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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Opinion: Could social media be a generational fad?

Opinion+writer+Benjamin+Barnes+predicts+Gen+Z+will+grow+tired+of+social+media.
Photo by Creative Commons

Hi, my name is Benjamin Barnes and I’m a recovering social mediaholic. I’m nine months sober and like many of you reading this, I had a problem.
No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t seem to put down my phone. Soon this unhealthy habit took precedence over school work, relationships and even invitations to hangout with friends face to face.
Okay, maybe I got a little caught up in the alcoholics anonymous introduction. All jokes aside, whether it was something as simple as habitually scrolling through various feeds while walking to class on auto-pilot or convincing myself I had earned a study break, I found myself reaching for my phone more often than not.
This was until I did the unthinkable. I quit social media — dun … dun … DUN.
Aside from LinkedIn, and YouTube if you’re wanting to split hairs, I’ve been social media free for close to a year now and let me tell yоu, I’ve never been happier — not in the Sydney Sweeney way either.
Not because I woke up to two dozen Snapchat notifications or because my most recent post on TikTok is doing well — it’s actually a lot simpler than that. And before I start, don’t think I’m preaching from atop a soap box made of false promises and empty affirmations for the sake of sounding enlightened, either.
I’m hoping to change your outlook on social media or at the very least, open your eyes to life beyond the 6.7 inch black screen we’ve unfortunately come to know as our entire existence.
Remember when the Soviet Union intentionally downplayed the significance of the Chernobyl disaster and exposed their residents to unprecedented danger?
Similar to prolonged exposure to radiation, I think our generation has been aware of the repercussions that accompany making social media our primary method of communication and entertainment, but we’ve been too stingy to distance ourselves from it completely.
Look no further than the “it’s because of that damn phone” memes and the repetitive, often negative connotations we’ve all heard over and over again associated with abusing social media via its endless content and sheer convenience.
Society is fully aware of the toxicity that’s solicited and bred online but we don’t care. We’re too busy, too self-centered or maybe feel as though we’re above all the hoopla — the same hoopla that is responsible for hundreds of thousands of diagnosed cases of depression a year.
We like the gratification, ego boosts and short bursts of dopamine phones  provide. Scratch that, we’re addicted to it. For many, it may seem as though to live outside social media is an unfulfilling or uninformed existence.
How am I supposed to stay up to date with everything?
But speaking from experience here, do you really want to stay up to date on “everything?”
It was exhausting just seeing what my friends were up to on a daily basis. Now, throw in celebrity gossip, ESPN trade rumors, the new trending TikTok sound, the weekly national tragedy and don’t forget ads, ads, ads, and you’re quite literally setting yourself up for a bombardment of bullshit following the first four to six digits you type in to unlock your phone.
There is a way out of this. You don’t have to mindlessly participate. I know, I know, you don’t want to be left completely in the dark and no one says you have to.
If you want to stay in the loop with the “important stuff,” subscribe to newsletters or read articles from credible outlets. I mean you’re already taking the time to read this, which is more than most can say. I’m proud of you.
Secondly, you’re not alone if you decide to reduce your usage or quit altogether. While there isn’t a tangible figure of the number of people who have stepped away from social media this year, it does feel as though the tide is changing.
With every passing year, more and more people are becoming aware of the tactics social media companies use to fight for your attention. Streaks, auto-play, looped videos, the continuous scroll feature, etc. This attention is marketable and advertisers compete with one another to land their ads on the apps with the most user engagement. Bleak, right?
However, with the burden of having to stay up to date on everything, the theatrics of clickbait videos, thirst trap thumbnails and the constant in-your-face ads, I believe social media as a whole could have an expiration date.
Ask yourself this question: Considering what you know about social media, if/when you decide to have children, at what age would you allow them to use the platforms you use? Would you want them using it at all?
There’s also the cringe factor. It’s highly unlikely that future generations are going to use the same technology we use currently. Before we know it, some other incel tech wizard will develop a new form of digital communication that is superior to Threads and X.
In the digital age’s equivalent of the California Gold Rush, I think the gold mines, akin to today’s social media platforms, are starting to lose their appeal.
Posts have become a burden rather than a snapshot of your life in a sporadic moment. Think about your most recent Instagram or VSCO post. Did you enjoy the actual process of creating the post? Not the comments, likes or views you received but the actual capturing of whatever moment you felt deserved to be seen by others.
After all, once you find someone to take your picture (because God forbid you post another selfie) you’ve still gotta find the right lighting, scenery and caption for your post.
This still doesn’t include the tedious exercise of responding to every positive comment with a sincere yellow or blue heart emoji in fear of your friends thinking you’re a narcissistic ingrate otherwise.
Even if you’re not big on posting yourself, do you enjoy reels, TikToks, memes and others’ posts as much as you did even three years ago? I’m willing to bet the answer is no. On top of this, newer platforms cater to younger audiences and while we may think we’ll be young forever, we’re getting older.
Dopamine detoxes, mental health breaks or the all-out deletion of apps is not as foreign or taboo of a concept as it was during social media’s boom. The idea of FOMO stemming from not being on these platforms has been invalidated via years of experience and the incessant bombardment of posts from people you stopped talking to years ago.
Who’s to say how much longer social media’s got left to live, but considering it all, I’d say it has a chance of becoming a generational craze.
Benjamin Barnes is a telecommunication media studies senior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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About the Contributor
Bj Barnes
Bj Barnes, Opinion Columnist
Benjamin Barnes is a Telecommunication Media Studies senior from Rochester, Indiana. Barnes' has been involved with The Battalion since his junior year and plans to start his own media group following graduation. If he's not writing, he's most likely watching a Texans game or at the gym.
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