Goodbye Social Media: Mental Health Awareness Month 2021

This year, Mental Health Awareness Month is planned. The topics I have picked in advance and am gradually adding to over the course of months. With this more organized approach to my series, it’s the perfect opportunity to gradually document my social media habits as I begin to shed them.

As of now, I’m about a week into uninstalling Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and Hinge on my phone. On my Computer, I have unbookmarked the social media sites; if I want to hop on Facebook, I manually have to type the URL. I have always considered myself not to be an avid user of social media. I post a little but not a lot. The other night that changed. As I was scrolling through my dystopian doomsfeed I realized that I was miserable. I derive no joy from Instagram. Most posts are meaningless and add no value to my life whatsoever. I have friends who post a story a minute and others who have lost sight of the silver lining. At best, people are posting about food or doing another selfie. At. Best. In this brief moment I realized that we are living in a dystopia and that all hopes for a utopian information age have all but been lost. Then I looked at Facebook. For every post I saw, I would see a targeted ad. And Twitter? Literal Hell. Negativity is unavoidable and a platform based solely on growth and engagement? Disgusting. Hinge? More endless scrolling in what would ultimately be a relationship death spiral. Match, get bored, match again with the 1% chance I get lucky. The very principle of dating apps diminishes the premise of a relationship itself.

So here I am, a couple weeks in and I feel better. I still log on to Facebook and Twitter but not obsessively. Youtube has become more slightly frustrating as I’m noticing the recommended section is solely designed to influence behavior. If Youtube removed the entire right half of its site, I’d be perfectly ok with that.

LinkedIn

Since 2017, after graduation, Linkedin has become the bane of my existence. Habits Facebook and Instagram instilled carried over to my everyday. I scroll, I like, and am told that it should one day have a payoff. And it doesn’t; Linkedin is a showcase of the superficial, a shrine to those who are lucky. It glorifies an unrealistic percentage of people and even then it frowns upon whenever grit is shown. My recommendations are now for Call Center work and systems that I assume were meant to help, have become my literal Hell. Our Social Media lives have become an episode of Black Mirror.

The Mental Drain

It’s all been exhausting. That is the best word I can use to describe my experience other than soul sucking. Social Media has broken people. We’ve been made to believe that it is the world and since we cannot tangibly see those who have turned away, the lie is easy to swallow. Even with all my other mental health habits well established, Social Media I never saw as posing a threat to my overall well being. I thought I could control it and I was wrong. I thought I was smart enough to keep a fine line between reality and fiction. I was wrong.

A Couple Months Now…

About a month into my social media cleanse, something bizarre began to happen; sites that never emailed me before began to “check in”, to let me know “all that I was missing”. That was Instagram. Facebook? Where it once told me if someone was having a birthday, I have wrought its fury and now receive email notifications mentioning individual actions my friends have taken. In this dystopian hellscape of a world, I know it is only a matter of time before its probing yields success. The emails have gone largely ignored other than mere curiosity and now horror as I watch the information age turn against me as I ignore it data.

Every Other Ad

As my language skills progress, the algorithms become confused. I know this because I get ads in German, Spanish, and now the occasional French. What was initial excitement has now devolved into questions that I’m not really liking the answers to. I’ve been giving information freely to Big Tech all throughout my 20’s thinking overall the benefit outweighs the cost. It took a Pandemic but I finally see the value in privacy albeit a little too late. There’s enough data to be on the cusp of dictating my behavior and that scares me. I worked at a Call Center? Here are some Call Center jobs I think you’d “enjoy”. Here’s a book, here’s what your friends are doing, and the list goes on.

Dating Apps: When Hinge turns into Fringe

If Hell exists on Earth, surely it exists in the form of our ever connected age. Dating, has become a matter of quantity over quality. The sacred has become a mad dash for people to be coupled and as I’ve found, strictly virtual dating is opt for failure. I’ve longed for a meet-cute and a chance to hold on to a moment of love that is more than a fleeting, long lost grab at the wind.

I have no solution

As will no doubt be a theme with this month, I have no easy solution to the problems I now find myself facing. Will I cave and reinstall dating apps? Perhaps. Will Facebook and Instagram manipulate my habits enough to shift what is now strictly a computer only affair to a once-again obsession I never knew I had? Perhaps. Will Twitter continue to be the societal destabilizer it has always been? Most likely. There is no avoiding the information age, that much I am certain. And it may become impossible to live with, if we are not already there. So all I can do now is try to disconnect while I still can and hope others are doing the same, that people are rejecting the notion that every moment must be digitized and that it is ok to exist in your own bubble, even preferred. And for the love of God, have the actions to back it up. Words are cheap, actions are not; in an age of little action and many words, wouldn’t it be nice to plant your feet firmly in the ground?

Brave New World: Utopia or Dystopia?

A common misconception with Dystopian novels is that our immediate assumption is that in an effort to create a world of ideals, those ideas somehow go wrong and that the mechanisms in place for these societies are twisted and perverted. We are looking for reasons as to why these societies could never work and very rarely do we entertain the idea that perhaps, indeed, they could.

And yet, that is exactly the question posed in “Brave New World”. It is not an evil society and the moments we wait for, the big reveal, dissipate. Depending on who you are, you might very well be happy in this society, if you can look past the horrors.

The Premise

With stem cell research a hot topic nowadays, I find it fascinating to read about a novelĀ  published in the thirties that has a society based on individuals incubated in test tubes. The dystopian twist is this is how classes are formed within the “Brave New World” society. In theory, everyone could be born an Alpha or a Beta, as it only requires an oxygen adjustment to the tank. Yes, that’s right. Depending on the amount of oxygen one receives during incubation will ultimately determine who that person will become. Less oxygen means you’ll slide closer to gammas, deltas, and epsilons. As can be guessed, Alphas rule over society and have the most freedom, Betas do important work but generally lead simpler lives while epsilons exist at the bottom of society, doing the undesirable work. To make matters worse (as if oxygen starvation wasn’t enough), toddlers are conditioned to hate that which nature intended for them to love. At night, inaudible words are played to dictate behavior and you have a recipe for a perfect dystopia.

And Yet…

The book touches on themes such as lifespan and poses a rather interesting question; would you rather live until 60 in perfect health or live past 60 with the potential of decline? In the book there isn’t much of a choice but the question has stuck with me even years after reading the novel (yes, I started this review years ago). Through Soma (the typical Dystopian happy pill), a world free of pregnancy, and open relations like you’ve never seen before, one might argue that this society doesn’t seem all too bad (at least for Alpha and Betas). One could also arguably make the case for Deltas and Epsilons that ignorance is bliss in what is just one of many controversial ideas of this book (still shocked this was written in the 30’s).

Hard to Say

The book also touches on the idea of Reservations and explores the concept of whether or not we are truly better off with unabated technological advances. The reservations preserve the culture and are left largely alone by the “modern” society. The book touches on many themes during this portion of the novel and is best read fresh. I could go in more depth but pondering the questions raised in this book while reading was quite enjoyable.

The Verdict

Even after years of reading the book, the concepts and ideas stick. This is a Masterpiece of literature and a must read. The ideas discussed and analyzed are some of the best I’ve ever read in any dystopian novel, putting it in a class all on it’s own.