When I log on to social media, I feel like I’m destined to lose.
Not to brag, but I follow some really smart and interesting people. It’s tough to stop scrolling through their posts, often to my own detriment. There’s only so much you can learn while scrolling through social media.
The infinite scrolling feature on most social media sites ensures that I’ll literally never run out of something else to find, not to mention the promise of refreshing my feed for the latest posts.
Then there’s the matter of notifications, because who can resist a bit of affirmation? I can get a daily dose of likes and compliments if I play my cards right and avoid controversial topics.
Two unhealthy false versions of myself face off, as the lazy, distracted side of myself meets the side of myself that craves to be viewed in a positive light as an insightful writer.
I can’t afford to let either fabrication override my true self that is a mix of both and a whole bunch of other things. That’s why I’m so uncertain about what to do with social media these days.
I’ve studied the tricks that include red notification buttons since red gets the most engagement, auto-playing videos that make it as easy as possible to keep watching, a spinning update wheel that resembles a slot machine when refreshing a feed, and even a slight delay in revealing notifications in order to build suspense.
I know all of these tricks, and yet I feel sucked in by them. Knowing that the creators of the red notification button and the infinite scroll buttons can’t resist them either makes me feel better, but only drives home the point that with social media the average user is destined to lose to the engineers because the engineers are even beating themselves with their design.
I simply don’t know what to do with social media. It’s conventional wisdom in marketing and publishing circles that Facebook offers great engagement per post, but I’m not sure how present to be when I know that I am more likely to lose time, attention, and focus when using social media, let alone my concern for other social media users.
Perhaps the question is this: What do we hope to gain from social media? And then there’s a follow up question about whether it’s actually delivering those things.
Is social media promising us a certain level of connection and interaction and then pulling a bait and switch with extremely addicting features that make it difficult to stop and do something else more beneficial with our time?
If our goal is to deliver a lot of data and view a lot of ads, then social media is working just fine as it is, but I don’t think the goals of social media companies line up with the best interests of their users.
As of right now, I’m not sure how to use social media, but I sure about how to not use it. I’m using time limiting apps, blocking apps, and tracking apps in order to keep my usage under control even if I can’t make good choices in the heat of the moment.
If the makers of social media are devoting so much time and so many resources to capturing our attention and time, it’s time for us to use time and resources in order to guard our attention and time.