Once upon a time, in a place I call “Before Social Media,” I lived in a world that understood community as face-to-face conversations, hand-written letters, and shared real-life experiences. Then, like a bolt from the blue, a portal opened to a dimension unlike anything we’d seen before: the land of Social Media.
Double Tap to Disconnect: My Rendezvous with the Social Media Tsunami – by Maxwell Alexander, MA, BFA, Certified Fitness Trainer, Bodybuilding & Sports Nutrition Coach
Social Media extended a friendly, digitized hand, promising global connectivity, empowerment, and the allure of being forever relevant. “It’s simple,” it said, “Just tap these shiny, enticing buttons.” I’ve always had a soft spot for shiny new things, so I eagerly stepped into this world of Tweets, Likes, Shares, and Stories. Little did I know, I was boarding a train that would radically redefine ‘community’.
The ride started off exhilaratingly. Here I was, a New Yorker, able to share and receive glimpses of lives from all corners of the globe. But then, I noticed a shift. Likes became a status symbol, a virtual currency people craved. I was caught up in this wave, too, chasing the validation of the elusive “blue tick.”
In the US, where I’d made my home, this quest became a bizarre, often comical spectacle. Fitness trainers started claiming that one could achieve six-pack abs just by breathing right (and buying their 12-week program). Politicians’ promises were replaced with clickbait headlines and filtered selfies. The tool that promised unity began breeding division, creating invisible walls between ideologies and personal preferences.
Social Media evolved into an omnipotent puppeteer, pulling the strings of our minds, dancing to the tune of engagement algorithms and profit margins. It became a master at gaslighting, convincing us we were more connected while simultaneously dissolving the essence of genuine community.
On reaching my 100,000th follower on InstaSnapTokGramBook, I found myself in a quandary. Here I was, reaching a vast audience, but they seemed more interested in the aesthetics of my breakfast smoothie than my discourses on cosmic intelligence or the nuances of design theory. Furthermore, my photography and actual art have lost all of their value by being dissolved in a disgusting hodge-podge of a ridiculous clown show of phone camera-powered amateurs.
The impact was impossible to ignore. I’d attend gatherings where, instead of meaningful conversations about the cosmos or sustainable design, people were obsessed with capturing the ‘perfect’ candid shot. Eye contact was out; screen contact was in. A real, hearty laugh was replaced with “LOL,” and heartfelt stories lost to 280-character tweets.
As my journey through the Social Media dimension continued, I became acutely aware of a darker side to this world. Social Media had a knack for not only mirroring but also magnifying human weaknesses, especially our tendencies toward addiction and negativity.
I noticed that people, including myself at times, were getting hooked on the digital feedback loop. Every ding of the notification bell released a squirt of dopamine, turning our brains into addicts craving for the next ‘hit’. What began as a tool for leisurely scrolling started resembling a casino, where users gambled their time and attention, hoping for the jackpot of viral fame. Hours turned into days, then weeks, as we were pulled deeper into the vortex of digital addiction.
And it didn’t stop there. As the digital landscape expanded, so did the culture of public criticism, enabled by anonymous usernames and the illusion of detachment provided by the screen. Negative reviews began popping up like mushrooms after rain, with the capacity to cripple small businesses overnight when multinational corporations tightened their monopoly on the market destroying any hope for actual choice and free will.
A restaurant could go from full-house to tumbleweeds due to a single, heavily shared one-star review about a waiter’s supposed off-day. This illustrates the potential harm that the culture of online reviews can cause, particularly when people are more inclined to share negative experiences. This can be especially damaging for small businesses which rely heavily on their reputation and word-of-mouth marketing, unlike giant fast-food monopolies that couldn’t care less about literally poisoning their own customers.
Swarms of trolls, can’t grasp the idea that young people/hospitality and customer service workers can, should, and will stand up for their dignity. Privileged get pissed off when realizing that the below-the-poverty-line working class is in no way obligated to be nice to them, fake a smile, or bow down while struggling to put food on their own family table. The damage often spilled over from the businesses to the families behind them, as they struggled to navigate the fallout of the criminal financial inequality supercharged by the collapse of the community as we know it.
Even personal relationships weren’t spared. Couples and families found themselves in constant silent battles, trading in the warmth of shared moments for cold Likes and Reactions. Pillow talks were replaced with screen time, laughter with emojis, and family dinners with photo shoots for the perfect ‘foodgasm’ post. The sacred intimacy of personal relationships started eroding under the harsh spotlight of Social Media.
I came to realize that the shiny, colorful landscape of Social Media was, in reality, a battlefield. A battlefield where every user was both a warrior and a casualty, waging wars with Likes, Shares, Comments, and Reviews (the weapons of mass destruction created by tech monopolies). The original promise of connection and empowerment seemed to have lost its way in this cybernetic warzone, or perhaps it was all a scam from day one…
This was the turning point for me. It was time to take a step back, to reassess, to remember why I’d stepped into this landscape in the first place. It was time to reclaim my power from the puppeteer and turn the tide in this digital war.
And so, the journey towards the kingdom of Authenticity began. A kingdom where addiction is replaced with balance, negativity with understanding, and battles with conversations. I invite you to join me on this journey, to rediscover the essence of real connections, to build a community that thrives on authenticity and respect. Because, in the end, it’s not the Likes and Shares that define us, but the genuine relationships and the positive impact we make in the world.
But here’s the silver lining. Like me, many started to notice the absurdity of this digital puppet show and yearned for a more authentic connection. We are the torchbearers in the wilderness of the digital frontier, seeking to balance global accessibility with genuine community.
The key, I’ve learned, isn’t about casting Social Media into the abyss, but about mindful usage. It’s about recognizing that genuine human connections can’t be confined to a filtered selfie or a clever tweet. It’s remembering that beyond each username is a real person, living in a real world, yearning for authentic and meaningful interaction.
My journey has brought me to a hopeful vision, a land where the values of Before Social Media coexist with the accessibility of the Social Media era. A kingdom I like to call “Authenticity.”
So here’s to this new world of possibilities, where we strike a balance between connectivity and community, between our digital and physical presence. In the kingdom of Authenticity, all are welcome. Just remember to leave your avatar at the door, and come as you truly are.