Why Our Culture Stops Us From Thinking Critically About Social Media
Culture is influenced by social norms and social norms are always evolving. Because culture is so much a part of who we know ourselves to be — a quick way to form an identity without having to dig deep within ourselves — we so often tend to adopt new norms without ever considering our decision to do so.
Culture means ‘everyone else is doing it’ becomes our greatest reason for adopting behaviours because if you’re buying food at a stall, it’s always best to go to the one with the longest line, right? Because greater consensus increases the chances we’ve made the right choice. Or so it seems.
This blog is about two of the issues I have with culture, which you may have already identified in the above paragraphs. Here they are:
- Culture gets us into the habit of allowing a large number of other people, usually ones we don’t know intimately, to make decisions for us.
- Culture keeps us from digging deep and getting to the core of who we are, facing our fears and finding the truth, and forming our own identities.
The reason I started thinking about this is because I’m so torn about how I feel about social media and I’m constantly frustrated with myself for getting so sucked in and being so addicted to my phone and checking Facebook and Instagram so regularly. I’ve decided to really really think about it and the best way for me to gather my thoughts is to write them down. The end goal is to make a decision on how I use social media going forward. I don’t want to ‘do what everyone else is doing’. I want to do what’s best for myself, my family and my community.
I’ll start by listing the things I love about social media because life is all about pros and cons (I’m literally thinking and writing on the spot)!
- How easy it is to find second hand things on Facebook, which is awesome for reducing waste and making great quality things more affordable for the average person.
- Support communities online where people can go for advice, to meet likeminded people and learn about things they love.
- Discovering great content through other people’s feeds or channels, especially when that content is a podcast or a book that I end up loving.
- Learning random things while scrolling through other people’s feeds.
- I LOVE being able to share my blog and my love of Jesus with whoever’s heart is willing to receive it.
I DON’T like:
- That social media fills my brain with random bits of information that mostly I don’t use, cluttering my mind and preventing me from being able to focus, to make major decisions clearly, to enjoy free mind space and time and to create my own thoughts. This is a bit of a counterpoint to 4 above. Ultimately number 4 in the love section is more of a con than a pro.
- That social media feels like the nightmares of high school on repeat. High school was filled with the cool people, the weird people, the nerdy people and the outcasts. I never fit into any of group in high school, I wasn’t suave enough to be popular, I didn’t enjoy the conversations and hobbies of the nerdy people all the time and I was always weird but even my weirdness was displaced. Never fitting in has always been something I am most proud of and also most anxious about. Still today when I see the people in high school who rejected me on social media I feel a hard pang of inadequacy that I have to rebuke constantly. This also happens when I see people on social media who remind me of my high school rejectors, those people with the perfect pictures, who say the cutest things, who have the cutest friends, who fit in in ‘the best way’ and get the ‘best out of life’ because of this. When I see their doppelgängers I also feel that pang, meaning that social media gives me a fair amount of anxiety and stirs up an unfortunately amount of inadequacy in me that I constantly need to rebuke. All the worst aspects of high school, a place filled with immature, self-centred and identity-confused or void people, are present on social media. I’d say this is one of the most toxic aspects of social media.
- It sucks you in and you can’t control yourself. When I had my first child i told everyone NO pictures, not to expose my son to phones so soon as I didn’t want him to be selfie and screen obsessed and absolutely no sharing on social media. Fast forward two years and I have an account on Instagram JUST for my son. Call me crazy but I didn’t want this, i don’t want it, I don’t want my son all over social media. I was sucked into the vortex and it just was too difficult to stop myself from doing something I was so against. And being so cluttered by social media, I have no mental space and time to step back and stop myself. I’m going against my own will without a single defender because, it feels like, I’m under hypnosis, social media hypnosis. Cultural hypnosis. Mass hypnosis. I’m. Not. Even. Exaggerating.
- That social media brings the most self-centred, narcissistic parts of people to the fore and that becomes who they are. How can we not admit that selfies are self-indulgent and driven by ego? How can we not recognise how STRANGE it is that we feel normal spending half our lives capturing moments and then trying to delete the least great ones so we can get rid of that inevitable ‘no more storage on your phone’ message. How can we not admit that telling everyone about where we’ve been on holiday or on a weekend and saying things like ‘my friends are the best’ is very 13-year-old-ish and we are all stuck in our teen selves because of it? When did we allow these things to become our worst habits?
- It goes without saying that social media is FILLED with unnecessary poop that people share that we really don’t need to see or read.
- Social media is a thief that steals my most precious moments with my family and friends away from me. I check Instagram instead of adoring my daughter’s face and talking to her. I check Facebook instead of asking more questions to my husband about how he’s feeling in his very busy life. I scroll through millions of photos of beautiful, perfect interiors and kids looking cute in lovely clothes instead of spending precious time with Jesus, praying, in His word and in worship. And most horrifically, I think of all the things I could do if I just didn’t check my phone 80 times a day, the ideas I could come up with and the ways I could change the world.
I could really go on forever if I thought about it hard enough but of course my brain is too cluttered to do so. Having wrote all this down though I compare the pros and cons and I know what I need to do.
I know that even though I love cute organic baby clothes and amazing interiors and beautiful pictures with an orange hue, I don’t want to become so obsessed with them that my life becomes either coveting what others have or working hard to achieve what they have, because when I think of it, these things aren’t going to make much of a difference to my life or those around me, and the money and time I spend trying to get them is certainly needed elsewhere.
I know that the feelings and thoughts of inadequacy that have plagued me my whole life, starting in high school, have NEVER trumped how grateful I am to be Bianca, the girl who was once asked why she always tries to be different, the girl whose answer to that was that she doesn’t try at all, she tries not to be sometimes but just gives up because she fails miserably. I know that the pride I feel in being ‘loved’ on social media is trumped by my desire to not rub my blessings in the face of the many out there who at that moment don’t have what I have and my desire to be a light that shines on the path, so that people can follow the way of the truth, rather than being a harsh, bright spotlight that shines on myself and leaves others in my shadow. My desire to show my life as amazing is always trumped by my desire to be vulnerable and share the whole truth, which I’ve seen countless times is not popular on social media — social media inhibits true vulnerability rather than encourages it.
Lastly I know that I want my mind back and I don’t want to mindlessly pick up the habits of strangers and allow the masses to make decisions for me. I want my mental space. I want my precious time with Jesus. I want to enjoy time with my family now, in the moment, every day, without needing other people to ‘like’ my family life. I want to spend my time creating, sans random influences.
And that brings me to my conclusion.
I want to take fewer pictures. I want to delete my personal profile. I want to limit my phone time to only purposeful posting and purposeful research. I want to utilise every moment I spend on social media to be a light on the path to truth rather than a spotlight on myself. I’m going to achieve this by first coming off completely for a few months. Then having a brainstorm about whether and how and if I can create content that is always nourishing, authentic and informative. If the answer is yes, I must discipline myself to only post and browse at certain, limited times of the day.
I know it will be hard, really really really hard. Because as I said I’m a bit hypnotised by it all. But it’s a must. It will make all the difference. And I’ll do it even if I have to send myself to social mediaholics anonymous in order to achieve it!
As usual, there are probably many people who disagree with my thoughts. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences whoever you are :)