Delete Your Social Media


Andrea Worthington

The Daily Illini

David A. Bandera, Staff Reporter

It goes without saying that social media kinda runs the world right now. The internet provides seemingly limitless access to information and entertainment, and at first glance, that sounds like nothing but amazing.

But have we actually given social media too much power?

If you use social media apps like Instagram and TikTok regularly, then you will probably answer yes to this question: Does scrolling on social media ever make you feel bad about yourself?

The reason a lot of people answer yes to this is because social media operates through an algorithm, a sequenced equation designed to digitally collect your interests and fixations. The algorithm has zero cognitive or psychological ability, so it does not know what you actually like or dislike, it only keeps track of what you consume online.

The algorithm is not scary because it aims to collect your personal data, it’s scary because it works. Case in point: Generation Z is generally addicted to TikTok, an app specifically designed to trap its users into an endless doom-scroll. A common phrase users type in comments sections go along the lines of “My for you page said for YOU today”, alluding that TikTok’s user-recommended feed is digitally personalized accurately. This, of course, is no coincidence. When you like and share a post about Taylor Swift on TikTok, the app now registers you as a consumer of anything Taylor Swift. Instagram is a culprit of this as well, though TikTok seems to be magnetically designed to keep users scrolling.

Snapchat, on the other hand, poses a different problem. Snapchat is almost exclusively known as the go-to communication app, and there is not a lot of typical content to consume and therefore, not a lot of opportunities for the algorithm to put you in a trance (though they do utilize it). Snapchat is discreet; chats disappear in 24 hours or after being viewed, users have the option to create private post stories with select people, and you can read people’s texts without them knowing. Texting in general has greatly altered how we communicate, and Snapchat arguably has the biggest hand in that alteration.

There is nothing inherently wrong with an app like Snapchat, it seems to aim to build communities among people which in itself, is good. The problem arises when we assign so much social power to these apps that we let them dictate our behaviors. Cyberbullying, for example, would likely not manifest into actual bullying because cyberbullies have the safety of the screen so they can hide from the moral reality that they are attacking an innocent person. Furthermore, Snapchat almost functions as a caste system in that people parade themselves and others over having high snap scores, which is determined by how many ‘snaps’ you send. People with low snap scores, however, are frequently looked down upon, and definitely not deemed as ‘popular’. In other words, social media enforces the status quo.

An age-old argument is that social media offers an inaccurate portrayal of peoples’ lives. This is largely recognized and proposed on various platforms, yet adolescent social media users still feel the according negative affects. While you can regulate what you post on social media, you can never regulate how someone else is going into interpret it. No matter what is proposed about the reality of social media, it is undeniable that social media has conditioned the masses, especially of adolescents, to internalize social media into their own world carrying a stupid amount of significance. Hardly any common belonging is considered as personal as our phone. The phone is usually the first thing we turn to when we want to distract ourselves. The distracted mindset does not inherently encourage rational thinking, therefore social media is built upon cementing itself as an almost entirely separate reality.

I deleted TikTok over a week ago, and I have been significantly less stressed out. I’m more focused, more disciplined, and overall in a much better mood. If everybody deleted some form of social media, I firmly believe they would see improvements in their mental health. Staying away from social media helps you focus on yourself and what your real goals are. TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, BeReal, among others, while they do encourage and bolster social interaction, in the long run, it is further locking us to the phone screen and away from reality.

If you notice that social media is making you feel bad about yourself, distracting you from your goals, or distorting your sense of reality, it’s time to temporarily delete social media. Drink more water, exercise, really focus on yourself. Despite how much social media automatically suggests, there is only one tangible reality. Don’t take it for granted.