Social networks are crippling contemporary culture. There, I said it.
Several books I’ve read recently (see below) have seriously challenged my beliefs about Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., and just how absorbed I had become in them (for years). Let’s talk about “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport.
Here’s some food for thought (arranged for clarity):
“Young people born between 1995 and 2012, a group Twenge calls “iGen,” exhibited remarkable differences as compared to the Millennials that preceded them. One of the biggest and most troubling changes was iGen’s psychological health. “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed,” Twenge writes, with much of this seemingly due to a massive increase in anxiety disorders. “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades.”
“When I asked her what she thought caused the change, she answered without hesitation that it probably had something to do with smartphones. The sudden rise in anxiety-related problems coincided with the first incoming classes of students that were raised on smartphones and social media.”
Wow. Is this surprising, though? Of course, we know the impact isn’t solely on “iGen-ers”. In the western world, we spend hours a day compulsively observing each other through rose-tinted digital lenses, ready to like, love or heart anything we deem worthy. Why? Newport offers an ominous suggestion:
“People don’t succumb to screens because they’re lazy, but instead because billions of dollars have been invested to make this outcome inevitable.”
Sobering stuff. Despite well-intentioned efforts to build stronger connections, I’m starting to think that we’re weakening them. Numerous studies are finding our collective sense of loneliness is increasing and our ability to enjoy much-needed solitude is decreasing.
So I’m working at becoming a digital minimalist:
“Digital Minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”
Social media notifications disabled. Facebook and Twitter removed from phone and desktop browser bookmarks. No longer interested in the number of ‘likes’, ‘hearts’, ‘followers’, or ‘friends’. Interested in documenting the fun bits of life that I want to remember, and sharing things I’m passionate about. Interested in meaningful connection and using social media as a means of getting to the good stuff rather than allowing it to constantly distract me from it.
YOU SHOULD READ THESE BOOKS:Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope