I planned to start this one with a question but I think this is so obvious. Have you had these days where you wake up early, tired as hell, go to the sofa, grab the phone, and have a quick look through Facebook / Twitter / Reddit etc.? You don’t make coffee, breakfast, or anything like that. 30 minutes later you realize you should make yourself a coffee but now making it feels like you don’t really want to do it. Just because you have spent those 30 minutes on any social network now makes you feel you should probably spend some more before even having a coffee or eating. 30 minutes later you decide to have some breakfast too. And then you realize you have spent a pointless one hour on the sofa that could have been an hour of sleep, an hour of reading/writing, or something a bit more meaningful than watching the LEDs on your small display change colors constantly in front of you.
If you have not experienced the above, you are lucky. A lot of people (including children) totally lose control of the time they spend in front of different screens – laptops, phones, and tablets. It is like being part of a miraculous world where everyone is filled with joy and smiles, where problems are not there and there are princesses on white horses riding around pretty much everywhere.
Why am I saying the above? Because I just felt the need recently to share that social networks suck. Because of that false and abusive feeling that everything is great, that life is only travel/fun/happiness and joy everywhere. Those motivational posts & videos suck because they want you to look at them and share them and who knows if that motivation really hits you or reminds you that you are once again not achieving goals. Those photos of someone traveling somewhere saying „Life is travel“ also suck. Life is not a cruise. I am sorry you have to hear it from me. It is more of a rough Jeep excursion into the wild forests where the car sometimes jumps so badly from the bumps on the road that you have to hold really tight to not fall from it and fall victim to the predators out there in the jungle. Sometimes you get the prize of seeing the sun hiding behind the thin line separating the sea and the sky. Sometimes you don’t see the sky, you see the thin curtain called mist that prevents your eyes from seeing too far away – maybe this is the way that nature tells you „Hey, what the hell do you want to see more when you have everything in front of you“. Sometimes you work really hard and things don’t happen. Sometimes they do with 0 effort and your smile is 10 times bigger than what you expected it to be. And this is where social networks fail so miserably.
Social networks have this false feeling of life being perfect, people being perfect and amazing experiences being constant. There is no rough road there, only smooth and wide paths leading to an ocean of fulfilled dreams waiting for you to swim in it. We all know about the dopamine effect but we still continue to use them because dopamine addiction is really hard to deal with. Uninstall X app, and 3 days later you install it again. Because we are human and yes, we fail at tasks.
Social networks are „social“ but with a totally different meaning. If you think that hitting the „Connect“ button makes you friends with someone, then you are probably lying to yourself. Connections in the virtual space are not the connections we humans tend to make in person. Our connections in person include small chats, eye contact, understanding tone of voice, and words being said in totally different ways which could lead to totally different meanings. We are almost always playing the game of understanding what the other person is trying to say, what his facial expression means and this is part of our „friendship“ process. How does hitting a button on the internet help you with that? It is not only meaningless but adds this person to a simple list of names and he stays there until you want to make some contact with him when you need to. It is more like a ToDo list with people’s names. It is great to have it but are all people there your friends?
The bigger ToDo list you have with people, the more popular you are. And this is where the focus of our new „social“ networks is. Wrapping the „social“ things around YOU. You are the one having many people on a ToDo list, you share what you are doing, and you are waiting for someone to like your post as an expression that they are following you, which for sure does not mean they like you or care for you in any way. This is the new „social“ which is more „you“ than „social“. And of course, no one will share that life is tough. Why would they when it won’t bring them any dopamine doses because they won’t receive any „likes“? That’s why everything is perfect in this lying virtual world. People travel constantly, they don’t work like you do 8h per day, they are always happy, no matter if they have kids or not, they don’t argue and are always in love, no matter the circumstances around them.
Now social networks have become more like a representation of a perfect living world although still virtual. You join them not so much to bond with people that you miss but rather to be part of this perfection and not miss a second of it. And you enjoy it so much that you start asking yourself – what are you doing and why can’t your real world be as perfect as this virtual one is?
It seems that social networks bring more harm rather than positivism. They give the fake impression that the world is a place where people don’t struggle, don’t work full-time to support their families, achieve stuff easily, and are constantly happy no matter the occasion, and many more fake stories like these ones. The more interested you are in an activity or a thing, the more offers you get from the social network for it, and then you end up in this vicious cycle where you experience the fear of missing out – constantly seeing posts of people achieving stuff that you don’t have the time for or that you can achieve only once in a couple of months, not daily every week.
Even good intentions can be interpreted badly. You may want to share something good or positive but very often, there will be someone leaving a bad comment for it. You may decide to share a place and then this place gets flooded with hundreds of people visiting it. You may ask for advice and very often you get an answer that aims to show how much other people know, not helping you to understand the specifics of the problem you asked about.
And all of the above makes it hard to put your life on track. The constant urge to unlock the phone and see what is going on makes you feel like you are not achieving enough, that your goals even though you work hard to make them true, don’t lead you to that perfect life that is shared in these happy social posts. That these people that feel so happy and with which you are „friends“ do not have the hard moments that you have – fighting for your job, family, way of work & life. That your 8h job does not give you enough free time to enjoy life while others live it every single moment possible every single day. And at the end of the day, all of this remains fake. People uploading old photos, people trying to show off their money because they lack happiness and motivation, and people looking for followers but not for friendships.
Social networks suck. The way they exist now is the way aimed at making a profit from every possible interaction. It is the „dopamine“ way and totally not the social way. We will need to change that. Both for us and for our children. As virtual reality is part of the reality in our world and we should not allow it to bend in ways controlled by profit.