The Fear of Disconnect – FOMO
It would be a fair statement to make that we live in the ultimate era of connectedness, in a society where pretty much everyone makes use of at least one social media platform to ‘stay-in-touch’ or to ‘keep up-to-date’. There are countless platforms to choose from and you can even earn money from them if you can work out how to do it really well. The teenagers that I teach can barely exist without their phones and, if it’s not on Snapchat, did it even really happen?
As a society we are led to believe that you are somehow disconnected if you’re not part of the online world in one form or another. And, if I’m being honest, this was the exact thought that crossed my mind this week the split second before I then decided to hit the delete button for my own personal Instagram account.Will I become disconnected? But I really do believe that this fear is a total myth; it is the great lie of our time in which the most connected generation ever is quietly addicted, often anxious and profoundly lonely.
No, I wasn’t addicted but I still decided I wanted to quit…and I haven’t looked back. This blog is to share some of the main reasons behind my thinking in the hope of helping others wrestling with the same unhealthy vibes while acknowledging that there are many good uses for social media as well. I also understand that my ‘complaint’ with the way social media is often used isn’t the way that everyone approaches the technology.
We’re Not Worth Following
Firstly, I began to notice that some people never followed me back even though I ‘technically’ knew them and had interacted with them in ‘real life’, perhaps not closely, but well enough to stop to speak to in the street, for example. I would press their follow button, start seeing their posts and soon realise that they had absolutely no desire to be connected with me on social media. Maybe I’m the only one who feels that this binary breakdown is a little awkward but awkward is how it is, especially if we were to then bump into each other at church and chat as people who pretended they knew or even liked each other. It seems to me that what happens is that our accounts are assessed (though I’m not entirely sure what the criteria is) and the outcome is that we’re not worth following.
We Are Worth Following…But Only For A Follow Back
Secondly, I might actually connect with someone on Instagram but then at a later date they’ll decide to unfollow me! I’m never really sure when the decision is made, or what the exact rationale may be for their limited interest in my account, but maybe at a point when they think that it has been long enough and that I won’t notice or that it simply doesn’t matter anymore because they don’t see me very often. Like me, you’re left to wonder if this happens for the same reasons that someone doesn’t follow you in the first place, that the social media connection with you simply isn’t valuable enough and you don’t quite make it through the monthly cull.
Social Media Voyeurism
Thirdly, it would amaze me that I would be ‘connected’ with people who simply never engage…people who are never social. Sure, they’d watch my stories, clearly make use of the platform every day but, despite my regularly interacting with their posts, they would never ‘socialise’ with me…ever. Imagine this in a face to face scenario:
Aren’t we always warned to be mindful of the things that we do say on social media as though we are speaking face to face with the person? Similarly, don’t the things we neglect to say or like or acknowledge or answer also speak volumes? Essentially, when someone consistently chooses to use social media like this – as some kind of social-media-never-responding-elsitist-voyeur – they’re still ignoring a person just like if they crossed the street when they saw someone approaching they’d rather not be. Are they embarrassed to ‘like’ your posts, you wonder, or maybe you have just been absorbed into a faceless number of following? But you left a nice comment on their post, so they must have seen it?
Essentially it all begins to feel a little elitist and more than a little weird.
When There Isn’t Enough Good
Obviously there are people who don’t use Instagram or other social media platforms in this way – I hope you’re one of them: people who genuinely want to connect, share and like without hesitation. And so I’ve had a fresh awareness that all of my close friends are outside the realms of social media; I realise now that I had naïvely fallen into the trap of thinking that I was being further connected by the use of Instagram.
However, if I’m being honest, the real truth is that I would be upset by the way in which I felt I was being assessed or ignored – a kind of internal erosion at the hands of social media. This will sound completely ridiculous to some people and I may be told that I am being overly sensitive or have totally unreasonable expectations of how these platforms should be used but the way in which social media is sold to us is actually often not the way that it is used. In reality, I was not better connected at all and on top of this surface appearance of things it was having a negative affect on my heart and my mind and my time. And that is the very point where I realised it was time to quit: I realised that if social media, in fact, isn’t social at all and isn’t producing good things in me, regardless of what people say, then there is no place for it in my life!
Instagram and Twitter are just social media platforms, neutral technologies created to bring people together, but, as a society, it’s really interesting to examine what we’ve done with them, how we strive to use them. I’ve found the Instagram culture to be unhealthy and definitely rooted in the mentality of having as large a “followed:unfollowing” ratio as possible. Creating our own little ‘kingdoms’ like this is not a new thing, it has literally been happening forever; this is simply just the new way of doing it.
Here are my three concluding questions that I think sum up what I’ve been mulling over during the last few days since deleting my Instagram account/app from my phone:
A) Firstly, how do we honestly view the people that we are connected with online? Are our interactions driven by a Godly desire to build up and be fruitful? Or are we more concerned with how people view us?
B) Secondly, if at some point you’ve previously felt that social media isn’t for you then…that really is okay! That may be a temporary or a permanent thing but the truth is that no social media platform is needed for the people who we are really close to and a lack of online presence has never stopped anyone making friends.
C) When you decide to interact, or not, with someone on social media, for you is it more to do with the person or the content that they post?