Sitting at a coffee shop yesterday listening to a group of after-school teens behind me, I couldn't help but:
A. feel old, and
B. eavesdrop on the perils of the day's biggest tragedy.
Instagram is down. And the world is ending.
Or so it seems to these teens. And likely to much of the first world -- adults included.
And while I, too, felt frustrated with this Instabug, battling my own unhealthy social media addiction (one I'm not so proud of), the downtime can actually be quite medicinal.
If you let it.
Not being able to access two of the world’s most-used apps brings our dependency to the forefront. (Did I mention Facebook was also down? The teens didn't know, because Facebook is so “not cool” anymore.) This absence in our daily routine highlights just how involuntarily our fingers find their way to opening apps, scrolling through newsfeeds, and consuming others’ carefully curated media.
As we mindlessly navigate social media applications, our unlimited access to these softwares creates an unconscious dependence. So when that software isn’t available (i.e. like all day yesterday), we freak out, and we experience withdrawal. Like real, true, hardcore, drug-like withdrawal. Which speaks so acutely to how real this addiction is and how harmful it can become.
Tony Rao, Visiting Lecturer in Old Age Psychiatry at King’s College London highlights that “... addiction refers to any behavior that is pleasurable and is the only reason to get through the day.” And if we all reasonably know we have so much to live for besides social media, why do we regard these platforms with such critical levels of importance?
With phrases like, “Do it for the Gram,” and, “Pics or it didn’t happen,” we’re prioritizing a figurative profile over true, real-life moments. We’re losing the ability to be present, and we’re missing out on meaningful, tangible connections and conversations.
Rao continues, advising we should beware of social media’s “effect… on sleep and doing less ‘offline’, such as making time for work responsibilities and direct face-to-face social interaction.”
We need to be more conscious with our time, and we need to be intentional.
I’m not suggesting the outrageous (i.e. the banning of social media), but I am highly encouraging we step back and evaluate the massive impacts these softwares have on our daily lives -- whether we want to admit it or not.
So while it was almost comedic to hear the teens endlessly complaining about Instagram’s downtime, it’s refreshing to know that they were actually looking one another in the eyes and having real, humanlike interactions. And it’s a relief to see that they still know how.