Life Through Screens

Several months ago, as part of my resolution to optimize my overall health, I stopped using social media. It was like a great weight being lifted off my shoulders. No more seeing highlight reels of people's lives and subconsciously thinking "my life isn't that good." No more mindless browsing of "news" and seeing people's ego-filled and polarizing opinions about it.

Then about a month ago, I started using social media again. I don't remember how it even started. It just kind of crept back into my life. I slowly started sharing things on Facebook that I thought were helpful or entertaining. I started using Twitter again, mainly to complain to companies. It quickly became obvious to me that the complaint tweets were increasing my negativity, but the negative effects of my Facebook use were harder to realize at first. I was sharing what I thought were positive, helpful posts including one offering to mail a hand-written postcard to any of my friends who messaged me their address. The problem is Facebook, and social media in general, is basically just crack cocaine for the ego. Trying to use it even for purportedly good or useful purposes ends up having major negative side effects.

You see, every second you use social media, you are taking a second away from doing something else that is better for you and our society. Those seconds quickly add up to hours each day without us realizing it. Instead of staring at your screen, you could be talking to a friend or maybe even *gasp* a stranger. You could be outside getting some sun, fresh air, or exercise. You could be giving your brain the essential break it needs from constant noise, distractions, and "busyness".

Social media is a lose-lose game of ego inflating or inflaming ego. It is one of the reasons our society has become so polarized and sociopathic.

Our society has mistakenly come to view technology as the solution to all of our problems. Technology consists of many wonderful inventions that have improved the quality of our lives. Social media is one of the exceptions. Despite all the good reasons we try to convince ourselves of for using it, social media has a net negative effect on us and our society. Our mental health and our ability to properly socialize with one another have taken a sharp nosedive.

Okay, so social media is bad. What else is bad for us and our society? Well, if you take a step back to see the forest for the trees, social media falls under the broader technology category of screen devices. This includes smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, video game consoles, movie screens, and television. I've seen many articles and blog posts blaming the Millennial Generation for the decline of our society, in part because they were the first generation to grow up with the Internet and smartphones. The real drive behind these articles and blog posts, however, is again ego. Every generation likes to reminisce about how much better their generation was than younger generations. The negative side effects of the Internet and smartphones are in no way limited to the Millennial and younger generations. Many of the worst abusers of social media I know of are part of the Baby Boomer Generation. Furthermore, if you take that step back and look at the bigger picture so to speak, the decline of our society can be traced back to the Baby Boomer Generation and its adoption of the television. Television was the original technology that started us down the path to becoming more passive, staying inside, and not socializing with one another face-to-face. The negative side effects of staring at screens are not limited to any one generation. They affect each of us, regardless of age, and our society as a whole.

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