It’s 11pm. You could have gone to sleep an hour ago, but somehow you’ve ended up reading a 34-Tweet thread about veganism, and between that, the cat videos on Instagram and a Facebook profile deep-dive into someone from school you forgot existed, 60 minutes have passed.
It’s a situation more people will recognise than like to admit. Over the past 15 years, social media has become a life-changing, all-consuming staple of our days. It affects everything from our dinner table etiquette (I’m an airplane mode-on, phone-in-bag type, personally) to the state of our global democracy.
And if we’re honest, we all know that social media isn’t very good for us. Studies have shown that it can encourage us to spend more money, sway our independent thinking and alter the part of our brain that reacts to incentive. It doesn’t take an academic paper, either, to express that slightly soggy, sinking feeling that comes from watching Instagram stories of someone else’s amazing night out.
Lanier also emphasises the good habit of spending ‘some time everyday without a phone. Humans are not wired to be constantly connected; this short circuits our brain in ways that makes us anxious and unsettled. Time alone with your own thoughts is a fundamental component to the human condition, you eliminate it at your own peril.’
Of course, getting stuck in a good book is a convenient remedy for an overzealous social media habit. All sorts of escapism exists between two covers. But to really explore an alternative to the endless scroll, why not sink into a world that urges us to experience life beyond our screens? In Losing Eden, Lucy Jones makes a compelling argument for spending more time in nature, citing dozens of studies and speaking to revolutionary scientists on the cusp of new fields of discovery. Ultimately, she argues, if we give ourselves the opportunity to connect with the earth, the sky and the natural world in between, we’ll feel better in body and soul. Perhaps enough to not need to stick it on the grid?
Alternatively, try a little light dystopian fiction, which has long been on the money on the power of technology to control the masses. Noughties reality show Big Brother may seem halcyon in comparison to Love Island, but it didn’t borrow its title from Nineteen Eighty-Four's omniscient totalitarian presence for nothing. More recently, the Matrix-like dual existences of William Gibson’s most recent novels, The Peripheral and Agency, have shown the perils of allowing our political powers to be coerced by social media messaging.