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Social media is basically Big eTobacco


Screen time. I thought I had it licked. The last phone I had used to measure the screentime and admonish me for overdoing it. I had an allotted time of social media and then I was gently urged to put it away. It seemed like it was working.

Two things happened: 1) Like any addict, my resolve weakened. I just started lying to my sponsor, messing with the settings. And 2). Because Apple itself is addicted to selling us new phones and had built in obsolescence -a fancy word for complete shiteness- into the battery, I needed a new phone.

This next phone promised some kind of screentime regulation but since it wouldn’t be in the (different) phone manufacturer’s interest either for me not to wear out the presumably crap battery, it didn’t enforce it. Especially during lockdown, I was a mess. Doomscrolling on bad news and online rows.

I think we all pretty much know now that social media is basically Big eTobacco. It just needs you alive and consuming or two people to replace you so it doesn’t die when you die. 

I use social media so I can kid myself I’m doing something about trying to sell tickets and also to be occasionally funny online but the negatives were outweighing the positives. “What’s on your mind?” asks Facebook with fake concern, “What’s happening?” says Twitter because it’s a cool dude. 

But I know they saw me shuffling like Bubbles in The Wire (up to Season 4). Pathetic. Guys you know what’s on my mind. I just need some of that sweet sweet dopamine rush from a notification. 

What do you say guys? Either of you got a little notification number next to my name. If they didn’t, I was heading over to get the poorer quality stuff on LinkedIn. Drugs cut with nonsense. “Celebrate five years being connected to Timmy McDontKnowHimFromAdam by giving ‘kudos’.”

Well something had to give. I downloaded an app called Freedom and PAID GOOD MONEY for it to lock me out. Now Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

I’ve positioned the app next to the social media apps and all I need to do is angle my thumb a smidge to the left and throw it on for 25 minutes. Freedom does not come to play. 

It shuts down the offending Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, the news websites, the website that gives minute-by-minute updates on the number of covid cases in the world (because who doesn’t need to know that all the time). It doesn’t negotiate. It kicks me out.

I will make no claims as to its effect on my productivity. I haven’t written the great Irish novel in the meantime, or thatched a roof or shredded my torso. But little by little, the urge to get a notification hit slackens and I feel less annoyed with myself.

I can still feel the twitch now. But it passes. And when I reward myself with a look later and there might be a few updates to enjoy and actual new news to read. But often, it turns out I’ve missed nothing. Someone has added 240 photos to the Album Gas Craic In Carrick. Unfriend. I can’t have someone in my life who can’t decide which of 30 photos of the same plate of chips is the one to post (Hint: It’s none of them).

Someone else has put up a 1000 word poem about The Good Old Days Long Ago And How Children These Days Probably Don’t Know The Taste of Sour Milk. Well, that was a bullet dodged.

On the other hand, with all this extra time, maybe I’ll write my own poems. So I suggest you download the app to avoid me.

  • Colm brings his new stand up show ‘Climate Worrier’ to the Curious Gardens festival in Doneraile next Sunday. Tickets www.curiousgardens.ie



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