people may think him/her strange.
Lanier’s book really opens our eyes to the reality of social media. I don’t think I will delete my Facebook just yet, but to be aware of these things are important. We have to question aspects of social media. It is already known that trust can be questioned, with examples such as the Cambridge Analytica Scandal which affected the 2016 US elections. It also proves the power that social media has, in the decisions we make and the information we consume which can shape our perceptions on political coverage through a certain frame. Then there is the controversy of Facebook Live, which I cannot even express how unsafe it can be.
I prefer to use Facebook mostly for family, because I find that the rise of comparison, clutter and online noise is growing. I prefer messaging friends, because conversation is more valuable than seeing photos of people I never talk to. Social Media is essentially public. Even if information is marked private, on the companies side, your information is exposed to them. The places and time we put our focus on is the things we give our value and attention to. There are many perks of social media, such as keeping in touch with loved ones and connecting with friends. However, one does question how social media has impacted mental health.
I found that the less time I spent on my phone, and once I deleted many social media apps this year, I haven’t felt any anxiety in a long time. I feel more content, more focused and more productive. We are more connected online more than ever, but nothing can truly beat the interaction we have with others in person. Social Media can be a wonderful tool, but anything in excess can be unhealthy. I realised that the time spent scrolling added no value to my life, and it also caused a feeling of interruption in my daily life. I also feel that it can become superficial, such as Instagram. I want to be seen for my mind, not my appearances.
Spending less time on social media, has also made me spend more time on the things I love. The things we do for ourselves, in the moment, without needing to capture it or to show it to anyone. I remember a conversation with a friend, where we talked about how we are grateful for the amazing friends in our lives. Yet, sometimes it feels that in the online world people are wanting to show that they are sociable, relevant and likable by posting photos with friends or of what they are doing. However, most of the things we do are in private, and in a sense, it has become a sense of external validation if the intent is to please or prove oneself.
Spend more time learning about what interests you and doing what makes you happy. Whether that’s the environment, history, current affairs or languages, cooking or a musical instrument. There are endless things we can do in our lives for our own self growth. Your time and privacy is precious. I really do think it’s a sign of good manners when people are not constantly on their phones in the presence of others. However normalised it is now to use it, it is not always necessary. A lot of the usage can be minimised, and the less excess use of it can place focus on what is important in our lives.
Art by Yelena Bryksenkova