Social Media is Rotting Your Brain, and Other Unicorn Stories

by elli on August 21, 2013

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing a resurgence in the Social Media Demonology stories that I saw a few years back.

You know the ones:  The ones where someone tearfully discusses all their personal reasons for hating social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Pinterest, whatever’s new that month), and why they’re going to no longer read it/post on it/participate in it.  There’s always some kind of moral to the story, and the author almost always asks his or her readership to join him in his/her disavowal of a particular type of internetting.

Almost without fail, these people have one of two reasons for quitting whatever it is they’re quitting.  Time and/or self-esteem.  I notice that for men, it’s usually time, and the women I’ve seen with these pleas, it’s self-esteem.  (Granted, my reading isn’t a representative statistical sample, so take that as you will.)

I’m here to tell you, folks:  the problem is not the social media du jour.  It’s just not.

What it is is far more empowering and far less whiny.

This thing is a time suck.  I want my life back.  I spend horrible numbers of hours on XYZ media.  

These excuses drive me nuts.  Like, insane, nuts.

Sure, Pinterest can suck hours out of your life.  Facebook is an easy way to kill a morning.  I hear that Twitter people lose entire days to constant checking.  (I don’t Twit; can’t tell you from experience.)

Here’s the deal, though:  So does television.  So does a really good book.  So does busy work for the sake of doing something.

Your problem is not social media.  Your problem is time management.  If you can’t stop clicking one more status or refreshing your pins just one more time, the common thread of an issue here is you, not the tools you’re using or the media you’re consuming.  Social media is not your issue, so please, stop the big, impassioned speeches about how bad social media is for productivity.  You’re bad at time management, period.

(whine) Social media makes me feel bad about myself and inspires comparison, so I’m leaving.

I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen variations of this over the past few months.  It’s as if they think Facebook and blogs are some kind of whispering fairy that flits in their window at night and tells them they aren’t good enough while they sleep.

There are going to be people who have it more “together” than you.  Probably a whole lot of them, in fact.  It’s how life works.  (And usually, just like with blogs, it’s your perception of better that’s the problem, not your “togetherness”.)

Your problem is not that social media invites comparison.  It’s that social media inspires comparison in you.  It’s in your head.  It’s not up to other people to dim how happy they are, how well they’re doing, or to downplay the good things in their lives just so you don’t feel bad.  You wouldn’t expect that of a friend (or stranger) in meatspace; why would you even expect it online?

Again, the common denominator here is you.  YOU have a problem with comparison.  YOU have a problem with being happy for someone and walking away, back into your own life that you obviously think is lacking in some way.  The problem is not social media.  The problem is you.

As irritating as these unicorn stories are, there’s a golden bridle in them both.

If the problem really is you, which, let me assure you, it is — then you get to fix it.

In fact, nobody else can.

Stop blaming something outside yourself for your own reactions to things.  Take some responsibility for yourself and how you feel, and fix your time management/comparison/esteem issues.  

And in the meantime, stop blaming unicorns for your problems.

They, like the “problems” you’re purporting to stem from “social media”, don’t exist.

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