Avoid the pitfalls of social media

Published November 25, 2023
Illustration by Aamnah Arshad
Illustration by Aamnah Arshad

It was almost a decade ago that I first heard about WhatsApp when my classmates in school were talking about it. They excitedly chatted away about how they liked sending messages to each other through this medium.

At that time, I stood there with curious eyes as I listened to them, and thought dismissively that this new sensation would soon fade away just like other seasonal trends. At that time, I didn’t even own a phone and the only medium to contact my friends was the landline (a telephone set). Moreover, as long calls resulted in higher bills, there was some limitation on the number of calls and the duration of calls I was allowed to make, and I guess many others like me were allowed to make.

Fast forwarding to today, I now realise how life back then was so calm and pure. The reason behind this is that the storm of social media has completely overtaken us. We have lost control of ourselves and the control of our lives has gone into the hands of social media. Now even kids and teenagers have their accounts on multiple social media apps and they don’t even realise how their innocent minds are being manipulated and intoxicated by this trend.

Back then, people used to see life from a meaningful perspective, with pure intentions. But now, because of social media, everybody is in a race, competing with each other on how they look, what they have, their number of followers and social media dominance! People seem to be doing things just to share on social media, rather than for any other meaningful purpose. In order to capture on camera an experience they are having, they fail to enjoy that moment, or absorb the experience. Thus the true meaning of life is lost.

The purpose for which these social media applications were created was to promote globalisation, ease communication beyond borders and access information in real time. These are all valuable uses, which have made things easy for all of us, both personally and professionally. But, as with everything, there are also some drawback of social media, mainly due to the use we make of it.

One of the bad consequences of social media that we face today is the waste of time. This is the most crucial consequence, because time is the most valuable thing we have. But because of social media, everybody’s precious hours are slipping like sand from the fingers. Many social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube are created in such a clever way that you find it difficult to divert your attention from them, even after spending hours using them. Due to the research and algorithms of these apps, they will show you content based on your preferences to retain your usage for a longer period.

Other disastrous consequences are loss of intellectual capability, memory retention and creativity. When our brain is completely absorbed in consuming social media, it starts lacking creativity skills, the memory deteriorates and intellectual capability decreases because the random social media contents starts piling up in our subconscious, and little room is left for productive pursuits.

Moreover, social media leads to personal and societal depression. The attractive pictures of people, places and food make a person experience deprivation and the desire to experience what they see others doing. We start to doubt our looks, our personality and our life as a whole. We feel miserable all at once, thinking that it’s a happy world out there.

Considering these dark sides of social media, it is important that we consume it in moderation, and consciously make an effort to not get influenced by all that we see and read there.

Here are some tips regarding the usage of social media that can help us stay safe and not be adversely affected by it.

Illustration by Sumbul
Illustration by Sumbul

Restrict yourself

Avoid making too many social media accounts, or multiple IDs, in a single social media application. Doing otherwise would only make life difficult and more complex. Half of your time would be spent just managing these multiple IDs and their optimisation, so that you are not left behind by the fast-changing trends.

For example, every day we see new social media apps being launched, triggering us to make our accounts there. Remember one thing, your friends signing up on an app does not mean you have to sign up too. Make your life easy by focusing on the main applications which are authentic and are used by millions. Secondly, focus on only making one ID, except when you are starting a venture or something.

Set time limits

We need to understand that we only have 24 hours in a day, so our time is limited and precious. Social media usage takes up many hours of our time, which would have been better utilised in something else.

To tackle this issue, set aside a time limit to your social media usage — like half an hour in the day and half an hour in the night — and make this clear to yourself that this is the most you can afford to waste on social media.

A more productive way would be you set this time as a reward after some hard work, homework, or any other task. Make sure to strictly adhere to this time frame and don’t use social media apart from it, unless it’s very necessary or important.

Use it productively

Limiting the time for social media usage is not as important as how we use our time on social media apps. We need to utilise these apps and our time on them effectively to grasp opportunities. We should find opportunities such as job posts, internships, competitions, etc. The best social media application for this is LinkedIn. There are many groups on Facebook too for such opportunities.

Other ways in which you can use social media productively are by spreading and gaining knowledge in any form, and watching more educational videos than entertainment videos.

Focus on the good

As discussed earlier, a major cause of today’s mental and emotional health problems is social media. This is because we are viewing the good and glamourous side of things there, with everything is displayed in perfection and we start to doubt our own lives.

We need to rectify this perspective while surfing social media. We need to understand that nothing is perfect in this world. Majority of the time, people only share their happy moments and the good sides of their lives. They tend to avoid sharing their problems, their failures and the negativities in their life.

So we should view things on social media in a detached manner, be happy for others and always go by the golden rule that ‘admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own’.

Most importantly, don’t let social media ruin your confidence and self-worth!

Control on notifications

If you own a mobile phone, I would highly advise you to turn off the notifications of your social media applications, except WhatsApp, as it has now almost taken over the place of cellular communication, and you may miss any important call or message by turning off its notifications.

Constant checking of phones on each pop-up notification can severely damage one’s focus and, as a result, you will not be able to complete your tasks on time. In the worst case scenario, it can lead you towards ‘nomophobia’ which is a situation where you fear not having your phone close to you.

To avoid this, make a habit of living without notifications and living without your phone in general. Practice every day for a few hours so that you can explore more outside this world of social media.

The excessive usage of the smartphone in general also causes severe health and mental problems. A healthy lifestyle and time are our most important possessions, and both are being severely compromised because of being constantly present on social media. So from today, aim to minimise the use of social media, and prioritise your health, goals and time.

Abhijit Naskar, a neuroscientist, a best-selling author and mental health advocate says: “The very existence of social media is predicated on humankind’s primitive drive of attention-seeking. And when they successfully monetise your attention, they end up with billions of dollars and you end up with a screwed up mental state. And if we don’t do anything about it now, the next generation will be a generation of mentally unstable glass creatures.”

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 25th, 2023

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