Social media has become dominant in our lives and our world. We’re told that it’s for having fun and making connections. But behind the likes, shares, and comments on social media, there are harmful experiences that are often hidden.
Take a look at these powerful stories from #MySocialTruth, a platform for young people to bring their voices to the movement for humane technology. Reading stories like these and sharing our own experiences can give us more insight into what is really happening on social media, and what changes we want to see.
Social media platforms are shaped by a race for our attention to keep us engaged and change our behavior in exchange for profits. They’re built on technology that’s powerful enough to keep us scrolling and clicking without ever really taking a close look at what we’re doing.
To articulate your social media story, let’s first examine the role that social media plays in your life.
Take a look at the following questions. Write your answers without thinking about them too much. The more you focus on getting your thoughts out, the more you’ll learn about your experience. You can organize and clean them up later.
Take inventory of how you use social media:
Then, be honest with yourself about what you’re experiencing on a daily basis.
Some of our individual experiences may be positive: we may feel connected to a friend, feel validated when people love something we’ve created, or we might just have fun seeing what people are up to online.
But these positive experiences can also lead to something darker: a feeling of constant comparison or inadequacy, a need to constantly show that everything is good, struggles with isolation and mental health, or the feeling that we can’t log off even when we want to.
Social media has had some devastating effects for society. While each of our experiences are different, the fact is that these platforms are designed to compete for your attention, and can hijack our behavior to do so.
Sharing your story can have a real impact. Around the world millions of people are struggling to have healthy relationships with technology, and reading stories about that struggle can help people feel less alone and ashamed.
People in power are also watching: employees advocating for change in social media companies have been eager to read stories on MySocialTruth, as have members of Congress.
Company executives, board members, and investors often focus on the benefits of their products because that’s what is profitable. But your story can help to force them to consider the widespread harms that are often hidden in painful experiences that are never shared.
Stories with the deepest impact do the following:
If you’re stuck or can’t think of a specific story, read other stories on MySocialTruth, or consider these prompts:
Whatever your story, write it clearly with vivid details. Revise your story until you’re sure it is communicating what you mean for it to.
Remember that sharing stories requires bravery and vulnerability on the part of the storyteller and great listening from everyone else.
Our stories show the complexities of the attention economy and the specifics of our experiences. If we understand one person's story well, and we know large numbers of people experience the same thing, we can now see the larger story more clearly. To make sense of the frightening statistics about the impact of social media we must understand the human stories behind them.
Once you’ve shared your story and listened to the stories of others, take a step back and consider your experience. (If you’re working in a group, it may be helpful to answer these questions together):
As long as hacking our attention is profitable, companies will continue to find more powerful ways to do it and these harms will continue to emerge. To change the system, we need to make our voices heard and understand that we’re not alone.
If sharing your story has inspired you to take action, you can: