Friday, June 14, 2024

Koraidon from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Area Zero is a cool place.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Social media stinks.

I'm stepping away from social media until humanity can get its act together, and I'm writing this post to encourage you, dear reader, to critically examine how you use social media, how it is affecting you, and if there is anything you feel you should change about it. I don't enjoy being a Negative Nellie, but with the prevalence of social media in everyone's lives nowadays, I think it's a topic that requires serious consideration, and more people need to speak out about how much harm it can cause.

I don't think I would label myself a social media addict by any means. I could barely handle Facebook once a day. I really only signed up for Twitter/X because I was hoping more people on there would be interested in my work than on Facebook. I even had an Instagram account for a period of time, but deleted it because the spambot comments on my posts were super obnoxious--and I got more of those than comments from real people. Suffice to say I already had a pretty low opinion of social media in general, but lately my opinion has just gone through the floor, and I've finally realized that the handful of ways I benefit from social media are not worth the heinous drawbacks.

I'm posting this not to expect you to sympathize with my problems, but because recently I have been made increasingly aware of just how toxic and detrimental social media can be, and I want to spread awareness in my admittedly small sphere of influence, because one never really knows who one is reaching and how it is affecting them. I'm writing this because I care about you, reader, and your mental well-being. I'm giving you permission to take care of yourself.

Social media is an open forum, and humanity can't handle those right now. In an ideal world, everything people say would have value and meaning. In reality, mental illness makes a lot of absolute rubbish come out of some people's minds. And one of the really unfortunate things about social media is how it gives the illusion that said senseless rubbish is on equal standing with actual intelligent reason. 

Just as bad, it gives mentally ill people the opportunity to connect with other mentally ill people, giving them a community where their insanity is validated, enabled, and normalized, which is probably the worst possible thing one could do for them. Mentally ill people often use social media to say and do things they could never get away with in real life, and even if you're not actively engaging with these people, it's still harmful to constantly be exposed to their insanity on a daily basis. And it's so pervasive and insidious that no matter how much blocking and filtering you apply, junk still gets through appallingly frequently. 

I'm all for freedom of speech to the widest reasonable extent, and I'm not saying we should (nor is it really possible to) turn the Internet into a dictatorship, but I'm really uncomfortable sharing the same website with the likes of conspiracy theorists and political radicals. If sane people usually try to stay as far away as possible from mentally ill people in real life, why are we being forced to come in constant contact with them on social media? 

No matter how many times I try to tell the social media recommendation algorithms that I'm not interested, crazy people's posts keep showing up in my news feed as "recommended", I have to read their comments every time I go to write a sane comment, and whenever I post something, I kind of cringe a little inside not knowing what kind of weird comments it's going to get. Social media platforms have a long way to go in the realm of actually caring enough about their users' safety to crack down on nonsense.

Social media ironically decreases the quality of people's social lives. (More like antisocial media.) Clinical studies have shown that social media usage contributes to increased feelings of depression, social anxiety, and low self-esteem in teens, but those issues definitely don't stop on your 18th birthday. Even though social media promises to connect you with millions of other human beings around the world, it actually enhances feelings of loneliness and isolation as your connections with people are limited to shallow "likes" and "lols". The Internet creates a horrifying virtual (un)reality that psychologically manipulates you into thinking your interactions and relationships with other users are meaningful, when in actuality they see you as nothing more than a name on a screen and some entertaining words.

Social media does not guarantee increased success in your career. I have written many, many, many posts about my failed attempts to find an audience for my work online. I tried for ten years. I'm exhausted and I have yet to regain all the money I poured into promotional and advertising efforts. When I wrote my first novel, I was given the impression that the Internet would make it easy for an indie author to find an audience--all I had to do was post on social media and the readers would flock to my work. Well, that couldn't have been further from the truth. 

What social media actually does is establish a system wherein users are attracted to accounts that post aggressively, competitively, and on-trend--regardless of what those accounts are actually peddling. Fast food corporations with savvy (and well-paid) social marketing teams have gobs of followers liking their entertaining daily memes, while nobody cares when an author posts saying they published a novel. The priorities of the social media collective simply do not align with the priorities of anybody who values quality over quantity, and if you're not willing to attempt to run that insane rat race of social media content creation, you're going to get mowed over.

So yes, there are some serious flaws with social media--flaws which I could no longer ignore because they were causing me massive amounts of unnecessary stress. I may post on Facebook and X now and again, but they are definitely no longer part of my daily routine. Or even my weekly routine. And again, I strongly urge you, whoever you are, to consider stepping away from social media and finding some better uses of your time. Go outside and touch grass, people. Hug your family. Bake a cake. Visit a museum. Rediscover the wonderfully superior offline world around you.