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Editorial: Limiting social media in your life

Over the last five years, the downsides of social media have become apparent.

What downsides am I talking about? Take your pick: doxing, hate speech, fake news, conspiracy theories, censorship, data harvesting but perhaps worst of all is the near-total degradation of social discourse.

This unnatural means of communication has few of the social cues we so rely on. It does not require you to look someone in the eye, see the expression on their face or hear the tone of their voice.

Bad behaviour is facilitated through anonymity. Character limits impose oversimplification on nuanced topics. The thirst for likes and retweets turns the average user into a junkie trying to get their fix through virtue signaling or outrageous statements.

The democratization of public debate, meanwhile, has rendered expertise irrelevant or even stigmatized, with a mere verification badge distinguishing authority from rabble.

Sure, there are positives. Social media has given voices to those who had none, rekindled old friendships, started new relationships and increased the spread and reach of information.

And while social media is not the one-and-only cause of all the world’s woes, this new technology meant to bring us closer together has helped divide us and added fuel to issues that are already blazing hot.

More so, the rate at which social media has replaced other forms of communication – even face-to-face conversations – is astounding. This process has only accelerated with COVID, as people are required to shelter in place, and all the stressors of the past year have made discourse on these platforms even more toxic.

It’s time to reevaluate the role of social media in our lives. True, the pandemic has made social media more of a necessity, and those of us in the media and communications have no choice but to dance with this devil.

But considering how much stress it imposes on our lives and the sheer amount of time wasted on these platforms, many individuals may find benefit in limiting their social media usage if not outright abstaining.

And once the era of COVID comes to an end, many of us will be more than glad to put the smartphone down in favour of a real chat.

Peter Shokeir

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