It would seem like public opinion regarding social media has certainly been on the decline in the last few years. With no shortage of platform controversies and new data about its negative impact on mental health, more and more people have been preaching the idea that the best way to set yourself free, is to just quit. Say goodbye. Log off. Go outside. But is going “cold turkey” really the solution? In a recent Forbes article, John Brandon explained why cutting all ties from social media could actually have a negative impact if not properly thought out. This article was in response to a TED Talk by Professor Cal Newport, where the professor highlighted a variety of negative effects from platform usage. Since the TED Talk was from 2016, not all the issues we’ve come to know now were covered. In the past few years, social media has been associated with causing depression and negative self-image, addiction and lessening attention spans, spreading misinformation and disinformation, selling private data, and causing further divisiveness among a society in the midst of social/political turmoil… to name just a few issues.
That list alone could be enough to make anyone want to throw in the towel on social media for good, but Brandon explained how that could be a recipe for disaster. “Quitting is not the same as controlling” he wrote. Brandon’s take on social media usage is similar to how we would talk about drinking or eating junk food in moderation. Most things that are done in excess tend to have negative side effect regardless of their original intention, and social media is no exception. As much as some of us would like to believe it, a platform is not just some wicked entity; it’s a tool (as Brandon put it), and as autonomous individuals, we have the power to decide how we utilize this tool. And similar to vices like drinking or junk food, if we feel we’ve abused it, quitting cold turkey tends to backfire.
More than anything, I worry about the “cold turkey” approach because people eventually get sucked back into using the apps. “I’m deleting my account” says the person who is not able to control usage, and hasn’t dealt with a tendency to overuse the apps. A few weeks or months later, that person is back using the app again, maybe even more than ever before.John Brandon, Forbes Magazine 2021
This is not to say that you shouldn’t leave social media if you truly want to. Heck, I was offline for most of 2019 and have no regrets about it. It’s just important to remember all the benefits that having these accounts comes with if used responsibly and in moderation. Being connected to world means an endless stream of discovery and inspiration. It means having a direct way of communicating with friends and family that may live across the world. It means more opportunity to promote your passions. I’m not ashamed to say that I won’t leave social media out of fear of general FOMO. I understand how rapidly networking technology is accelerating, and I don’t want to miss out. Though, it does need to change for the better. It will be interesting to see what type of regulations are put in place on the web in the coming years, if any. Though until then, our best course of action to avoid the negative implications of living online is to get a better sense of ourselves, look within, and be honest about if we’re using these tools responsibly.