How I lost my social media religion (and you can lose yours too)

Recently, I went to the outback for several days. (Well, to a motel very close to the outback.) While I was away, I barely looked at social media. I didn’t read posts or watch videos or even scroll through my feed.

For that short time, social media ceased to exist for me. And when I did log back in, its hold on me had lifted. My perspective had changed, and the posts and pics and memes just looked like a big, shouty jumble. The fight between the two Influencers. The viral videos. The political snark. The photos of my ex’s new girlfriend! They didn’t speak to me at all.

Kerri Sackville didn’t think she would learn anything from a trip to the Northern Territory.

It felt like one of those Magic Eye puzzles you can only see when you unfocus your eyes. I needed to unfocus my eyes to get excited about social media, but I kept on staring at it face on. I had lost my faith in social media. And without faith, it didn’t make sense at all. A lot like religion, really.

Social media is a lot like religion, in that its meaning exists solely in our minds. You could call it a collective delusion; it is only our decision that social media is significant that actually makes it significant.

Social media isn’t a thing. It isn’t tangible. It is codes and signals and signs. If you stop believing that it means anything, it suddenly means nothing at all. And if you choose not to access it, it literally does not exist.

Now, much of our society is a collective delusion. The monarchy, for example, in which certain individuals are elevated simply because we all agree that they are. Digital currency, too, which exists only on a screen, and has no inherent value other than what we deem it to be worth.

But there are other structures to support most of society’s collective delusions. The Government may be intangible, but Parliament House and the High Court and police prosecutors and jails are very tangible indeed. Currency is supported by bank statements and cash money and the type of goods for which it can be exchanged. The monarchy has staff and palaces and money and thrones and all sorts of paraphernalia to confirm its existence.

Nothing supports social media. Sure, there are buildings that house the Facebook personnel and Twitter techies, but social media itself cannot exist without our permission. We as individuals can make it disappear. We can turn off our devices, we can unsubscribe and disable our accounts, and just like that, it is gone.

I can decide that the government is dangerous or meaningless, but I can’t renounce its impact on my life. I can be a staunch republican but I cannot make the queen disappear. But I can make social media disappear. I can make it completely meaningless in my life. I can be a social media atheist.

Social media is all about our belief system. We decide to believe in social media when we log in to our accounts. We give Influencers their power by believing that they are important, and we can take away that power by believing they are not. Social media has no inherent meaning other than the meaning we bestow upon it with our clicks.

Social media is incredibly powerful, but then so is religion. And the big players in social media and in religion are powerful because we give them that power. We give them our power as individuals, by hanging on to their words. And we give them power as societies, by elevating them to positions of authority. It’s liberating to recognise our own role in the systems. It’s liberating to understand that we give social media its power, and if we give it, we can also take it away.

There are still many people who don’t use social media. They don’t post selfies, or coffee pics, or get stuck looking at other people’s videos for hours, or get enraged commenting on Uncle Harold’s racist rant. They don’t have faith, and, perhaps, they are free.

If you are a devotee of social media, don’t forget that you have a choice. You can log out of your accounts, and it will completely lose its power.

It’s an important revelation. Feel free not to like and share.

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