Selfies. Likes. Stories. Ghosting. Haunting. Orbiting. All of these terms are a result of the very digitalized world we now live in. A world where you can buy “likes” to enhance your popularity status. A world where following strangers is deemed more critical as opposed to standing up for a worthy cause. A world where you can shop for potential soul mates like you would scrutinize the best looking fruit at a grocery store. A world where “friendships” can be superficially created upon the click of “confirm.” A world where people can observe the lives of others without ever revealing a shred of vulnerability beneath the façade of mere curiosity. Every day it seems like we are gravitating more toward a dark future representative of the Black Mirror episode titled “Nose Dive.”
As a 24 year-old millennial, I have been privy to the same ensnaring habits that social media conditions it’s users to develop. I have uploaded selfies in the hopes of attaining multiple likes. I have installed numerous dating apps in hopes of finding The One. I have shed numerous tears into my pillow over why a guy “ghosted” me after we had a wonderful mini-golfing date just three days prior. I have wanted to rip my hair out of my head in maddening frustration over why Charlie is still watching all of my Instagram stories even though he never responded to my text asking if he wanted to get coffee Sunday afternoon. I have scrolled through my Instagram profile, analyzing my pictures and posts, wondering why half_naked_sally23 has five times as many followers as me and ten times as many likes on all of her photos when my posts speak to the depths of humanity far more than her two dozen posts of her wearing a bikini. Because social media is a superficial construct. Of course, Sally is going to have more followers and more likes. She’s blonde, skinny, and is half naked in all of her pictures for goodness sakes!
Social media, I’ve realized, is less about substance and more about the mirage of popularity and attraction. I can’t count how many direct messages I’ve received on Instagram where I am being coaxed by some scheming individual asking me if I would like to buy 500 followers or purchase 500 likes. Seriously? People actually buy followers and likes? People are so desperate to gain more authentic followers that they are willing to buy fake followers to mask their genuine profile in an air of deceitful popularity? The idea and actual execution of this is soul crunching. No wonder people my age have lost touch with reality and have drowned themselves in a sea of frivolous and materialistic dreams. It doesn’t matter if Henry makes really neat statues out of wood. In the eyes of social media, if he only has 25 followers and if he only gets 3 likes on most of his pictures, he must not be a very good sculptor compared to Calvin who takes mediocre pictures of tree branches he rearranges behind his house and has 800 followers and acquires an average of 120 likes on each of his “sculptures.” Sure, social media may have it’s ways of making people feel better about themselves, but social media also has it’s ways of plummeting one’s self esteem. When you post something that you think is really cool, but you only get 10 likes at the end of it cycling through the feed, you immediately feel this dreadful sense of worthlessness and insignificance. Suddenly, your worth has been dictated by a digital society and you foolishly believe that your art piece that you worked on for hours should be thrown out with the rest of the garbage because you didn’t get the reaction from your followers that you wanted (even though most of your followers are total strangers or people you’ve barely taken the time to actually know). You’d be better off taking your art, photography, banjo playing, or whatever it is you felt the burning need to show the world to your best friend, your older brother, your grandmother, your next door neighbor, your basketball coach, or what have you. I guarantee the people you actually know will appreciate the efforts you poured your heart and soul into far more than any stranger that lives halfway across the world or some girl name Mindy who only started following you after you followed her.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The point of this article isn’t meant to make you delete all of your social media accounts and say “go to hell” to everyone who decides to use them. Social media can be utilized for the good of humanity such as spreading awareness of important causes, informing the world of new creations and inventions that could solve some of Earth’s most pressing issues, and marketing tools to individuals needed to enhance their lives. It’s the instantaneous need to check our phones two seconds after hearing the all too familiar “ping” while in the presence of a grandmother we haven’t seen for two years that we need to be careful of. It’s the superior air we find ourselves carrying around after receiving 100+ likes on a post that we need to be aware of. It’s the subliminal messages we send to our crushes through liking their selfies and watching their stories in hopes they’ll see this as enough action to make the first move toward true intimacy that we need to stop for a minute and think. What are we really doing here? Are we really connecting to anyone in a platform that allows us to connect to anyone in the world? The truth is no. If anything we are disconnecting from reality and plugging into a fantasy that only exists in our phones and in our heads. Real relationships aren’t built on likes, story watching, or even through half-assed, small talk texting.
Real relationships are built on phone calls that end with, “I’ll be right there.”
Real relationships are about running your thumb over a tear-stricken cheek and whispering, “Everything’s going to be okay.”
