With 2019 coming to a close, it’s customary to reflect on the previous year and then look forward to the future. Traditional resolutions involve exercise, diet, saving money, and self-care, in that order. But 80% of resolutions don’t make it past January, so rather than focusing on something like completing x more races or running x more miles, we’re going to discuss something a little different this year: social media use. Or more specifically, the impending death of intrinsic motivation via the rise of social media.
To compare a harmless thing like social media to something as serious as the crack epidemic is of course terribly hyperbolic, and yet… is it? Here we have an easily attainable, cheap device that mimics drugs in almost every way: a simple ‘like’ on Instagram lights our brain up in much the same way as heroin or a slot-machine would, users have real withdrawals, depression and loneliness increase with use, interpersonal relationships are changing, and multiple governments are using it in their attempts to more or less dissolve the moral fabric of our society. We’ve accidentally created our very own real-life version of the infamous ‘rat park’ experiments of the ’70s.
I know, enough fear-mongering. I’m posting this on social media after all, and you’re most likely reading it via. Many of us require these tools in order to maintain a career. We’re all hypocrites. In fact, I’m probably speaking to thin air; the majority of social media users don’t even make it this far when reading an article. I even tried this out with my last blog post. Sure enough, a good chunk of people shared it without realizing it was satire.
Regardless, I find this a fascinating topic. Because social media makes everything quantifiable, and this directly influences our choices, whether we admit it or not. That $99 race entry is buying you x amount of likes, isn’t it? And a trifecta or ultra, well, I imagine that might be worth quite a bit more. Same goes for a CR on Strava, vacation destinations, air bnb choices, even something as trivial as a lost toenail. If you are active on social media and cannot acknowledge this phenomenon holding some sway over you, you’re most likely deluding yourself.
Now we’ve found ourselves existing solely for extrinsic validation. This positive echo chamber should –in theory at least– make us feel validated. “You’re great, wonderful, impressive, inspiring, tough, and a great parent!!” It shouts this from our phone via a kaleidoscope of light and sounds, of dings and flashing lights, animated emojis and blue ‘thumbs-ups’. And yet, somehow this affirmation actually makes us feel worse.
How many of the following social-media related resolutions do you think you are capable of, and for how long? And would following one (or all) have any effect, positive or negative, or is this anti-social media movement just hogwash and me deserving of the dreaded ‘boomer’ titling?
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