My Life in Words
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I watched Social Dilemma about a year ago and decided to stop creating personal posts on social media. I already knew many of the things they revealed in this documentary but I didn't truly understand the impact it was having on our lives and communities until I saw all the information put together in this specific way.
I was never an avid social-media-user. In fact, I had already taken a year off of social media about five years ago. After which, I created several boundaries around it, such as:
Even with the above boundaries in place, I still felt the need to stop 'using' social media for personal use.
And these are the realizations I experienced this past year:
I Buy Less Things Now.
I was in my kitchen, making some lunch and I grabbed my phone to post something on Instagram for my business. I came across a post by one of my favorite influencers. She is very positive and spiritual. She posted her favorite chai recipe. I read the post and was immediately enticed by the picture and the simple ingredients. I felt my fingers navigating to Amazon and ordering the ingredients I didn't have. $37 dollars of spending later, I had to take a moment to remember why I opened Instagram in the first place. And then I posted whatever I had initially wanted to post.
And then I saw it all replay in my head. Wow! What just happened? Did I really need this chai recipe? I love the chai I already have at home? Why did I buy those ingredients so quickly? Who was in control of all those actions?
Well, hello EGO. My long, besotted friend!
I am utterly infatuated with my ego. I am learning to become friends with it and become more curios about it. And if my ego could talk to you right now, here is what she would say:
Amna, you admire this girl. She shared her favorite chai recipe with you. And of course you want to be more like her so I made sure you got those ingredients so you can be more her level - the positive and the spiritual. It was just a few dollars. So simple. It took only a couple of minutes. Now you are set and have something to look forward to this week. You can thank me later!
I looked at this for a second and heard those words and then I reached deep within to talk to my consciousness. This is the new stuff I have been working so hard on to help weekend my ego. And here is what Madam Consciousness said:
You were about to make a quick post. Your mind space was interrupted by an image of something that your physical self feels attached to. This image was created by another human being who has created an algorithm that saves your likes and dislikes and only shows you what you like whenever you access this app. You did not make a conscious choice to allow this chai recipe to enter into your life. This chai recipe is a rude guest who came to your home uninvited. It doesn't matter how spiritual or positive this person or chai may be. What matters is that you were not in control. You were controlled by an algorithm made by another human as well as a system of consumerism system that is trying to make more money off of you.
I Process the Real Stuff Now.
I am walking around the house, doing some tasks with my phone in hand. Laundry. Dishes. Emails. Bills. Phone picked up and put back down throughout. I notice images entering my mind space. A happy mom, perfectly dressed with a perfectly clean home and a perfectly worded caption. A story of an abused child and his father in jail. A Thanksgiving dinner table set with fancy meals I don't know how to cook. A friend of a friend at a party with celebrities my ego wishes it was invited to. The day goes on much like this. In and out of real life as I try to process a bombardment of images.
A few days later, I make a conscious effort to keep my phone away and only use it as a TOOL that I get to pick up when I need it. I am standing by my fridge, filling up an empty glass of water. I see the water flowing into the glass. It feels like it's taking forever. I sense an itch to walk over to my phone and scroll through social media until the water is done filling up the glass. I notice that thought and realize the addiction is real. I sit with my thoughts and look at the water. Another thought enters my mind space. I remember something my husband said during an argument we had yesterday. A new perspective enters my mind. I smile. The argument was a gift. I get it. I know what he needed me to say. My cup is full. I reach for the phone. Send him a text. I put the phone back down and I smile. These are the golden moments we get stripped of through the addictive algorithms of social media.
I have given my mind the empty space it needs to process the real stuff now.
I am now influenced by reality. Not AI.
Let's say you had a really hard day with your child and you receive a post that shows you a perfect day with his/her child. You may create a negative self-talk around how you are not as good of a parent. Or you may not even realize you had such a thought but all of a sudden you just don't feel good at all. These are the things that are happening every single second through instagram, facebook, and other such platform's algorithms. When we are not ready to receive a certain piece of information, we become defensive or we shut down. You may have just needed to look at a meaningful photo album that was right in front of you or call a friend or actively seek some articles that can give you insight into whatever struggles you just experienced.
There are natural ways to receive signs and information from this world. Social media is not it.
My Experiences are Authentically Imperfect
One of the biggest things that I am now really aware of is the fact that our feed is customized to our own unique "user" data. So we are not all being shown the same stuff. This creates an inauthentic experience for us in which we feel that everyone around us is like-minded and thinks similarly.
And you know what happens to me often when I go out into the real world after experiencing such a polarilzing reality in my digital world? I feel lonely.
I speak to a stranger at a store and am surprised when I realize that all people do not think like me. Social media inhibits us from experiencing an authentic human experience. It is creating a fake reality to nurture ideas and cultures that are simply not natural and in so, they are not real.
I am No Longer an Addict.
