Exploring economics, politics, technology, mathematics, philosophy, and psychology.

Breaking Up With Social Media

Breaking Up With Social Media

Social media permeated my life for the better half of six years - I was an active member of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat where I amassed hundreds of followers, uploaded countless pictures, and liked thousands of posts. On May 2nd, I decided to delete all my accounts, forever. There were several reasons behind this decision, and while this article is not intended to persuade you in following my footsteps, it is a reflection of how my life has changed since.

Every day, before I went to bed and after waking up, I would scroll through a seemingly endless feed of pictures and posts. When I sat alone at the communal cafeteria during lunch or dinner, I would have my phone in hand, replying to Instagram comments and sending “selfies” to my friends via Snapchat. I found social media to be an important facet of my life. I had the ability to seamlessly connect with my friends and family, many of whom reside in foreign countries. I was granted unparalleled access into the lives of academics, athletes, and prominent figures, which was impossible to do throughout much of my childhood.

My perception of social media was overwhelmingly positive, until reports surfaced that Facebook served as a platform to spread deceit and false information to partially aid Donald Trump in becoming the President of the United States. While I was not specifically affected by this, it was intriguing as to how Facebook’s algorithm was able to target and influence specific demographics during the 2016 American election. Further research on this particular issue led me down a rabbit hole of the various ways mainstream social media platforms are exploiting its users - often times in highly secretive and dishonest ways.

Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter collect data from its users. Such data is used to create targeted advertisements, curated content, and may be used in future updates to improve upon the applications existing features. By signing up for an account, consumers, rarely reading the privacy policy, will grant these applications access to contact information, location, browsing data, among several other bits of information considered to be private. For example, Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm, gained access to over fifty million Facebook user statistics in an effort to map their personalities. Furthermore, in 2014, Facebook could successfully tell which users were in a relationship by studying their messaging and posting patterns. While there are numerous other examples which could be used, I will save them for a later article.

To me, privacy is very important. I'm not necessarily afraid of an application tracking almost everything I do - rather, I don't feel the need to enable it. I would much rather not have Instagram constantly scanning my browsing habits and recommending me advertisements based on what I’ve viewed. Privacy, limits the control that companies and even the government can exercise on us. The more they know, the more they can influence our decisions and shape our behaviors which, in a sense, is why people rarely share their secrets with others.

Aside from this issue, I felt that social media did not benefit my life in a meaningful way. While I was an expert in knowing what my friends were doing at any given time, I was not improving myself as a person with the information I gained from these platforms. Aside from a few of my close friends and family, I never really cared for the constant updates of others. In fact, there were some people in my friends list who I never even knew in real life! I also began to notice, the more I interacted with my friends virtually, the less I had an urge to meet them in person - and when we did meet, our phones would still be out, as we would send pointless “snaps” to our other friends. Observe families, friends, and couples at restaurants, stores, or any other common-place, and this point is very evident.

By giving up social media, I have developed a voracious reading habit - no longer do I skim the short headlines Facebook and Twitter display on my feed. My thirst for gathering new knowledge has heightened and the 110 minutes I used to spend on social media every day is allocated for something more useful. The interactions I now have with my friends and family are more authentic and organic, reminiscent of how society used to be before the digital age.

What now?

What now?

Abdul El-Sayed can Win

Abdul El-Sayed can Win