Social media, which started as a small sharing platform for various types of content, have taken over our lives. With the data boom and algorithms, we are becoming extremely limited in our thoughts and activities. The content being pushed to us is catered as per our beliefs and views; we see only what we want to see. It went from too much random information to information suited for our needs. We have unknowingly been moulded by the influence of social media to behave in a particular manner, to express ourselves in a certain way and to seek validation from thousands of people you never know existed.
Social Media and Gadgets Dictate Our Lives
We open our eyes from a highly disturbed sleep. The previous day we posted something on Facebook and Instagram, not knowing what the reactions would be during our sleep. Reaching for the phone is the first thing we do after waking up, we missed the buzz, the distinct sounds, the pop-ups and the screen lighting up. Failing to embrace the new day, our loved one nest to us, the warmth of the sun and the sound of the chirping birds have become a new norm and an accepted normal.
We missed the small yet powerful feeling piece of silicon, which made us feel that we had a purpose of carrying on with our lives. We fail to embrace what is real; only to swipe away till it’s time to attend college or work. The hopes of cooking breakfast, rescheduled to the next day. We keep doing this the entire day, pushing away things that are real and can have a lasting impact on us. We have become addicted to social media, news and everything that we have access to through our phones. The beauty and reality that surrounds us – ignored!
You Can’t Beat the Algorithm.
A simple truth that we tend to overlook is that we can’t beat the algorithm; we either become a part of it or ignore it. Present algorithms have a basic principle attached to it – engagement. They want us to be engaged all the time; constantly scrolling through our feed, connecting and commenting on others posts. What they get in return is your data; your preferences, tastes and behaviours patterns. What we get in return is the dopamine release on the form of likes, comments and followers on our account.
We just keep hustling with something in mind; a goal to increase followers, comments and likes. The more we ponder, the less sense it makes. Followers and likes are synonymous to achievements to us now; the AI has engulfed us. The social media “Gurus” preached us; we could tame the algorithm and beat it at its own game. We proudly believe that we have conquered the algorithm.
The Fake People
We start to feel that we are a part of something big, feeling a sense of community, a sense of responsibility. People start commenting and sharing your posts; a few of them genuine, the rest, just expecting us to return the favour, to achieve their botched view of beating the algorithm. If you’re sceptical about this, try posting a below-average photograph on your Instagram feed and write some lengthy caption below it. The vast majority won’t read it, but they will comment; how fabulous, amazing and stunning your photograph is. It is them desperately trying to beat the algorithm. We too become a part of this fake community who doesn’t value what others are doing.
We want the numbers to rise on our feed; we do get that. It is said that numbers don’t lie, but an economist or statistician will agree that numbers do hide. They hide intentions, the fake behaviour and the shallowness of the ‘loving’ community, which bestows us with a tangible sense of belonging.
Content for Validation
Our hunger for validation from this community that we have built arises. We seek out all the pages and groups that feature other people’s work. We observe a pattern emerging, certain types of content dominating over different types; we tend to navigate towards that particular pattern and style so that we can have a bite of the pie. Sincerely believing that we receive the gratification, approval and validation from others; not to mention the small fame. It provides us with a sense of satisfaction, further establishing our belonging in the community.
We start creating for others, only to get that validation we always wanted and has been craving for. We forget what we set out for, what we wanted to do; forgetting our targets and happiness. Each time we post something or create something, thoughts flow through our head: is this worth posting on our feed? We lose ourselves only to become someone that we do not know.
Losing Your Identity
Forgetting who we are, we have let ourselves be moulded as a new person, someone we didn’t know before. Each time we think of something, there is an internal battle, a conflict in our mind: ‘Is this me?’; we ask ourselves. But we end up bending to blend in with the tribe, our online community. Our sense of belonging that we dearly yearned for has been fulfilled.
Yet, when we put down our phones and turn off all our gadgets, we are lost, solitude and restlessness creeps in. We feel pain inside us; sadness engulfs us and life seems bleak and dark. But we still don’t realize the beauty inside us and the beauty that surrounds us, something that we can feel and embrace. We end up switching on the pieces of well-crafted silicon to reaffirm our identity.
It would seem as if I have entirely left out the good things and experiences that can be obtained from social media. To be honest, I did that on purpose so that the narrative will have a pronounced effect on the reader. There are good, genuine people in social media and you get to meet like-minded people too. But, we must set limits to avoid being trapped in the virtual world.
In case you have realized that you are one of the people who have lost their identity, and wondering how to break out of this and find a real purpose; stay tuned for the upcoming blog posts.