Getting Healthier #4 : The Social Elephant

Good afternoon reader,

Let’s have a talk about an elephant that is in the room of the vast majority of the globe’s citizens. This elephant is a bit different of the elephants in the past. This elephant keeps you updated on current events that are more relevant and tailored to your day-to-day life. Also, this elephant has most likely increased its presence in your day-to-day routine over the years, especially 2020. The thing about this elephant, is that it likes to change clothes every few years. Back in the day it used to wear a MySpace sweater, then over time, it found a new cozy hoodie with the Facebook branding.

After a while, this elephant decided to dress for more warmer weather since the climate is getting more extreme with its swings on a yearly basis. It found this cool, straight to the point, tank top with the Twitter branding on it. Neat! It felt trendy! After a while, of course, the clothing got the usual wear and tear and it was time to upgrade. Some people’s elephants chose to try on some new clothing like Instagram, TikTok, Vine, WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat, Discord, and Reddit. Some clothes this elephant adored and some people’s elephants just wanted to stick with the good ol’ tried and true Facebook hoodie or the Twitter tank top, depending on the season of course.

If you folks have not already understood the metaphor and my dripping sarcasm up to this point, I will go ahead and tell you that this elephant in most of our rooms is social media.

I am in the generation where we grew up *with* the internet. As technology was released and adapted into society, we squeezed it right into our routine and found its utility and entertainment factors. We knew of a time where technology was spare, other than booting up your parents Windows 98 machine and playing some games or eating up their bandwidth to their chagrin.

Fast forward to now, we’ve got our smartphones, smart televisions, watches, you name it, we’ve got it! Honestly, we probably paid some good money for it too. Since we grew up with technology, we have the uncanny ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, so we probably know what brands to get versus what brands not to get.

No matter what platform(s) you might use, you were aware of this news. If you were a Facebook heavy user, you were very aware.

When talking to many different people from different generations and age groups, such as my remote co-workers, I think everyone was surprised. After many conversations, I can safely assume that most of the shock was from the fact that a big tech giant such as Facebook can even have an outage. Some folks had an “oh shit” moment though, because they rely on Facebook to log onto certain apps (which is a no-no) and others rely on applications like WhatsApp and Messenger to keep up with immediate family members.

Most people on the Internet were in unison in the fact that we are aware of the discord and divide websites like Facebook knowingly instigate. Many people will get on there and fight endlessly with other people that are diametrically opposed to them on almost every front. Usually these battlegrounds take place on a random page’s comment section or perhaps a friend of a friend shared a non-sense article and it stirred the pot.

Of course on Facebook’s end, they don’t care. The discord drums up activity, therefore drumming up advertisement revenue.

Unfortunately though, it’s causing great social harm with people. It almost feels like Facebook’s algorithms have a bias toward getting to know what you like and associate with. After they get a good idea, they really like to expose you to contradictory comments and posts, especially from people that you know.

Just think about that! No wonder we are all at each other’s throats as a collective.

I remember a time, such as the 2004 election, to where the main battleground was people’s television sets. The evening news would cover a little bit form each side and then people molded who they preferred in their own minds. People weren’t exactly as outgoing and willing to air out their beliefs to just anyone on the street. Now in private, casual conversation with people they know, that was less of an issue. If one family member said they liked GW Bush and the other preferred Kerry, they would have a brief dialogue on their stance. If both disagreed, oh well. The topic was dropped. Then, the conversation would shift to “Don’t ya just think the Razorbacks weren’t ready to go to Baton Rouge and deal with those Tigers the other day? “Gosh no but they tried!”

I feel like we’re missing this kind of thing in the modern world. It’s fine to believe what you want, no matter how outlandish it might be to others. Most people’s ideals were more central and morally grounded even back in a time like 2004. Some people slightly swing one way or another, but most people could find some easy common ground. These days, it seems like a major struggle just to agree on one damn thing with folks.

All of this got me thinking: “Do we all have a social media addiction problem?” I firmly believe the short answer is yes.

So how do we combat this addiction?

The answer is the same for most other addictions. Results may vary and your experience may be different than others. You might need a whole different remedy for others.

For the sake of this piece of writing, let’s use me as the subject of this thought experiment.

The experiment being, “What do we do to curb the social media in order to protect our mental health?”

So, it has been known to some people, mostly strangers online that I have formed a tight community with, but also my wife, that I have an alcohol consumption problem.

