What Would Happen If…

I use social media. I got into it late, but I use it now. I would say my level of usage is intermediate. I don’t post every day, and if my career and hobbies were something other than a freelance creative writer, I likely wouldn’t be on it at all. So I am grateful for its existence in that I have another way to share my projects. That said, I have also collaborated in person, advertised in person, and self-published my work both before social media and within the last few years. 

I wonder, though, how my life and career would be different without Instagram or Facebook? I also wonder if I do reach a point where I no longer need them to help support my work: Will I use them at all? That may be the goal- to be able to work and create without the worry, hassle, pressure, and distraction that comes with social media. I think it is necessary to confess my usage of social media before posing the following loaded question. 

What if social media disappeared? 

It wasn’t always there, and we got by okay, but could we survive if it was to go away? Would we go into withdrawals? Would we grow into better, more productive people? 

Yes, social media is an incredible creation. It’s innovative, and it is accessible to anyone. But has it benefited society? Has it helped improve quality of life? What would happen if we didn’t have social media.

One effect on our daily lives would be losing the need to do things for everyone else to see, read, and know about. If we didn’t have social media as an instant outlet for everything we experience or feel, we would have to experience and feel things for ourselves. We wouldn’t go to a concert and stream it just because the artist is popular, or because we want others to know we were “there” or because it’ll get a lot of likes. We would go to the shows we actually wanted to be at and enjoy them. We also wouldn’t be trying to catch everything on camera to try and get reactions. 

Imagine being at a live sporting event or meeting a celebrity and not filming or streaming the experience but instead living in the moment and experiencing it yourself. This would force us to focus on how we feel about the world around us. It could inspire us to change our surroundings and what we do in social situations. We would also be more intimate and honest with ourselves and possibly have a stronger identity. Everything we do would be more genuine, not motivated by our online presence. Perhaps we would become more independently confident individuals.

I believe without social media, we would be closer to our friends and family. Social media allows us to keep in contact through posts about what we are doing and where we are going. We can communicate by a status update or by leaving a message for someone to read later on. Posting something actually involves no interaction. It’s impersonal. Maintaining a close relationship with people from impersonal status posts or comments is hard.

Furthermore, if we couldn’t share our photos with everyone online, then we’d have to do it in person. Imagine being excited to meet up with a friend to look at the photos and tell them about the backpacking trip you were on or how great the concert really was. People close to you would be the ones you would communicate with. People who’s relationships actually matter to you. Being a friend is more than reading a post. Can that online friend even hold a conversation with you when you are together in person? Have you ever even tried talking to that person? There would also likely be more phone calls or texts, leading to phone calls to check how people we know and care about are doing. People may have fewer friends, but they might have more meaningful and beneficial relationships.

In the same vein, without social media, perhaps kids could leave their school troubles at school. They wouldn’t have to be concerned with what everyone: friend, victim, or tormentor was doing at night. They wouldn’t have to read passive-aggressive or blatantly aggressive and life-damaging messages or posts from someone who already beleaguers them at school in person regularly. They wouldn’t have to feel pressured to keep up with what everyone has posted on a nightly basis. Instead, they could reach out and connect with their friends. They could spend time speaking or texting with people they actually care about and want to be involved in their lives. Isn’t building personal relationships and developing in-person social skills important for becoming a functioning young adult? 

In the meantime, they could just be the kids they actually are when they are at home, away from the eye of the public and the pressure of social media. Maybe cutting out having to see what everyone else is doing or planning for tomorrow would reduce their stress and anxiety, letting them worry about just consuming content they choose at night and maybe even getting better sleep. 

Without social media, we would have to look at the news on our own. Social media provides a constant stream of news stories that someone has to post. This means there is a reason behind the story being available for you to specifically consume it. This doesn’t mean there’s always a sinister agenda, but if there is a post about a police dog then the post is about feeling a certain way toward dogs and police. These same stories may never cross our radars without social media. We would have to seek out news and consume what we are interested in. Yes, we may be limited to only the information we want to see. Still, at least it’s an individual conscience choice. Currently, social media is used to get points out into the ether. Rather than discuss news stories or even provide the whole story, many just post the news story or portion that impacted them. When it’s up to us to seek out news, it forces us to be more responsible. Instead of just riding a wave of what others provide for us to consume, we can control the information we take in. We can delve deeper if we are interested in a story rather than just reading comments from others. This may help us be more accurately informed in the areas that can benefit our specific needs.

