One like, comment, or share on a social media platform can put you within reach of content you never knew existed. Social media algorithms have the insane ability to shove content right in your face. In a world immersed with social media, this has created a mindset I did not want to be a part of.
“I see you show a minor interest in astrology,” the social media algorithm speaks very non-transparently to me. And in some mysterious fashion, my entire “For You” page turns into a hub of astrology content. It starts telling me my soulmate happens to be a Virgo man with dark brown hair and olive skin, and then from this, I start obsessing over every masculine Virgo who enters my life. From prior experience, I can tell you right now that a Virgo man will never be my soulmate- but the point is that this is what the algorithm does. What once felt peaceful, all of a sudden turned into an overwhelming rabbit hole of insecurities.
What You Are Liking Matters
After mindlessly scrolling for hours, I would eventually come to see that the social media algorithms had caught up with me. The hidden hashtags I used to think about and the consideration of what it means to be credible were long forgotten. Every action I contributed to my TikTok for you page or Instagram feed led to an array of content I did not want to see. What I was liking really truly mattered. I was immersed in triggering content. I was seeing things that brought back past insecurities I thought I had fully moved on from. I had physically endured the effects of the social media algorithm, and my eyes were too drawn to the screen to even realize what was happening. It is almost impossible to be exposed to social media and not feel the mental and physical effects of what I like to call public enemy number one: social comparison.
Video after video of influencers living a life I will most likely never live is something unavoidable on social media platforms. While I pride myself on natural confidence, not even the strongest person can endure the wrath of social media and the influencer community. I was letting content like this dictate the way I viewed myself, especially my body and physical features. Things I used to love about myself were quickly turning into the perfect victim for judgment. This would lead me down a path of deadly comparison to the people living these lifestyles. The algorithm didn’t stop there. One like on a cooking recipe that happens to have low calories in it would turn into an entire for you page on cutting calories and excessive dieting. One like on a video explaining how to properly lift at the gym would lead me down a black hole of extreme workout content, especially of girls who looked nothing like me. My once excited mindset about going to the gym would soon turn into the complete opposite.
Everything you like matters, but apps like TikTok also have features that force your friends’ content down your throat. Introducing the repost button! While at first I saw this as a positive way to share things I like with my followers, it quickly turned into a feature I loathed. Once again, triggering content that I felt like I had no control over was right before my very eyes.
Cutting the Cord is Scary
Be prepared for what I am about to say because it may shock you. I deleted TikTok about a month ago. You may be wondering how I now survive and thrive in a world so dependent on one platform that I no longer have access to. This was the ultimate question I asked myself for about a week when I was considering cutting the cord on one of the most popular social media apps in the world. To me, it felt like cutting the cord was equivalent to cutting off real life connections with friends. It felt like cutting off my connection to the world. As if TikTok was the wireless connection to every meaningful piece of content I would maybe one day consume. My biggest fear when stepping outside the realm of everyday mindless scrolling was the fear of missing out.
My tie to social media was profoundly broken after I let go of my intense FOMO. Here’s a little secret: deleting TikTok was the best thing that has ever happened to me. The only thing I seemed to be missing out on was an Alix Earle makeup tutorial and a horrific new dance move that I will never be able to master. I know what I just said is very, very enticing, so hopefully, you still see where I’m coming from with the whole let’s-delete-TikTok-thing. But let this be the proof that I was indeed never missing out on anything. It was actually the exact opposite. I was letting social media tell me how to live and how to feel about life.
It is increasingly difficult to consume a piece of content and not let that content consume you. Social media has been a huge dictator of my life. It’s become a way to research, to plan, to create, to practically do anything. The algorithm had turned a potential place of enjoyment into an unfamiliar place of the past: an insecure and overwhelming world. I would like to have the freedom to choose what content I see and become a happy person because of it. While my courage to delete other social media platforms is slowly being summoned, maybe I’ll do some research on how to use this newfound freedom I have. Forget using the internet, that’s so old school. Let me get some inspiration on TikTok- oh wait! I think I’ll just use my imagination.