I've learned a lot through social media, but for every positive, there are ten negatives that make me want to morph into the Goddess Of Hate, eyes rolled back in my head, snakes pouring from my mouth. Yes, social media has helped minority and oppressed voices find a platform. I understand that. But I also believe in a parallel world where humans invented a healthier way for this to happen. I don't know what this alternative could be - my brain's rotted by my smartphone, sry - but it doesn't cause depression, narcissism, addiction, anxiety, insomnia, political corruption, the destruction of the Congo for smartphone minerals…and hey, do you really believe there aren't more medical conditions related to phones that we don't hear about, because of how lucrative the smartphone industry is? Blame my tinfoil hat on Twitter.
The insidiousness of social media can be encapsulated in the seemingly innocent selfie. Empowering! Identity-affirming! Fun! Weird how the moment I started taking selfies, I started being hyper-critical of my face isn't it? When Facebook arrived, I de-tagged at the speed of light, unable to cope with the amount of photos I was seeing of myself. Our brains aren't supposed to see our bodies that much, guys. Now, IG filters leave us disappointed with our reflections. The Kardashian face is embedded into our subconscious. I don't even feel it anymore, but I know it's there, because of how I felt when it first arrived. I'm trying to make the point that there is a price for every benefit. How can any of us make healthy choices when faced with such a powerful dopamine-based reward system? How can we trust our motivations when they're carefully controlled by billion-dollar companies relying on our addiction to make money?
I hate how difficult it's become to log off. It demonstrates a lack of control. Gina tries to delete apps in the evening and re-download them the next morning, my friend puts her phone in a cupboard all night, another has her partner hide it from her, I obsessively track my average screen time. All this smacks highly of “I CAN STOP ANYTIME I WANT!” But social media is normalised. It's got me. I get my news from it, I educate myself, I look at fun pictures of dogs; my screen time is only going to keep increasing. Which is why I will always hate it.
I don’t know what I’d do without social media. It’s has been such a huge part of my life, since the week I left university in 2013 and scuttled onto a £5 Megabus from Leeds to London to start my first unpaid internship (of many). I was taught how and why it worked, how to use it and what it was going to do to industry and society. For the next six years I spent my time coming up with ideas that lived across both billboards and Instagram feeds. I looked after big brand accounts that had millions of followers and figured out why people responded in certain ways to the social content I put out. It turns out social media is just marketing, combined with psychology.
When I was upskirted at a festival in 2017 and couldn’t get justice - because upskirting was not a sexual offence in England and Wales - I launched a campaign on social media to make it illegal. I thought: “if I can make people care about whiskey, I can make them care about this!”And so, I used all I’d learnt in my job to create a movement, one that turned into a two year legal case with the Government. Amazingly, we made upskirting illegal in 2019.
During this period, I began following campaigners and feminist writers, lawyers, politicians and charity workers and my world exploded into a whole new one because of this little portal I could dip into every day to learn. I was no longer following people who constructed their lifestyle specifically with the intention of making other people want it. Instead, I was following people for their ideas, their words, their actions, and I was opened up to an education I could have never got in school. I’ve now built a 75,000-strong community of people who are learning about anti-racism, gender equality and how to stand up for what you believe in alongside me online and it feels so good to be part of that.
But, can I get off my phone? No. I have to delete my apps for a day at a time. Do I feel pressure? Yes. Is it messing me up? Maybe. But for now, the good outweighs the bad. The ‘influencer’ model is changing and ripping at the seams, and I’m proud to be on the right side of it. Learning, making mistakes and posting as I go.
Stevie and Gina Martin’s new weekly podcast series Might Delete Later, dissecting all things social media, is available to listen here.