A Day(?) in the Digital

There’s no functional day or night on social media. No matter what time it is for you, how quiet or loud it is outside your window, there’s always an endless amount of stimuli competing for your attention on the screen. Everything is happening always, and no matter what you’re missing something. There’s no real day in the digital because there’s no night in the digital because there’s no rest in the digital, and this can make our lives as social media users much more stressful than they would be otherwise

I should preface this by saying that the social media platform I use the most is X, formerly Twitter, and this informs a large part of this blog post. One of the changes on X recently under its new management solidifies a larger trend of the past 5 years on social media platforms: the shift away from the linear feed. They’ve gone from organizing posts by the time they are posted so the newest information is always on top, to primarily showing an algorithm-based feed that tries to predict what you as a user would be interested in based on past data. Obviously inspired by TikTok and the endless scroll of the For You Page, this confuses the already jumbled temporality of the social media experience even further. It removes the bookend between one scrolling session and the next, making it impossible to ever fully catch up with what the people you follow were talking about while you were away. The reasoning behind this for social media corporations is fairly clear- keep the user on Twitter for as long as possible so they see as many ads as possible with the hypothetical benefit of also only showing the user things that interest them. Perhaps paradoxically, even though I recognize that this is not exactly something designed for my benefit and don’t want to like it, I’ve grown to find the never-ending scrolling thing freeing. If I can’t expect to see everything my friends have posted since I last scrolled, then I don’t have as strong an obligation to scroll. 

There are of course many ways of dealing with the “always on” nature of social media. I have a friend who used to reliably every night before going to bed switch all her accounts to private and then switch them back to public again in the morning. She called this “locking her doors” and it probably didn’t do much for her actual online safety but it did create a barrier between the digital day and night for her. Another option that isn’t quite as easy is just opting out of social media as a whole. My younger cousin decided to get a flip phone that essentially only allows her to text and call people a few years ago and hasn’t looked back despite my sister routinely making fun of how long it takes her to type. I personally don’t really know how to deal with it. A first step should probably be sleeping with my phone across the room instead of on my nightstand right next to my face.