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Is Social Media losing to the Digital Detox?

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There is no doubt that during the Covid-19 pandemic, people have spent
increased time online and on social media. If we can’t socialise, how else
are we meant to keep in ‘virtual touch’ with our friends, family,
colleagues, or generally the outside world? You can’t blame us.
Whether it be the Joe Wicks workouts, scrolling through endless TikToks,
or increased everyday use of Instagram, I think the majority of us might
admit we mare be picking up our devices more frequently than the pre-
pandemic days.
However, while on a personal level, our own social media habits might be
winning us over, on a broader front, the functioning appeal of social media
is facing its own challenges. Last week, President Trump was banned
indefinitely from Twitter, previously his preferred space to share his
controversial opinions and thoughts. This has sparked discussions of the
realities of such platforms, where echo chambers expel engagement with
alternative views, and creates a political vacuum. Similarly, the Duke and
Duchess of Sussex have announced they will no longer be using their
Instagram account to update their 10.4 million followers on their new life,
due to becoming disillusioned with the ‘hate’ they have received. Notably,
this has followed the arrival of their all new podcast, Archewell Audio,
which has not received the ratings they were perhaps hoping for. But,
they are slowly climbing the Spotify Podcast Chart list, after initially being
beaten by Deep Sleep whale sounds.
Perhaps most strikingly, a compelling lockdown watch would be the Netflix
documentary, ‘The Social Dilemma’. The Guardian writer John Naughton
calls it ‘a wake up call for a world drunk on dopamine’. The director, Jeff
Orlowski interweaves a fictional and factual representation of behind the
scenes tactics which companies such as Facebook and Google use to
manipulate their users.
While for many, this is the kind of awareness they have been waiting for
to awaken the public from their social media stupor, it seems the only
temporary fix has been the ‘digital detox’. But is it too late? Are we past
the point of regaining control over the limitless influence which platforms
such as Instagram hold over us? And if not, how will we release ourselves
from being hostage to the powerful psychological network of data,
recording our every move?
This article is not waving the banner brandishing all social media as
malicious. We all know the positives of online engagement can be beyond
beneficial. Ultimately, the core issue is that we have lost control over the
potentially darker side of an intangible internet force. Perhaps now is not
the right time to pick our battle with Social Media, when we have a graver
victory to achieve against the virus. But, it cannot be denied that the
foundations of social media are beginning to sway.

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