There are many reasons to wean oneself off social media; data privacy is just one of them
Election firm, Cambridge Analytica's usage of Facebook user data, has opened a can of worms. While this revelation came as a shock to many, I think it was a long time coming. Our private data and online behaviour have been monitored for a few years now, and Facebook is not the only one doing it. Remember the last time you checked flight tickets for a raucous weekend in Goa only to find advertisements from travel portals popping up even when you weren't looking? Our internet behaviour has long been precious marketing fodder for various businesses. If an election firm such as Cambridge Analytica using our data is unethical, so is the manipulation of consumer behaviour!
The fallout of the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook controversy is also picking up steam. A campaign to 'Delete Facebook' has gained momentum with billionaire Elon Musk's Tesla Inc and SpaceX scrapping their accounts. WhatsApp founder Brian Acton, actor Will Ferrell, and now Playboy are following suit. But, is the common Facebook user ready to give up on this addiction? And addiction it is. We can spend hours of what could have been productive time, aimlessly scrolling through Facebook feed, watching videos, checking out advertisements, or stalking our friends and acquaintances. Giving up on this social networking site is not only necessary to protect our data but also our sanity. It is also very, very tough. We are addicts of Facebook, we need our daily fix. But lots of studies and research is coming out to show us the errors of our ways.
The psychological implications of being hooked on to websites such as Facebook are grave. Feelings of discontentment, unhappiness, body image issues, have all multiplied thanks to Facebook. We can't hold the social networking site accountable for feeding all our insecurities but it has had major repercussions on our mental balance. Relationships are weaker as social sites serve up human options like a buffet. Children and young adults develop unrealistic expectations from their lives and the human anatomy. No, you can't get a waist as narrow or a body as perfectly contoured without surgery. The fact that cosmetic surgery, for instance, is widespread and easily affordable is being fed to impressionable minds. The dangers to health and horror stories are cutely hidden behind perfect visages. For that matter, every time I turn on Facebook, someone I know is vacationing at some exotic location while I sit in front of my laptop writing this. Someone is always holidaying, and it's not me!
The ills of social media are vast and its impact, irreversible. Social media, in particular, and Internet usage, in general, can be so debilitating that tech giants such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs limited their children's usage of technology. Sleep patterns are heavily compromised due to the increased time spent on computers and smartphones. A new study, for example, states that human attention is shorter than that of a goldfish because of excessive screen time! Cyber addiction has become the latest lifestyle disease to join the bandwagon of new illnesses slated to torment us. Not only children and young adults, even senior citizens are glued to the smartphone.
For the ones who are dependent on Facebook for their business, self-discipline will work best as there is still no denying the network's phenomenal reach.
Some friends tell me that ever since they have deactivated their Facebook account or reduced the time spent on others, they are more positive towards life, happier with their current jobs and relationships, and getting more work done than ever before. There are many reasons to wean oneself off social media; data privacy is just one of the reasons. So are you ready?
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are personal)