010 Social Media: The thief of joy?

“Comparison is the thief of joy” once said President Theodore Roosevelt. To some extent, I think it’s the same with social media as well.

Sometime in 2020, I came across the famous documentary on Netflix ‘The Social Dilemma‘. And after watching it, I, very foolishly and almost uncontrollably decided to permanently delete all of my social media accounts. OK, maybe that was too much and I regretted doing it a week later and went on and made new social media accounts. But, now, I have a rule to only use apps like Instagram on weekends. And I really don’t miss out on them on weekdays. I’ve learned a lot with experimenting and deleting and being dependent or addicted to social media at one time. I want to share what I’ve learned through this article.

Lesson #1: We Love Getting Likes—I genuinely think that our brains are wired in a certain way which when we receive likes on our Instagram posts, (or in general terms—validation) we just love the feeling of it. Scientifically even, hormones such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin (You may know them as the “happy hormones” when I believe they really are the feelings of happiness or simply “pleasure hormones” but that’s a totally different topic which we don’t need to get into) are released in our bodies which give us the feelings of gratification and pleasure in the moment. I remember pretty well, when I used to post pictures on Instagram I would literally open Instagram on my phone like 25 times in the first hour of uploading the post (No emphasis added) and check out who liked and commented on my post. My satisfaction always depended on the likes. Yet, I was never content since someone whom I wanted to see and like my post didn’t like it. It was messed up. I’m glad to realize it now.

Lesson #2: Social Media is the thief of joy—When you compare yourself to others in physical forms, you are indirectly stealing your happiness as President Roosevelt said. And it’s true not just because he said it but because it really does happen. Try noticing how you feel the next time either you yourself or someone else is comparing you to somebody better than you. The problem is that everyone on social media is living (rather showing us) their best life, if not much better than their best life. And so, it’s really just normal to imagine how others are doing much better than you are or how others have better looks (due to the pounds of make-up they apply or with the use of edits and filters) or how other have amazing relationships and (maybe fake) love lives, but you’re just like a normal person or even a little worse. Comparing yourself with others brings you down. There certainly is constructive comparison in areas such as sports or business and many other things but I believe that social media leads only to destructive comparison. And it steals your joy.

Lesson #3: Scrolling is the new smoking—Look around with a little more awareness and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Everywhere. Literally everywhere from streets, public places, queues in supermarkets, subways, buses and trains to dinner tables, bedrooms, and bathrooms—you name the location—there’s people everywhere with bent necks facing down onto their glowing screens. With their finger or thumb scrolling down forever and ever and ever. Because Instagram may tell you “You’re All Caught Up” but are you really? No, we have reels and the explore pages to “find” something interesting and keep scrolling. It is addicting. It’s like a while ago when people casually lit cigarettes everywhere. But this seems to attack non-smokers and children too. It is the new smoking.

Lesson #4: It’s not all Social Media’s fault—The documentary “The Social Dilemma” only accuses big tech companies like Facebook for 94 straight minutes but it’s not their fault! We find it easier to blame big tech companies for “keeping us addicted” but really don’t apply some common sense and blame ourselves. We are the victim, for sure. But we are also the culprit.

Robert Caro once said, “Power doesn’t always corrupt, but power always reveals.” Maybe it’s the same with social media. Social media hasn’t “corrupted us”, it has just revealed how we always were, but couldn’t see. We can’t merely blame these tech companies for making us dependent on them, we are more than equally, if not much more to blame. We are the ones maybe who aren’t using social media as it was intended to be used. If we can change ourselves, I think we can change how social media impacts our life and make it impact us in a constructive form—allowing us to connect with lost friends, family, learn new things, get introduced to different perspectives, make our lives easier and most importantly make us happier (not giving us short-term pleasures due to likes but making us truly happy and content, always)

This is what I think of social media. We can be the architect of our lives, we need not be the victim of small and irrelevant things like social media. Let’s all use social media wisely. And constructively.

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