Social media and reality are becoming so intertwined. Can we really escape it?
“Yeah, I deleted TikTok and Instagram, I need a breather.” You may have heard a peer say something like that as a college student. Or maybe you have decided to take a social media break for your well-being. As chronically online as we may seem, young people know that it’s not the best for us. Every day, someone decides to leave the online world. But, like moths to a flame, they always come back.
There is all sorts of content out there touting the benefits of disconnecting from our screens and living offline. Such benefits go hand in hand with the rise of self-care and the growing number of people trying to live a balanced life. You’ll find on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter thousands of people saying how much their lives have changed just from turning off their phones. Yet, despite all of the revelations one may come to while being offline, everyone finds themselves back online to talk about it. This made me wonder if we can really leave it behind.
During the pandemic, everyone got well acquainted with the online space. You had botched Zoom calls with your grandparents and teachers alike. Your inbox was loaded with reminders, and Netflix kept asking you if you were still watching. We all were tired of the internet. And when we finally were able to go outside and touch some grass, we felt liberated. We may have come out with a greater appreciation for what real life has to offer. But deep down our minds grew accustomed to technology. We got used to scrolling on TikTok and watching endless videos on YouTube.
However, our shackles to the internet aren’t just made of quick dopamine rushes from likes and reshares. It’s also where our careers and opportunities are. Think about it. How many people have you met online? How often are you told to “get out there” and network on social media? How many people have you seen forge their careers off of social media? The internet is inseparable from reality. It is in many ways essential to growth. It’s like the old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?”
If you are in the creative industry, employers are focused on how big of a following you have, what reach you have with your audience and what you are promoting on the internet. And even if you are self-employed, the only way you’ll be able to sustain yourself is if people know about what you are selling. Flyers, posters and word of mouth can only get you so far. But social media is the megaphone that beats all megaphones. So as much as some of us would hate to admit it, we need online space.
So we’re just tethered to the internet? Kind of, but there is a silver lining. As cliche as it may sound to jaded internet users (and believe me I understand where you’re coming from), at the end of the day the internet is a tool. It is here to stay, but we have the ability to control what it does to us and what we do with it. Yes, we may need it in some ways, but that does not mean that it has to control us. We can use it to connect with people, share a common goal and make a real positive difference in the world. We can share our ideas online and it makes being a lifelong learner exponentially easier.
But, those who have taken a break are right. We need the time disconnected to really focus on other necessities. At first, I used to think of it as hypocritical that people would praise being offline and come back just to talk about it. But now I see it more like swimming. Swimming is fun and all, but if you don’t come up for air, you’ll drown.
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