Once I get going, I can’t really stop until my goose is cooked. It’s a discipline and self control thing. I can elaborate on this whole tale later on but to keep this train rolling, I decided to listen to my body and just stop drinking for the foreseeable future. Maybe one day I have a drink with a friend, maybe I just don’t ever again. I don’t have any pressure to stop or I’ll lose X or Y will never happen. This is of my own free will and accord. It’s part of my quest to take back my mind and use it to get my body healthier.

The key factor is that my body was giving me signs after signs that I should quit. My mind has started to do the same with social media. I don’t get the entertainment that I used to, plus, many of my peers have quit posting as much as well.

Social Media is a whole different animal to deal with versus an addiction to booze, drugs, or even sex for some folks.

In some regards, we can’t just go away from social media. Some of us rely on it to make a little side money, like Facebook Marketplace is good for selling stuff I don’t need around the house.

Other people though, might need to drop it completely. Especially you younger folks out there, like Generation Z. Just know that these “friends” of yours that you think are outdoing and out living you at all aspects of life are mostly likely more broken down and quite bluntly, fucked up, than you will ever be. They need social media as their vessel.

Now, I think the key remedy is to take a platform like Facebook and see if we can mold it into the social media that we need it to be.

Why do I log onto Facebook?

  1. I want to read the local groups, such as our local town discussion groups, to keep up with current events in town and ask what that new building being built is gonna be. Good stuff to know!
  2. I like keeping up with peers that I don’t get to be in touch with directly. I don’t have their emails or phone numbers, so I have to either resort to their page for their takes or I have to use Facebook Messenger. I have one friend that does a great job of digesting news from premium sources. He condenses the story’s narrative in about a paragraph and can really extract the meat and potatoes but the irrelevant and starchy stock of the story goes down the grain.
  3. I like browsing the local yard sale groups and auction groups. Sometimes people just don’t need things anymore and you can get some great deals.
  4. I watch a livestream of an auction in Russellville every so often. This big lady gets on there for a few hours and runs a remote auction of stuff and it’s a great place to get the atmosphere of a redneck auction without actually going to one.

That’s about it! Unfortunately though, it feels like my Facebook feed has gotten so out of hand over time that I have to dig through so much shit, like 75% of my content, just to find that 25% that I really care to read.

I think goal number one is to try going through my Facebook page in the next 48 hours and really see if I can strip Facebook down to its bare essentials. This will probably take 48 hours because it will take multiple sessions to really sift through everything.

Let’s do one more: Twitter.

In short, I like using Twitter to keep up with a couple podcasts that I listen to. I can interact with them on Twitter and have some fun conversations with the hosts. Also, I like using it to gauge breaking news type of events and get some on-the-ground reporting that the mainstream cable news used to be known for, before they became the unfortunate money centered scourge that plagues us now. Lastly, I like to follow Arkansas Razorback media guys and link to their articles so that I can keep up with the teams.

Other than that, that’s all. I felt that I did a great job containing my Twitter feed that I wish to do with my Facebook feed. Over time though, I feel that I have allowed more “shit” to permeate on my feed.

Folks, ideally the goal is to see if we can get our social media platforms tailored to give us the Dragnet experience “Just the facts, ma’am.” No more, no less. Ideally, we can give each platform a quick scroll during our breaks and get caught up and then instead of continuing to scroll and get sucked in, we might can find some extra time to enjoy the world itself.

This challenge will probably be more helpful for the younger people out there, but if anyone else is just not enjoying their social media experience anymore, see if this piece of writing will help you jump start the cleanup of your feed.

I’ll report next week and let you guys know how my journey has been. As for the other platforms, I only used Reddit, YouTube, and TikTok. TikTok has been uninstalled. Just a bunch of junk. It was fun to browse and see what it “is” but it’s just a bunch of junk, in my opinion. Reddit is the platform that I keep clean. I use it for my news. I’ve got different subreddits that I follow like politics, college football, doctor who, I mean it is Shane’s Daily Briefing to a T. With YouTube, I love having it during my work remotely. I’ll find some random documentary and have it playing while I’m drafting. I have learned a lot from YouTube.

I wish you all well, and I will be in touch with you all again soon. May you be blessed with whatever deity or supernatural force you choose to believe in and enjoy the rest of your day, reader.

So what really inspired me to start writing this particular entry into my blog?

Well, yesterday, Facebook and its associated applications and platforms it has acquired over the years went offline for most of the day.

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