Comment & Analysis
Nov 30, 2018

A Social Media Cap Shouldn’t Be Necessary

Instead of limiting our time on social media, we should use it in a healthy and positive way, writes Eliana Jordan.

Eliana JordanDeputy Opinion Editor

The new iPhone update allows users to select apps on which to put a time limit. If you feel you need to reduce your social media app usage, there’s now an app for that. Or rather, a cap.

I was initially encouraged by such a revision to the system. I noticed I’ve been getting habitually worse with social media, mindlessly using the likes of Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat at inopportune times and without productive reason. Instead of reading, in lieu of a brief 20 minute study period while waiting for coffee and in-between tutorials, I flick between apps. Pretty much any idle time has been eaten away by the welcome distraction of social media, the ease of its ability to entertain in what could otherwise be – God forbid – boring.

So naturally, placing a time cap on my most tempting distraction from efficiency seemed a welcome solution. I would set the limit to one and a half hours, and when it would inevitably be met and the little graphic hourglass would tip up and down to tell me I had maxed out, I’d know to call such gratuitous scrolling quits for the day. Simply, effortlessly. I would not even have to know on my own when too much had really objectively become too much. My phone, the very problem itself, would do that for me.

Frustratedly, I clicked “ignore limit” for the first few days with the excuse that I needed to use Snapchat to continue receiving notifications from my active group chats

The irony became glaringly obvious soon enough, especially when, frustratedly, I clicked “ignore limit” for the first few days with the excuse that I needed to use Snapchat to continue receiving notifications from my active group chats and to seek out various events on Facebook for something to do the coming weekend. Now I just felt guilty about doing that stuff, about continuing to use WhatsApp even to text my mom once the limit ceased to allow such interaction. And again, when I wanted to respond to a friend’s forward of a meme on Instagram, the limit advised me otherwise. I ignored it yet again, but with ever the repentant conscience. My neurosis could not be tamed by the rather ill-enforced restrictions suggested by my phone: it was simply exacerbated. I knew what I was doing now, and I knew for exactly how long I had been doing it. But I wasn’t stopping.

How useful is a cap really, in a world so deeply affected by social media that to go without it is to miss out extensively?

Social media can be productive. Every single one of my close friends communicates either over Snapchat or Facebook Messenger, so planning any sort of rendezvous necessitates the use of one such app. As for Instagram, I often find recipes and travel inspiration, as well as digital compositions from artists I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. I’m frequently entertained by funny videos and images sent to me by friends. I follow women who are bending beauty standards, photographers who accompany their pictures with short paragraphs highlighting individuals or circumstances in different parts of the world, information that enlightens me in ways I would likely not have otherwise known. I follow my favourite musicians, my closest friends. Rather controversially, I’ve unfollowed all the rest.

There doesn’t need to be an imposition of a limit if we’re not viewing content that makes us feel like crap

Social media would not need a cap if we were utilising it in a healthy way. Like anything else, it works most effectively when approached with a mindset of intention and thoughtfulness. Instead of following the model whose body is unattainably thin or the influencer flaunting frequent excursions to Ibiza and loads of expensive products that no normal, budget-conscious college student could afford, we should follow people who inspire us to better ourselves. We should follow people who can help us advance in our fields, to network, to learn. My cousin, a budding 18-year-old musician in Chicago, has gained a following of dedicated listeners through his interactions with other growing musicians on social media. He’s met numerous “fans”, all of whom only know and love his music thanks to his presence on Instagram and SoundCloud. He can quite literally attribute any bit of success thus far to social media.

So unfollow the people who make you scoff, the people who you aren’t really friends with but occasionally stalk just to make fruitless comparisons. We all have a few of those. We can curate our social media presences to be forces of productivity, of positivity, and of inspiration. There doesn’t need to be an imposition of a limit if we’re not viewing content that makes us feel like crap.

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