Social media is a great way to connect with friends, family, and loved ones. It keeps us updated with all that is happening in the ‘real world’. It creates a collective where we are all in the same metaverse of knowledge.
This keeps us locked into the system, as we subconsciously get invested without actively opting for it. Conversations around the topics that we are all aware of become easy, driving more engagement. Thus, a loop is created, making us feel we are connected. High-speed internet changed media consumption over the last decade, enabling us, willy-nilly, to get addicted to social media. Not surprising then that we often find ourselves mindlessly consuming content. Twenty minutes of YouTube becomes two hours in no time. We get hooked because all the social media platforms these days are powered by Artificial Intelligence, or AI, which, based on our surfing habits, has the ability to tailor the content based on our likes, and hence, gets us hooked.
With technology constantly evolving, AI will only get better at knowing everything about us, including
what we like to watch, what we want to eat, what we listen to, what we buy, and what we like to wear. Consequently, things are only set to worsen as far as our social media habits are concerned. Unless we act now, we will be spending even more time mindlessly surfing for 15 seconds videos of cars, dogs, and people dancing. So, what can we do about this? How do we face the all-pervasive and baneful influence of Artificial Intelligence and social media without getting hooked on to it?
Understand how notifications work
‘In a world where attention is currency, stop being robbed by your notifications’ is an adage that one should read at least once a day. If you spend more than 20 minutes daily on social media apps, you’ve fallen prey to the algorithm. Anything more than 20 seconds is content you did not intend to consume today. It’s something you chanced upon, with ‘chanced’ being the keyword. The best way to steer clear of recommendations is to not click on them. Watch only what you came for, what you already follow. When you find something new, you often tend to get into uncharted territory, which will quickly turn into the proverbial rabbit hole, getting out of which will take time and effort. Look at it like this. You are walking home from work. You have a set path that you have chosen to reach. But as you begin your journey, you spot a rabbit, and you get drawn towards it because you love rabbits. After a few minutes of pursuit, you realise you must get home now. So, you stop and turn around. But now you see a puppy, and you love puppies. You stop to play with the puppies a little more. And now, you are even further away from home. This is precisely how notifications and recommendations work. They know how to get your attention, what you like, and what would get you to click, and consume more. The moral of the story is to stop playing with the objects in your path and go home. Allocate time and monitor it to understand how often distractions get the better of you.
This brings us to the next point.
Stop liking and counting the likes and views on all posts
There are specific behavioral reinforcements from the information rewards we receive after checking our phones. The dopamine-reward pathway in our system is being targeted in a way where we only feel satisfied once we check our phones. Social media notifications are tailored to get this kind of attention from you. If users are bothered by the number of likes too much, they gradually reduce the content they share. But they remain passive consumers, those who scroll mindlessly. Those who overcome this number bias find themselves to be the ones who drive content forward. Social media consumers are thus broadly classified as either of the two, and together they form the ecosystem. Stars like Kim Kardashian, Deepika Padukone, and Justin Beiber have taken breaks from social media to refresh their brains. Once ‘refreshed,’ a new reincarnated version of their digital personas is built. Kanye West recently took a break from social media after reports of his divorce from Kim Kardashian were revealed. It is a standard method adopted by those who wish to regulate their usage to clean the slate. He, however, came back after a temporary hiatus and shared intimate details of what was going on, drawing us in further.
Actively train what Artificial Intelligence learns about you. By controlling what your AI learns about you, you train a version of AI that serves you. You allow it to become your assistant, which adds value to you. Be mindful of the content you ‘like’ and see how changes into something you can benefit from. If you’re spending more than two hours a day on social media, take the three-day detox challenge. Delete the social media apps for three days, and continue to use your phone. Monitor how you spent your day and how many tasks you could accomplish without the distraction of social media.
Taking time away from the noise helps one hear their own much louder. It allows us to set goals independent of how they would be viewed or perceived. This challenge allows us to understand who is in control of our attention when we are living a life with social media turned on 24/7. Social media is designed to get users addicted to their devices. The social media companies know how the notification sound works for us. In the popular Netflix special The Social Dilemma, the creators have taken a deep dive into how children are the worst affected, and have become the first generation to experience a social media-driven culture change. Avoiding social media altogether and moving on to an obsolete version of media is not the solution either. The answer is to be in control.
Thus, if you wish to rewire your brain for social media, begin by rewiring your digital brain by manipulating Artificial Intelligence. Make it your ally, not your master. By implementing the suggested changes, your content creation and consumption patterns will see a difference that will alert your AI. That is when the rewiring begins. See you on the other side.