Tomorrow is the start of my "March Away From Social Media" month... which seems amusingly-to-me appropriate for the month of March.
I expect to be back in April, but who knows?
While I'm away, fully engaging in whatever I am otherwise being distracted from by social media, I could end up creating the world's first and highly renowned Museum For Mysteriously Displaced Neighbourhood Treasures,
which would clearly be a full time endeavour, allowing no more time for social media at all.
Or perhaps I shall found the ground-breaking
Reverse-Navel-Gazing Institute, designed to engage more with life and less with my "personal crazy". The first actions shall include jumping in puddles (once the snow melts of course), opening doors for strangers, and giving all my money away.
The universe is quite surprising... with infinite potential, ANYTHING could happen. I'm looking forward to whatever it decides to serve up this March.
OK, now back to the point of this post... social media.
To be completely honest, I have no idea how much I am being affected by social media... and I'm really curious about that.
seems ridiculously obvious to me how much social media is unknowingly affecting many others, and then as always occurs to me...
if all these generally functioning human beings are being affected so unknowingly and powerfully, then how am I also unknowingly and powerfully being affected? What am ---I--- not seeing as obvious for myself?"
Having had a glimpse of the immeasurable power that my own thoughts have, to fool, manipulate, and mislead me, I wonder how much I am inevitably being manipulated by the systems
that know how to take advantage of that very same reality-creating nature of human thought?
I've read lots of articles and seen a
few talks and movies about how powerful is social media's algorithmic programming, as well as what it is primarily designed to do (ie, catch and keep our attention). The more attention captured, the more advertisers and investors will be attracted.
And so, a countless number of people, companies, and organizations work to capitalize on this readily available pool of attention. Many will
directly pay for that attention in all the posts that you see labelled as "sponsored". But many will not, or they will do a combination of paid and non-paid advertising.
The non-paid advertising (ie, any kind of message sharing) is done by putting time and resources into "gaming" the systems. While continually learning and discerning how the algorithms work, they build profiles, develop
pages, and create posts that capture attention and encourage clicking, comments, sharing, and our 1-click reactions (like, love, care, angry, sad, etc.)...
Even our own egos do this very same thing in our own unique ways... directing us in what we choose to share and how, either for better "likeability", or for whatever other type of image or response our ego needs or craves, including even rejection.
Our habits of social media use represent who our ego wants us to be.
Being aware of all of this, and being aware that "car crashes"
capture more attention than anything else, I've worked very intentionally at curating what I engage with on social media.
I've spent time observing and learning about all the many creative forms of increasingly
clever click bait, and then I have practiced intentionally avoiding taking the bait.
Even with that intention, it's amazing how much
I will still catch myself just about to click on a "car crash" or an "engaging squirrel" or a "mystery box".
All of these communication
tricks that are used to get our attention, are often designed to do so by creating some form of fear/insecurity, or create scarcity, or foment division... all to further a specific cause (whether financial or ideological). I once heard this communication referred
to as "Satan's Handbook of Marketing". LOL!
And although I may appear to be much less pulled in by any of the car crash type of attention-getters
than I was in the past, I'm still on social media spending much more time here than seems wise or as life-affirming as life could be.
so, I reflected on that.
What occurred to me, is that even though my careful curating helps me avoid going down the rabbit holes of
"endless despair" that come from engaging mostly in the car-crash or I'm-not-enough ads, I am still (innocently and unknowingly) working COMPLETELY in cooperation with the social media algorithms to give me more of what I wish to see... and hence, more of
My social media tools may now be producing a "happier, kinder, nicer" reality-creating-scroll-feed of attention, but
it's still attention.
No matter what I do, the algorithms with their capability for lightning speed, will continually curate whatever
is placed on my feed. They will keep offering me more of whatever I choose to engage with in each and every changing moment, adaptively innovating and making course corrections with each like, comment, share, click, and even pause.
The algorithms are so sophisticated, they can even read my continually changing mood and interests. Combined with their intimate knowledge of my life history (age, sex,
politics, geographic region, religion, ethnicity, education, employment, hobbies, habits, income, purchases, world views, etc.), they add that to their human-behavioural programming, to offer me not only what I'm interested in now, but whatever will statistically
and predictively capture MORE of my interest tomorrow.
With a financial business model fed entirely by human attention, it makes sense
that the programming will only continue to get more and more intelligent at gaining just that... my attention.
That business model
is also combined with our current world economic model that requires continuous growth as its only marker of success (at the expense of all else).
Without any changes to either the social media business model or our current economic model, I don't see
any way to get out of this increasingly powerful attention-getting-loop, other than perhaps leaving social media entirely.
partly solve the social media problem as it affects me in one particular way.
However, it doesn't have much impact on all the indirect ways that social media affects
my life. Nor, would one single user (ie, me) leaving have much impact on the underlying issues of the problem... our business and economic models... and ultimately our societal misunderstanding of human insecurity.
I've taken breaks from social media before.
breaks have helped me gain some level of perspective, and have organically offered me some discernment in how I am affected by its use.
during short breaks, I've noticed a mental and physical lightness that has offered me more appreciation for life, and more grace and resilience for navigating whatever life chooses to offer up. As a result, I have made some changes in how I use it.
In the past, that was enough.
This time however,
I think this break will include a bit of time reflecting on whether to come back to using social media or not, and if yes, perhaps a clearer idea of what that all means.
And so, for all who wish to join in on the fun of museum-building and puddle-jumping, may I wish you a very happy March Away From Social Media month!
With Love and Laughter,
(Photo by Klub Boks, cropped and edited)