A look at why we need to break free from the tech cage
Late last year, the debates around tech addiction were rekindled, when Netflix released Jeff Orlowski’s docudrama, The Social Dilemma. People were shocked to see how we were being systematically manipulated by algorithms to remain online. Plus, the effect it has on news, polarisation, elections, depression and suicide rates. The film lists out how the big bosses at these prominent social media platforms have a separate policy for their customers and families! It created such an uproar that Facebook chose to respond by putting out a seven-point rebuttal on the documentary, which only got it even more views!
Social media is a bewitching place to be. It’s allure is indisputable. It’s free too. However, like they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Tech giants like Google and Facebook, which now owns Instagram and WhatsApp, have been cashing in on our inability to go offline for years. Here’s looking at some of its ill-effects on our brains…..
MANIPULATION AND ADDICTION
Jaron Lanier is a digital pioneer. Now a self-confessed web rebel, he wrote a book in 2018 titled Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now using his insider’s expertise. He explains the workings of social media as such: It deploys constant surveillance and subconscious manipulation of its users. In a review of the book in The Guardian, excerpts read as this: “The algorithm is trying to capture the perfect parameters for manipulating a brain, while the brain, in order to seek out deeper meaning, is changing in response to the algorithm’s experiments. Because the stimuli from the algorithm doesn’t mean anything, because they genuinely are random, the brain isn’t responding to anything real, but to a fiction. That process of becoming hooked on an elusive mirage—is addiction.”
Research says people with low self-esteem are prone to depression and are more likely to spend time on these platforms engaging in higher levels of social comparison. You seek constant validation. Not only do these apps decrease our self-esteem, the reverse is true too—when our self-esteem is low, we spend more time on social media.
Bangalore-based psychiatrist Dr Sowmya Krishna, says, “Social media’s a double-edged sword. When used appropriately, it helps young people stay connected. The downside, however, is ugly. When it becomes a forum for bullying and body shaming—it can affect self-image—causing anxiety and depression.” If you’re already depressed, social media can make it worse, but even if you aren’t, you might develop narcissistic thought patterns that will negatively impact your mental health. “Narcissistic vulnerability contributes to persistent and intrusive negative feelings, which in-turn lead to depressive symptom severity.”
A FALSE SENSE OF COMMUNITY
Social media apps are often used to share your lives with people. Whether you’re on holiday or at a party—you’re so hooked on showing off our experiences. There are studies that reveal that tech dependency has led to an impoverishment of social skills, making people unable to have meaningful conversations because such skills are being sacrificed for constant connection, resulting in short-term attention and a decreased ability to retain information.
Chinmaya Sharma is a content creator and passionate diver. “I laugh off trolls coming for me. It’s just a faceless person sitting on his phone with nothing better to do. What really gets me down is the kind of abuse my female guests get when I create something with them. They’re just vile and appalling.” Otherwise sane and courteous people suddenly get aggressive, sarcastic and abusive. It’s either their way or the highway! Put a device in people’s hands, and suddenly they’re on a hair-trigger—either giving or taking offence. Don’t even let us get started on the perverts who pray on children and women!
So, are we trapped in this digital cage forever? We are up against a monster that feeds on our addiction. If you can’t live without ‘checking-in’, start by acknowledging the fact that social media has become a source of dopamine (which FB was built to provide) hit for you. Start with simple steps: Turn off notifications, have an app to monitor your screen-time and shut off your phone at bedtime. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Go offline whenever you can. Stay sane. Stay free.
[Image Credit: Freepik]