A thought comes to me. I get super excited. I spend an hour creating the perfect visual image for the idea I just had.
I post it on my personal feed. And then I wait. I walk two steps. Check my phone. No likes.
I give the cat her food. Check phone. 1 like. I feel a rush. Big smile
I go for a run. Come back home and check my phone first thing. 2 likes. Neutral face.
I am having lunch with a friend. I check the phone. 5 likes. Smile starts to droop.
This goes on and on. Final result at the end of the day. A whopping 6 likes. Disappointed face.
My inner self-talk: Wow! What a bust. I should have said it all differently . It must be the image. I should have used the other template on Canva. I should have never even posted it.
Welcome to a very busy day, in which I worked super hard to strengthen my ego and my addiction.
Anything that gives you immediate gratification over and over again, or lack thereof, is addictive. Social media's algorithm is intentionally created to release the same chemicals as the ones released when humans are gambling. Don't take my word for it. Look it up.
I am no longer an addict.
I am getting more comfortable when my thoughts and beliefs are challenged.
I have learned that I grow the most when my thoughts are challenged. And this happens in my day to day authentic and very real relationships with my friends, family and community. However, unethical and inhumane technology like social media creates a virtual and false perception of our worlds in which our feeds are constantly reinforcing what we believe in. With no regulations or boundaries enforced in the technology, this allows select types of people to be manipulated into a way of thinking that is quite unnatural and very calculated. Even a simple thing like knowing x-amount of people have curly hair and any small business having the ability to target them with lots of curly hair product options limits their understanding and view of what else is available. Same thing happens with democratic-minded people versus republicans and hate groups, etc. I am not blind to the point that it can help the positive grow as well. However, with no regulation set in place, it is free for all. And my intention here is to instill change in these tech industries by pushing them to create rules and regulations that make sure we are protected with a humane and ethical foundation.
I understand that stopping all posts on social media may be too drastic. I still post for my business accounts. It doesn't feel as personal to me. Also, I have justified the use of unethical platforms like instagram and facebook as marketing tools. So I feel aligned with my integrity in using it for my businesses. But I just don't feel right using it for personal use. I know myself. I am a sensitive introvert. If I share something that is personal to me, I care what you think about it and I can't seem to not care about who likes it and who doesn't. You are not the same person as I am. The above mentioned things may not affect you as much as it affects me. You know your own truth. So, I say, do what feels true to you and make sure to advocate for your mental health and sacred mind space FIRST.
With that being said, here are some things you may choose to do that are not as drastic but still can impact a conscious change:
The new generation has confused physical reality with digital reality. It is all one and the same to most. This is not how we are meant to evolve. I am fortunate to know the times before cell phones. So, I know what it can be like to not have it. I can be more aware of what it does to my days. However, there is a whole new generation of kids and young adults who know nothing else. They feel that being influenced by billions of people is normal. Looking at likes for self-worth and validation is many people's way to seek happiness. This is not how we are meant to evolve. We are meant to evolve by being influenced by our communities and real physical presence and people. Not hand fed, unethical, unregulated programmed data. Kids of this generation feel more comfortable texting their thoughts than speaking them in person. There are more suicides than ever before - this is perhaps the most concerning factor for me because children are so dear to my heart and the biggest part of all the work that I do.
My daughter's school has strict rules about media and technology. It was actually very hard for us to adjust to this because media used to be a big part of our lives too. I now remember what I read from one of their Frequently Asked Questions once.
It said: "How often do you recommend we let our kids be exposed to media?" to which the teacher answered "How often would you give them poison."
I thought this was harsh at first. But every day since then, I have realized the truth behind this statement more and more. Media (for the most part) is there to expose us to manifest capitalism and consumerism. It is how they get to control how we Think. Act. Look. Buy. We need to be more mindful and protective of our mind space. It is too sacred for me to let others control.
So, what's next for me.
Well, as you can tell, I am blogging now. I still love to create and share. I absolutely love to write. And this is the next best thing I came up with.
We are all meant to create. Our thoughts and ideas seek to be manifested. But social media algorithms not only polarize the way we think, they also manipulate when and how we receive this information, This is what made me stop. All endings are new beginnings. So in away, this is also something that has helped me start... this!
Blogging helps me keep my ego in check because there is no immediate gratification and I have disabled comments to ensure I am writing and sharing for the reasons that feel the truest to me and who I am.
I hope to post authentically with short posts that may just have a picture and a few words. Or a poem. Or a long article. This seems the most ethical way for me to do it at this moment in time.
I do not want to influence your minds in any way, positive or negative, if you are not ready to receive it.
So, I do hope that you will come here only when it feels true to you. And I hope you will reach out to me if you every have any thoughts or feedback you want to share.
With so much love and gratitude,
My Outer-Self: B.S. from USC in Industrial & Systems Engineering, owner of Amna Dance, Co-founder of Hatch Brighter and You Matter Too.