Full text of Ryan Thomas’ talk: Live in the Moment: Delete Social Media at TEDxAshburnSalon conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
I stand here with a simple offer, an offer that, if accepted, yields instantaneous results and inevitable positive consequences.
My offer is this: the chance to purge yourself of social media and reclaim your personal identity.
I challenge everyone to try going one week without social media, and I guarantee it will change your life. I can attest to this, because I personally have been without any social media for almost a year. And it’s completely changed the way I view the world.
I’m not saying that all social media is bad. Social media can be used for marketing or to spread a positive message to the world.
However, apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are taking over our lives. They’re taking us out of the present moment and causing us to exist only in a virtual world, and nobody should live like that.
Social media has taken over astonishingly quickly. If you think about it, when we meet a new person, the norm is no longer to ask them for their phone number. The norm is to friend them on Facebook or ask for their Snapchat or Twitter username.
In 2008, only 24% of the US population had a social media profile. Now 81% has one. This astronomical growth is because social media’s seen as a “do it all” platform. It’s widely replaced texting and email in a lot of cases, and it’s used as our main source of news. This leads to people spending hours a day with their noses just glued to their phones.
Psychologists at Trent Nottingham University found that we spend twice as much time on our phones as we think we do. And that amount of time is five hours a day — nearly a third of our entire waking lives.
I’m sure you’re familiar with this sight. That used to be me. In fact, I would wake up every morning and immediately reach for my phone. The amount of notifications I had would determine how good my morning was.
“Yay! People want to talk to me.”
I would spend one to two hours thoughtlessly scrolling though all my social media profiles before even getting out of bed. I would check Twitter, then Snapchat, then Instagram, then go back to Twitter to see if anything new had been posted just in the last 30 minutes.
I was an addict wasting my time. And the time that I was wasting was being spent looking at other people’s posts and seeing how I thought other people lived.
This influenced me to shape my life in a similar way, and I took on the values of what I saw online.
In hindsight, I wasn’t living my life at all. I was living society’s life. This is one of the biggest problems with social media. It causes people to live their life based on some “societal” standard.
Humans have always had an instinct to fit in. Collaboration and cooperation were necessary for our species to survive. Because of this, a sense of belonging is one of the most sought-after and rewarding feelings anyone can experience.
Think of the feeling of your favorite sports team winning the big game or finally finishing a group project where each member of the group knew their role and carried it out perfectly.
Successful group interaction triggers the firing of the pleasure centers in the brain and releases amounts of dopamine synonymous with drug use. A feeling of belonging is sought in humans like drug addicts seek their next fix.
And social media is designed to exploit this. All the little features like comments, likes, and being able to share posts are just gimmicks designed to get us hooked by causing dopamine to be released.
I was guiltier of just posting what I thought everyone wanted to see than anyone. I knew that on social media, I was simply crafting an image of myself, but I didn’t care. I loved attention, and I loved the ability to portray myself any way I wanted.
It wasn’t me. I was losing touch with my authentic self. And this problem manifests mainly in my generation. As teenagers have grown up with the internet, we spent our whole lives interacting with our peers online.
We’re more comfortable on our phones than in a face-to-face interaction. And this has catastrophic consequences on our mental health.
Studies have shown that kids who spend more time on their phones have less developed frontal cortexes. And we need our frontal cortex to plan for the future, think rationally, and solve problems.
My generation is losing those abilities because we can’t focus on anything besides our phones. Combine that with the fact that social media is our main source of forming connections with other people, and it’s easy to see why teen depression has skyrocketed 33% just since 2010 and teen suicides have gone up 31% in the same period.