(Recently, someone emailed asking me how I formed my quite negative opinions of social media. That very email inspired this article; Thanks!)
There is one memory about the internet I’ve never been able to shake from my mind. It plays back vividly in my head whenever someone asks me about social media addiction. The story goes a little bit something like this:
I was only 13 years old when I stopped using Reddit.
I had started exploring the website after discovering the hit PC video game, Kerbal Space Program, through its large presence on YouTube. There, one could find many videos of players making rockets in this simulator to meet challenges that were being set on this mysterious website called “Reddit”. My younger self was excited to find this brand-new forum to see what other players were up to. There were pictures and videos of people’s crafts, text guides describing how to get to other planets in the game, and of course, many rocket challenges to choose from. Everything seemed alright so far. But little did I know, this was a trap being sprung.
Soon I began venturing onwards, to more perilous parts of the website. There were many forums that were somewhat neutral and inoffensive like the gaming ones, but then there were many rude, opinionated and highly-offensive forums that only posted the most provocative, heinous and plain offensive “takes” and opinions. I was addicted to reading Reddit: It was a lot like watching a car crash unfold, where one is absolutely disgusted by what he sees, but refuses to look away. I feel what frustrated me was not necessarily the set of viewpoints being shared, but more-so the hivemind-nature of Reddit, how everyone had to forcibly agree if not to be shunned. It was a fundamentally toxic website.
One day though, things took a wildly different turn. I got on a smart phone, and opened the Reddit application to look for new posts. Scrolling for a while, I fixated on yet another post that made me upset. It was this moment that I could genuinely hear myself thinking:
“Wow, I hate this!”
My 13-year-old self had realized that you gain nothing from browsing Reddit. I immediately uninstalled the app and went on with my day as usual. With this, I had broken the spell of social-media addiction for the first time in my life. It wouldn’t be the last time I had to employ this reasoning either, whether with Reddit or not; A few years later, I had the exact same revelation when browsing the Technology board on 4chan.
I still find it hard to believe that younger me thought he was learning something by browsing Reddit. Then again, anyone who’s quit any drug finds their biggest regret is spending time, money and energy on something which only hurts them. With this article, I’m not trying to explain why or how social media is addictive or evil; I think my audience is smart enough to know this by default. What I wanted to share was this peculiar story from my childhood that shows perfectly how thin the deceitful veil over social media is.
If a 13 year-old boy can do it, so can you!
Written by Alex [→ Reply-To]