The cake recipes sandwiched in between crash diets and messages to love yourself were disorienting.
I really struggled when I looked in the mirror after joining social media- I’m too fat, or I have ugly features, or my neck is too long, or my hair doesn’t frame my face correctly.
I began to be aware that I was believing things that...didn’t exist.
Facing food instability and homelessness, there were seemingly “small” images, videos, and advertisements in social media that I would see that would remind me over and over that I was different.
I still struggle with the endless scroll
of the Instagram explore page.
Feeling lonely over quarantine has made me more vulnerable.
My morning time ritual became an afternoon ritual to a night ritual, to an all day ritual where I would habitually check my phone every hour, eagerly waiting for the next notification to come in.
I remember one night specifically that was probably when I was at my peak of using that app when I just caught myself using it for a couple of hours without stopping...
I got addicted, always checking my phone, obsessed with keeping my streaks, worrying that someone needed my attention 24/7.
I felt so insecure about myself. My abilities, my looks, my roots, my potential. This because I was comparing my life with people around me and people I saw on social media.
Tik Tok had started recommending weight loss videos and “what I eat in a day” videos to my “For You” page.
I became obsessed with living what social media promotes as a worthwhile and perfect life.
See hundreds more

Share your story.
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Whatever the benefits of social media, they aren’t worth the costs. After watching The Social Dilemma, an estimated 100 million people worldwide are now aware of how social media harms us, and a powerful movement for change is growing.

#MySocialTruth offers a platform for young people like you to bring your voice to this movement. Share your experience, and help reimagine the future.

Stories that push for change

These stories are representative of the biggest challenges young people are facing on social media platforms that profit from our outrage, confusion, addiction, and depression. Read them, and share your own.

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...I still struggle with the endless scroll of the Instagram explore page. Feeling lonely over quarantine has made me more vulnerable.

Maddie, 17, Yakima, United States
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Maddie, 17, Yakima, United States
February 24, 2021

I joined social media since I was eleven. Mostly Instagram, a little Snapchat and Tumblr too. Luckily I stayed away from Musically and TikTok. I identified with the fandoms I found, since I felt alienated at school and wanted to belong somewhere. Things spiralled out of my control fast, although I didn't realize it was because of the social media until later. I was exposed to a lot of inappropriate content. I became addicted to self harm- it took years to get over. When I went to high school, I knew no one, felt helpless, and constantly seeing other kids' social lives made it feel unbearable. I'm nearly eighteen now, and only in the past year or so have I started to cut ties with it all. I stopped participating in fandoms a long ago, but I still struggle with the endless scroll of the Instagram explore page. Feeling lonely over quarantine has made me more vulnerable. Now, I only use Instagram to share my artwork with family and friends. I feel like I understand technology better, and have regained some control. I want to work in interface design when I'm older, to help move things in a more humane direction. I'm doing my best to educate myself and people around me... it's hard, though, to see the detrimental effects of the internet on people I love. I know so many kids addicted to YouTube. I've watched my dad's addiction to Huffington Post and YouTube grow over the last four years. It's exhausting to talk to him because he's always outraged about something. My mom watches too much Netflix and she's gaining weight. I can tell they feel guilty about it, but I can't get them to change, or realize willpower isn't enough. It's tough...

It made me feel overstimulated, like I had wasted hours of my time for nothing...

Dalton, 24, Manchester, United Kingdom
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Dalton, 24, Manchester, United Kingdom
February 24, 2021

Since I was born in the late 90s, like many others we had a time in our childhood where there wasn't any phones or social media. With that said, I was a teenager when iphones came out and I observed social media and the act of being online grow and grow. I realized early on that I didn't feel good when I used social media, I must've been around 17 (2013). I deleted all my social media. It made me feel overstimulated, like i had wasted hours of my time for nothing, and when i rejected social media (but kept facebook) I got criticism from my friends and family. At that point I saw how much social media was manipulating even the opinions of people around me. I really felt like this addiction to social media, which was so casually and socially accepted, was growing so much that there has to be a breaking point! And I'm so happy people are waking up and seeing how much it's hurting ourselves and the people we love and care about. I believe in the next 10 years things will look VERY different and it will be more humane!!!!! <3

Deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts has completely changed my lifestyle, my thoughts, my days, everything!

