Is the internet making you miserable?


Kanye West seems to think so, at least in regards to the social media:

“There are people who are committing suicide due to not getting enough likes,” Ye tweeted Saturday (Sept. 22). “Seeking validation in the simulation.”

Ye’s tweet links to a recently published New York Magazine article — titled “Kanye West Is Finally Right About Something: Twitter Should Lose Its Metrics” — that cites comments he made suggesting that social media platforms should shut off comments, likes, retweets, favorites on posted content.

“We should be able to participate in social media without having to show how many followers or likes we have,” West tweeted Sept. 20. “Just like how we can turn off the comments we should be able to turn off the display of followers. This has an intense negative impact on our self worth.”

The rapper and fashion designer also likened the amount of likes someone has on social media to “how much money you have in the bank” or “having to write the size of you d–k on your t shirt.”

Kanye is neither the first nor the last to focus on what the incessant comparing ourselves to others online – more often than not the prettier, wealthier, more successful, happier (or at least pretending to be) than us – is doing to our self-esteem, self-image and the sense of self-worth. Some have noted that after decades of decline, the suicide rate amongst the American teenagers has started to rise again after the advent of the social media in the mid to late ’00s. Part of that might be a result of cyber-bullying, which is itself facilitated through the internet, the social media and smart phones; arguably, trying to measure up to unattainable ideals of success and perfection during the most confusing and difficult years of growing up might be another piece of the puzzle.

But short of self-destruction, there are a number of other ways the constant connectivity has been changing our thinking and behaviour:

San Diego University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge noted in a 2017 article in The Atlantic, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” that, “Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs. … It was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.” The social findings included not hanging out with friends; no rush to learn to drive; less dating; and increased loneliness.

Technology addiction “will increase as technology continues to advance and application, game and gadget developers find new ways to ensure users’ long-term engagement with technology,” cautions Isaac Vaghefi, assistant professor of management information systems at Binghamton University-State University of New York.

Smartphones have given us the ability to self-segregate and interact only with like-minded  people. This may help to explain, in part, why our politics have coarsened and real political debate quickly devolves into anger and name-calling.

People in the tech industry itself are increasingly concerned about the impact their products and technologies are having on their children, which probably tells you more than any general studies could. It’s probably a good advice that no child – or indeed no adult – should be spending the amount of time now routinely spent online every day on any activity with the exception of sleeping and studying/working – even things that are generally looked upon as good and useful like sport or reading. Unbalancing your life so radically is bound to have an impact, the same way that an unbalanced diet does. We need variety to stay healthy, in body and in mind.

I’m not a Luddite, and I don’t think we should all disconnect – although if you want to join the increasing number of people who do, go for it, as long as you make an exception for The Daily Chrenk (actually, considering the outrage quotient of TDC maybe you’re better off not making that exception). All innovations and technologies, perhaps with the exception of medical ones, have some ambiguity about them; not all consequences are uniformly positive, not all consequences are uniformly negative. The internet is no exception. While its benefits have been oversold by tech enthusiasts for decades now, it has brought much good into our lives, mostly by way of convenience. But we should be aware of its darker side. Be smart, be moderate and don’t let the social media become the anti-social media in your life.