Real relationships are built on 3am conversations tangled in sheets or laying under the stars in a strawberry field on a warm summer day.
Real relationships are built on gut wrenching laughter, giddy breaths, tender hugs, and electric kisses.
Real relationships are built with open hearts and listening ears.
Real relationships are built with the vulnerability to let someone into your world of secrets and to watch you in your most private and unattractive moments.
Real relationships last. Superficial ones eventually fizzle out into the past.
So what’s your point? You still have all of your social media accounts and your last post was three days ago (yes, I stalked you because that’s how easy it is to figure out one’s digital presence in today’s society). You’re right. I do still have my Instagram and my Facebook accounts because I’m not quite ready to disconnect entirely. Since walking in to schedule my third tattoo appointment two weekends ago, I have been ruminating on how social media has been dominating my life in ways that have been holding me back from being the person I really want to be. After discussing the complexities of social media, dating, and the overall conundrum of “what is the purpose of life” with my tattoo artist for an hour and a half (originally this was meant to be a quick tattoo appointment scheduling), I was inspired to make some changes in the way I used social media, with the end goal to eventually delete them altogether. Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve used to minimize the amount of time I am mindlessly giving to social media.
- Turn off your notifications for all apps except for important ones (No. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Tinder are not actually that important juxtaposed next to other aspects of your life. That is the point).
- Delete any apps that are just taking up space on your phone at this point. (I deleted my Tinder after weeks of contemplating if I should save it in case of a rainy day perfect for swiping. Let’s be real — Tinder, Bumble…all of those dating apps get boring after awhile because dates rarely happen on them. If anything, it was just eating up data and hardly doing anything for my love life. Try dating organically for a bit. See what happens).
- Delete the social media apps you use the most from your home screen. Again, you still have those apps and you still have your accounts. It just means you have to go through an extra step or two to actually get to the app. And to be honest, a lot of us can be lazy about things like this. If anything, it will deter us or make us second guess if using the app is really worth our time right now.
- Set your account to private on apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Seriously? Who cares if pete_da_bomb_diggity from Turkey likes your watercolor painting of a penguin riding a unicorn. Like I said, your work or your efforts are far more appreciated and authentically liked by people you actually know. I’m not saying people never care, but in the grand scheme of things your watercolor painting was just a quick glance over they decided to hit the heart with their index for. Simple as that. The less likes you get, the more you’ll start to realize how it doesn’t and shouldn’t affect how you view yourself and all of the wonderful things you are doing to improve yourself as a human being. Not as a screen addicted zombie.
- Try to only post once a week to start. Then maybe once a month, etc. Whether it’s a picture or a story, let people wonder what you’re up to. People like a good mystery and it might actually make them curious enough to reach out to you beyond the comfort of social media. Hell, you might even get a phone call. Wouldn’t that be something?
Since using these tips and tricks, I have freed myself from the chains of social media to some degree. I no longer find myself immediately opening the Instagram app every time someone likes a post of mine. I now check it once or twice a day and see any notifications without the pressure or delusional need to check Instagram the moment I get a notification. When I get the urge to check Instagram, I now tell myself to go read a chapter of the novel I’ve been working on for the past two weeks instead. And it works most of the time. Now that I am no longer swiping, scrolling, or liking to the extent that I was, I have so much more time for other things. Seriously though. I know I’ve used that word a lot, but it’s only because I feel like it may be hard for people my age, especially, to wrap their heads around. I’ve read more in the last two weeks since making these changes. I’ve worked up the motivation to start my fitness routine again because I’m confident I will have the time to stay consistent. I have dedicated more time to looking up cheap plane tickets for future traveling endeavors. I have devoted more of my thoughts to my future without the clutter that social media tends to inject your mind with. Trust me. You will have so much more time for the real world and to be present if you just put your phone down for 99% of your day and live in a world that wants you to genuinely participate in it. You will have so much more time to build real relationships with people and to keep building the best version of yourself if you just channeled the energy you are using to create a profile meant to represent you at your core into being who you are at your core. And, perhaps, you’ll consider doing away with the headaches of digital dating gimmicks, and contemplate unplugging from the confines of the superficial prison social media has constructed us to become slaves to.
So like this post because you think it’s true or good. Or don’t like this post because you don’t agree with my opinions or you don’t think that I’m that great of a writer. I don’t care. In the larger picture of my life, I’m still going to keep writing and I’m still going to keep pursuing my passions because the real driving force of any project is the belief in one’s self to achieve it. And I believe that I am going to accomplish a lot in my life with or without the use of likes, followers, or social media in general.