Soter: Salvage the Last Stretch of 2020 by Deleting Your Social Media

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Curtis Lin

Social media pulled up on the phone on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. (Photo by Curtis Lin)

By Theadora Soter, Opinion Writer

 

There’s no denying that social media is deeply problematic. It divides us, isolates us, misinforms us and above all, controls us. It changes our thought patterns — the way we think about ourselves, our peers and our leaders. It contorts our world view. It takes away our individuality and makes us clones of the people around us. It’s addictive — our ability to focus, read and engage in the world around us is limited. While all this is sufficient to make us question our use of social media, the dangers don’t stop there. Social media has an undeniably detrimental effect on our mental health.

Of course, you probably know this from experience. Think about all the times you’ve felt left out, judged or lesser-than because of social media. For me, there are too many to count. This period is supposed to be an exciting time in our lives, not a sad one. But nearly every time I used to scroll through my various feeds, I was overcome by a sense of inadequacy — and I’m not alone. In fact, suicide rates have increased sharply among young people since the rise of social media.

Young adulthood is hard enough as it is, especially in 2020, but when you add the crushing pressures of social media into the mix, it’s just too much. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely escape the anxiety-inducing realities of the pandemic, climate change and politics, but there are ways to avoid feeling them so acutely — and deleting your social media is a great start.

This year, social media has become even more vicious than usual, especially for young adults. For one thing, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased our use of social media. And while virtual socializing might seem safe and healthy amid Utah’s rising case numbers, it’s not. Instead, it creates more opportunity to dwell on the anxieties of a life forced upon you by disheartening realities.

Consider the surge in the Black Lives Matter movement this summer. People took not only to the streets but also to Instagram and Twitter, and we saw the power of social media to create communities and dispense important information. While this was inspiring, it was also overwhelming to be reminded of George Floyd’s traumatic murder and the nation’s persistent racism every time we opened our phones. Our platforms turned into battlegrounds. Users were on the prowl to shame and accuse those who had chosen to not post their opinions or spitefully attack people who did speak out about the violence Black people face in our country. The phrase “silence is violence” rightfully took hold. At a certain point, though, the noise became deafening. Rather than raising awareness and forcing change, the surge of virtual activism devolved into a blind trend, emptying the cause of its meaning for many.

The last two national elections have caused a similar social media overload. Regardless of your position or affiliation, these elections have proven extremely stressful for young people who see how much is at stake — especially since we’re the ones who will have to live with the consequences of the results. Nearly 25% of young people said that the 2016 election was traumatic. This year’s presidential race has been even more suffocatingly tense, and media platforms have made it practically impossible to detach from its drama — so it only makes sense that the effect of the election on our mental health would be much worse.

Keep in mind, though, that deleting your social media doesn’t excuse you from the responsibility of staying politically engaged and informed about current events. We can and should still do that, just in a healthier way. By supporting and relying on real journalism, not just the biases and misinformation of the social media world, we will be more educated and better off as a whole generation.

Breaking away from the internet cult will allow you to take time for yourself and the things that make you happy rather than squandering your days in the vacuum of Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and whatever else. At the very least, it’s worth doing a temporary digital detox to see if the effects are beneficial for you.

When social media began to take hold, researchers and mathematicians invented a tracking device called the Hedonometer. Its purpose was to track people’s happiness based on their social media posts — and on May 31, 2020, the Hedonometer tracked the saddest day in its history. Social media is a dark place right now. That darkness will affect you if you let it. The only way to escape? Delete.

 

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@SoterTheadora