Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are designed to steal our attention. This claim is not some “wake up sheeple!!1 call”, just stating a plain fact. I would be OK with that if browsing these sites would provide me with some joy or entertainment – but it doesn’t anymore. Quite the contrary, many times I found myself filled with frustration or even anger, mentally locked on whatever I saw in my feed in the morning when travelling to work. I decided to try to use each of the apps for one week exclusively to see where this negative energy was coming from.
Twitter was okay – I follow a minimum of my real life friends there. From the beginning, I envisioned it as a source of interesting articles. It got a little bit messy when they introduced “your friend liked this” tweets into my timeline, but by persistently clicking on “I don’t want to see more things like this” in the tweet’s menu I managed to push most tweets containing other people emotions out of my timeline. It also helped a lot to expand a list of banned words to cover anything containing US or Czech politics..
Instagram surprised me. In my mind, it was one of the few conflict-free zones. Since text almost doesn’t exist there and images can’t hurt anyone, what could go wrong? I tried to evaluate my emotions after few minutes of browsing my feed and felt worse roughly half of the time. I started to analyse pictures more closely and found out that it depends on only one factor – the intent of the person taking the picture. If it’s something interesting he/she found out in the world and want to share, it was OK. If it was him/her in “situation masturbation” (Bali beaches, a dinner with friends, a new swimsuit, etc…) I felt worse. My overall mood depended only on a ratio between those two kinds of photos. I think it got a lot worse few years after Facebook acquired Instagram and Instagram started to use Facebook’s feed algo aimed at more attention-grabbing content.
LinkedIn should, in theory, be okay too. It kinda is, but it never delivers the value I would expect. It’s a bad source of information (I get more valuable content through other channels every time ), and I tend to explore other people’s work life every time I see someone commenting or liking something. It makes me compare them to me, and I feel no joy in any result I come to.
I expected Facebook to be bad but I was quite surprised by how terrible it was. When I tried to consciously feel my emotions after every post I saw, I could sense my mood getting darker in a matter of seconds. Every post is an article framed with someone’s disgusted opinion over recent politics or uninformed rage over fake news. People are uncontrollably vomiting their view on everything, and since facebook’s algo is pushing controversial topics up, there’s always juicy discussion full of conflicting opinions on whatever bullshit is at stake.
After this experiment, I decided to delete all these apps from my mobile phone and thus make my access to them more difficult (I can always access them from a browser) and on desktop let the switcheroo again do its work.
I didn’t write this because it’s something new or revealing. Everything here is quite obvious. I just wanted to emphasize that the tides are changing. Quitting social media is no more “just a pose”, it quietly became mainstream. One day we will look at social media same way we’re looking at smoking or sugar eating – with the question “what the hell were they thinking?“.