An UnSocial Life

UnSocial by Leio McLaren via Unsplash

Dave Morrow, an aeronautical engineer, turned landscape photographer, decided that he had enough of social media. That was in 2017. At that time, Morrow had 500,000 followers Facebook and 15,000 followers on Instagram. I am one of them because I love his approach to landscape photography. In a video that he shared on YouTube, he noted:

I felt like all the input of being on those platforms, I would always have a bunch of background static, or conversations going in my head. What would happen if I took all the energy that I spent on social media and devoted straight towards what makes me feel really good: photography and traveling to new places on foot.

Morrow’s comments struck home. Lately, I have been struggling with my Instagram addiction — especially the part where the work of others was starting to transform how I saw my creations. Unlike Morrow, I have no desire to delete my Instagram account. There are elements of Instagram, I love and will miss — for instance, personal stories posted by friends, quirky videos of their loved ones and photos of kids. I just need a break and regroup.

It was the same reason why I left Facebook. And unlike Facebook (which owns Instagram,) I enjoy Instagram, though recent changes to Instagram’s newsfeed algorithm, it too has started to feel like a chore. It looks a mall where you have to walk past many stores before finding a way to your favorite ramen joint. It was time to step back and make photos that mattered to me, without overthinking about how many likes I got, or when to post to get the maximum attention on Instagram. In other words, it seemed like a time for a creative reboot.

This past week, a lot of people have been talking about #peaksocial and #deleteFacebook.  I don’t think deleting apps is the answer. We are social animals, and we need social interactions.

In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, Samuel Veissière and Moriah Stendel, researchers in McGill’s Department of Psychiatry, reviewed current literature on dysfunctional use of smart technology through an evolutionary lens, and found that the most addictive smartphone functions all shared a common theme: they tap into the human desire to connect with other people.

And these days those interactions happen online more often than offline. The problem is that these interactions are put on anabolic steroids by social platforms such as Facebook, who want to capture more of our attention, and engagement so that they can sell more advertising. So what we need to do is temper our usage of these platforms, where we determine, when and how we use them, not how they use us to their gains.

It has been almost six months since I left Facebook. There have been moments when I was pushed into using the Messenger on the phone, and I decided not to follow up. It was hard to overcome the urge to check out the messages on the Messenger app. Facebook doesn’t make it easy — they send you email after email to get you back on the platform. Instead, I post my messages and links to my articles to my Facebook feed from the Buffer App, only to remind people that I have a homestead on the web, they should visit.

March 22, 2018, San Francisco. 

A letter from Om

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