I have made a discovery that a lot of others have made and continue to make. And that is for my peace of mind I have deleted social media apps from my smart phone. I have removed them in the past, along with news apps, just to be able to devote more time to the real world and get on with life. But recently it’s been more than just time social media has been consuming, it’s been my emotional and mental well-being.
As the stories continue to unfold with how all of these services have been designed to suck us in and manipulate us to like them (see in particular ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia ), and then how external forces, specifically Russian hackers, used those tools to then manipulate many to do what they wanted them to do, with the alleged goal of benefiting Trump’s run for the president. The on-going hunt for collusion between Trump and said Russian hackers may be filling up a lot of news cycles, but finding him guilty won’t do us any good if he’s allowed to continue as is, and more depressingly, if the tools are still in place to continue their damage.
I’m not that big into social media, playing primarily in the Twitter and Facebook domains, Twitter far more than Facebook. If I’ve a presence anywhere else (Google+, Ello, Instagram, etc) it’s more a dead leftover from curiosity followed by an initial signup (or in the case of Google+, after having it shoved down my throat). Still, I was appalled at how much time and emotional capital “just” Twitter and Facebook had taken from me.
After realizing both personally as well as via reading just how wrapped around their digital fingers I’d become, I discovered that deleting the apps off my smartphone rather remarkably reduced the amount of time I was spending staring and poking the smartphone, as well as reducing my stress levels and lowering my feeling of rage against the world. I find I can actually think about the issues again, instead of just mindlessly, emotionally, reacting. I’ve even discovered a (dare I speak its name) feeling of empathy towards the political “opposition”. The resolution of problems used to come from a compromise between apposing viewpoints, based in part on common points of agreement. Nothing good has ever come from the absolutism of zero sum politics.
Removal of the apps is not the same as deletion of the accounts. But removal of the gateways pretty much kills any interaction with the accounts. The accounts still exist, but for now they’ve gone totally dormant. Well, nearly dormant. Every time I publish something on this blog it gets tweeted and facebooked (is that a verb?) whenever I publish a post here. I could stop that, and should, but I’m a little too tired (lazy?) to rush over to my WordPress dashboard and turn all that off. Not that publishing to those two social media platforms helps to “drive impressions” on my blog; it doesn’t. Writing here has never been about gaming of the system for eyeballs and impressions.
I’m spending more time in the real world. I’m in the process of filtering even more emotionalism out of my news feeds, both left and right. Turning off those particular fire hoses has further lowered the negative emotional impacts. Living in that virtual caustic stew, composed of social media and strident “news”, eats away at one’s emotional and mental well being. When that happens that leaves me in a constant ineffective state, unable to rationally think and act, vital skills for living in a democracy. I refuse to live that way.