The Dark Side of the Internet
Why I left Facebook?
I think it’s been more than one and a half years since I have left Facebook. I installed a time tracking extension in my browser and after a few days when I checked my average daily usage, it was 6+ hours per day for just Facebook alone.
I was so shocked when I realized that I had been spending so much time scrolling, comparing myself with others, arguing, and waiting to get reactions from people that I don’t even know in real life. I instantly felt the need of fleeing away from it.
Leaving Facebook wasn’t that easy because of FOMO, dopamine withdrawal, and most importantly, Facebook’s option of canceling the deletion request in three months.
Well, I eventually did succeed in leaving it and I am proud of myself for that.
There was something wrong with me at that time which I wasn’t able to realize. I ended up learning about the Inferiority Complex and instantly realized how it was rooted in my personality from very childhood because of some environmental factors.
Facebook was perfectly exploiting this and had made it so worse over time. I was seeking validation and comparing myself with others a lot. It just affected my overall mental health in such a very negative way. Apart from that, it was also holding me back from pursuing my career. I couldn’t do anything productive because of mental fatigue.
Downsides of Social Networking Platforms
The above scenario made me realize how badly these platforms affect not just our mental chemistry but also our emotional stability (if we rely on them for emotional support).
I am not generalizing anything here, everyone is different. Some people start defending these platforms saying moderation is the key. If it doesn’t affect them negatively then nothing wrong with that.
But, let me tell you this, a person who’s not already intensely busy in their other daily life activities doesn’t have a choice of not getting addicted to platforms that align with their interests and are filled with such pleasure.
Every time we use these platforms, we make tons of decisions. Decisions like whether to tap on a post, whether to comment or react, etc., are the reason we end up with decision fatigue and feel less energetic afterward to do something productive.
Don’t believe me? Spend an hour scrolling some social media and observe how it has drained all the energy from you and you don’t feel like doing anything productive anymore.
Now, these platforms do have their pros but the fact that most of them exploit our natural need for socialization just to generate more revenue is daunting.
It doesn’t just stop there though, those platforms which generate ad-based revenue sow the seed of materialism in us. You and I both know how shitty materialism is. The need for more never lets you get any satisfaction in life. Materialism is still there just because it’s the backbone of capitalism. It exists for the same reason things like tobacco or pornography exist and is still legal in a lot of countries.
Apart from the way they generate revenue, many of those platforms are designed in a way that they support deceptiveness more than reality. Take filters for example. Why do you think they were created in the first place?
With the data of billions of users, their artificial intelligence algorithms have gotten so better at everything that they can easily become an addiction for a normal human being.
The Dark Side of the Internet
Even though I have been specifically criticizing Social Networks in the past but I think it’s the Internet in general that apart from being so useful can also impact our lives so negatively.
The need of experiencing life to the fullest is deeply rooted in us as humans and that almost always involves other humans. As McCandless has concluded at the end of Into The Wild that “true happiness can be found only when shared with others”.
But, in this absurd and unfair universe, some humans don’t have what it takes to experience it with others. Maybe they are responsible for this themselves or they were just made from a broken mold, the reason for them being like this doesn’t matter. Take Japan’s Hikikomoris as an example what do you think made them live like that?
Not just complete hermits but normal people having all kinds of disorders, phobias, and complexes like social anxiety, inferiority/superiority, narcissism, etc., can use the internet in such a negative way that they can affect not just themselves but the whole world.
The Internet gives us a sense of belonging because we virtually interact with actual people after all. Not just that, to a great extent, we also get to fake our personalities or be completely anonymous.
That emotional support or the sense of belonging given by the Internet can never replace the actual emotional support that we need in real life. Internet friends can’t replace real friends. Internet interactions can’t replace actual real-life interactions. Of course, you get the freedom to be anonymous or to pretend to be someone you are not but honestly, it’s depressing to wear a mask or hide behind a curtain.
In the past, when people were only exposed to a few other people via physical interactions, the chances of them getting exploited by others were far less. Now, when we are exposed to millions or billions of people who can directly hack the platform and steal our data or just social engineer us into doing things that we normally wouldn’t wanna do, it’s hard to stay safe.
Not just other users but the platform itself can use your data in some nasty way without you knowing about it. Take Cambridge Analytica as an example, a British consulting firm that obtained the personal data of millions of Facebook users and predominantly used it for political advertising without their concern.
Authenticity of information
There’s is no way a platform providing you the information can itself analyze if the information is authentic or not. It’s you who can seek the evidence but most of us just don’t. We see a story written by some random user and if it aligns with our personal agendas and gives us the self-righteous feeling we instantly believe in it and spread it without ever questioning its authenticity.
Social networking platforms aren’t just full of misleading information but also a heck amount of baseless conspiracy theories which can cause utter destruction in the world.
What Can We Do About It?
I am not asking you to lessen the use of the Internet or leave social networks in any way. In fact, I myself, spent most of my time over the Internet. It’s just that after spending countless hours behind these screens I have observed some stuff that I really wanted to convey to you via my words.
The first thing you can do is to start tracking your screen times and your overall habits over the Internet. Check if it’s holding you back from doing what you want to do. You should at least have an idea of how much time you spent over the Internet and what you spend that time doing.
- Don’t believe in everything you see over the Internet. Just because it’s well written or long doesn’t mean it’s authentic.
- Always, Look for the evidence. Check if it is confirmed by some well-known and trusted resources. If you don’t find any, be bold and ask the person who posted. If they say they heard it from someone then you’ll know that their post is baseless.
- Don’t rely on the Internet for any kind of emotional support. You shouldn’t be relying on the Internet to fulfill your natural need for socialization. Socialize in real life and when you do so, truly be present. Honestly, put your phone aside when sitting with your family or friends.
People are unreliable and even in real life, you shouldn’t be expecting much from them. But, over the internet, people are temporary.
- Realize that internet a place where people come to have fun and can be snowflakes while doing so.
- Learn the basics of the Internet. If you can’t distinguish between a fake (phishing) website and a real one then, in my opinion, you don’t really know how to use the Internet. Google is your friend, use it to educate yourself. You should know the bare minimums such as the difference between HTTP and HTTPS.
Quoted from the Atomic Habits by James Clear;
The people with the best self-control are typically the ones who need to use it the least.
According to Clear, our environment plays a great role in our overall success and the successful people aren’t those who have more willpower but those who shape their environment in such a way that doesn’t require heroic willpower. Start there, shape your environment in such a way that you don’t have to choose between doing some fun activity over the internet or doing something productive.
Most importantly, don’t scroll, don’t get in the rut of some useless fun activity that has no end to it. It’s far better to watch a single video, an episode, or a movie because they aren’t infinite like the scrolling tab of Facebook.
I hope it has helped you in some way. Good luck!