Social media makes art, opinions, and marketing vastly easier to publish and experience. Anyone can instantaneously post their art and have it seen by many in moments. This benefits those with many followers, those who present their product in a highly trafficked area, or simply outstanding work. The fact that anything can be posted immediately creates the need for more to be created hourly or daily. Delivering content every day results in daily developed and published content. It does not necessarily result in long-term well-polished work. It doesn’t lend to making connections, learning the process, and doing the legwork to get your product out there. It is DIY made easy, perhaps so easy the value of the actual work or art is lost. It’s instant gratification and in turn, instant feedback, which may not be well thought out or genuine either. Finally it’s an instant need to get back in there and grind another piece out as fast as possible. Is art a grind? Without social media, the only art that would get out there is what the artist works hard enough to get published or displayed in some way. This could be pitching a story idea to a publisher, self-publishing, or having your artwork displayed or for sale at a bar. We wouldn’t have as much to compare our work with that may influence it or drown it out, and we wouldn’t be able to just put anything out there. This would lead to rejections that would help us learn and work harder if we want to achieve our goal. We would have to be more creative and crafty than taking 5 minutes to post to have our work noticed and consumed by others.

Similarly, people post their moment-to-moment feelings on social media. More often than not, people use it as an outlet when they are frustrated or having a great time. This makes social media a kind of black-and-white target where we fling our most extreme feelings. Once it is deposited there, everyone else has to take it in while we sit, relieved that we’ve gotten it off our chest. This can lead to post after post of bad things and negative thoughts. It’s somewhat good for the poster because they have spoken their mind, but these thoughts should not always be shared or posted somewhere where they are documented forever. Just complaining about a person or situation also doesn’t resolve it. It makes the poster feel better for a minute, but it’s not a discussion, reflection, or therapy session. It’s more like shouting the first thing that comes to your mind in public. This display of negativity not only weighs on each person that reads it, but also may have later consequences for the poster, such as personal conflict or losing a job. Without a place to instantly release our feelings, maybe we would take a moment to reflect. We may learn to control our emotions and make more calculated responses to the tough situations we face. Or we could reach out more personally to someone we trust or need to have a discussion with and actually find some common ground or resolution.

On the other side are all the happy posts sharing every good feeling, occurrence, and accomplishment. This can be good to see, depending on the situation. It’s usually an honest post proclaiming how great things are for the poster, showing us that good things do happen. The problem is that when we read 8 or 9 of these daily, we start to wonder why we aren’t having a great day. Every week someone posts their amazing trip or unbelievable vacation. After seeing pictures from a few of these, we start to think of our last vacation, which was less than a week and about 2 years ago. Likewise, every other day, someone posts pictures of their beautiful new baby. Meanwhile, we think of how we can’t have children due to a health condition or finances. Even if all the “best day ever” and “most incredible night” posts are legitimate, we shouldn’t have to compare our lives to everyone else’s. We know when we’re having a great day. Unfortunately, if we see someone else’s great day looking way better than ours, suddenly ours isn’t so great. Without these heightened reality posts coming to us every hour, maybe we could find more balance in our own lives. We could become more satisfied with what we have and what we are doing when we only have ourselves to compete with. This could also eliminate any unhealthy feelings of jealousy and skepticism toward our friends or even “friends” or followers who really don’t play into our lives at all.

Lastly, without social media, everything we say wouldn’t be documented for the whole world to see and see again. I’m not completely sure whether this point is more good than bad. Social media has been used to destroy many people’s lives based on the things they’ve posted. What would happen if we had to take people for who they are and at their word? We couldn’t form an opinion on someone or organize their destruction unless we personally knew them or really went out of our way to do so. People comment without reading all the time. These comments that people sometimes even anonymously post can affect peoples’ mental and emotional states and livelihoods. People wouldn’t be able to instantly show who they are in a given moment of lapsed judgment or emotion or say something they may regret forever. People’s whims and words would have less of an impact. There would still be movies, articles, and daily news to record people’s thoughts and actions. It would be much harder, though, to go on record and do something hurtful to others or inadvertently to yourself. We also would be unable to dig up an old conversation and use it to our advantage 2 years later. This may help us live more consciously in the present.

It’s true that without social media, there would still be the internet, comment sections, and text messages. It’s also likely true that all of these combined don’t lead to the number of varied problems social media currently creates, thanks to algorithms and paid advertising. Social media can be used to bully someone into suicide from across the world, to influence the election of powerful political figures, to stream videos of someone dying while the person filming stands by. Yes, it is convenient. Yes, it makes money. Yes, it provides a platform for everyone. Yes, it is time-consuming. Is it necessary? No. Does it make our lives better? (See above) If it went away now after having it, we would either prevail and benefit from it or be a lost generation forever longing for our missing apps. I believe eliminating social media could make us better people because we rise to the occasion when the circumstances present themselves. For starters, just think of what we could do with all the extra time…


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