Konstantina, 23, Athens, Greece
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Konstantina, 23, Athens, Greece
February 24, 2021

Hello! I'm 23 years old student from Greece!I would love to share my experience about the best decision I have ever made in my life! Deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts has completely changed my lifestyle, my thoughts, my days, everything! There was a period of time I was addicted to Instagram, Insta Stories etc. Then, I started thinking.. Why do I watch others personal stories? Why do I spend so much time watching what others do? Do I really care? Why do I share my personal life?? I post my personal moments or thoughts or everything to people that I don't even know or care about their opinion.. After deleting my Instagram account, I've started spending a lot of time scrolling on Facebook... Everything has changed when I watched "the social dilemma". When I watched this amazing documentary, I immediately deleted my facebook account. I got so sick of this system and the advertisements. I really don't need these applications and no one does. I am so happy now. I have new hobbies and the most important thing is that whoever wants to talk to me, he'll call me. He won't remember me cause I just uploaded a photo, or a story... Congratulations to all those people who participated in this documentary. Great work and great team! The tips in the end are super helpful.

I realize I now have this unproductive habit of mindlessly scrolling through these pretty pictures, which is something I never used to do.

Abrielle, 25, Winter Park, United States
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Abrielle, 25, Winter Park, United States
February 24, 2021

I started my social media experience back in middle school (2008-2009) on MySpace, spending my free time checking on friends, doing bulletin board surveys, and learning to code in HTML to customize my page. After MySpace, I moved to Facebook in high school (2009-2013), I got sucked in more to what people thought of me, what I was being tagged in, liking pages, getting likes on my photos... I was sick of it, so I deactivated my profile when I graduated. I joined Instagram in the summer of 2013. At first, it was similar to Snapchat and Facebook; I used it to communicate with friends and see what they were up to. Then I started following cool travel pages, celebrities, movements, news sites... and I find myself with a feed of pretty pictures from people I don’t even know. I realize I now have this unproductive habit of mindlessly scrolling through these pretty pictures, which is something I never used to do. I’ve thought about deleting my Instagram, but I instead want to re-evaluate my use of it. I’ve turned off all notifications and I’ve begun a huge unfollowing spree for those accounts of people and groups I don’t know. I find it useless to be spending time staring at photos of beautiful places when I could instead be earning money to get myself there. I find it useless to be staring at beautiful women who I know are fake or portraying themselves in the best light they can find, looking at myself as inferior when I know the great shape I am in. Come to find out (big surprise), likes or comments on a photo do not affect my real life, and spending time focusing on them is a waste. I’ve put my phone in grayscale mode so that it’s not as pretty to look at, and I’m finding that I get sucked into those scrolling traps less. If I were to identify a specific problem, it’s the culture of influencers we’ve built and given our attention to. Travel influencers, fitness influencers, food influencers... pages to follow, scroll through, and mindlessly get lost in while letting all of our other responsibilities fall to the side. We find ourselves without enough time in the day, but never complain about the loads of meaningless funny videos we spend an hour watching and sharing (taking other people’s time from them). I want to unfollow all influencers. I only want to see my friends and people I know on my timeline, and then I want to make the conscious decision to check on them when I want to — NOT get trapped into scrolling through all of them. I would rather participate in a social media service without “Pages to Follow” like Facebook and without Influencers like Instagram. Mindless phone scrolling is the dumbest pastime that does absolutely nothing besides make us yearn for things we aren’t or don’t have. When I’m with my significant other, I don’t feel the need to touch my phone ALL day. It just proves it’s a habit based in boredom that breeds lower productivity. I hate it. I feel much better and more in control with my phone in grayscale mode and by following less accounts I don’t know. I have implemented time restraints of 30 minutes per day for my Instagram. I am inclined to reduce that to 15 minutes. I want to use the platforms to connect with my friends and that’s all. Share photos with my friends, not care about likes, and that’s ALL. All I want is an environment that facilitates that.

It brings us so much comfort that we don't want to understand it's harms. I can't name last time I was trully alone. As soon as I feel uncomfortable, anxtious, etc. my phone is my escape. Is that normal? absolutely not. Do I understand that? 100%. But at the same time , am I still addicted? Unfortunately.

Nutsiko, 19, Tbilisi, Georgia
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Nutsiko, 19, Tbilisi, Georgia
May 21, 2021

I've always been taught that phone is bad, distractive, addictive etc. etc. My perspective has always been that: people who haven't been born in the era we are , will never fully understand where we come from, why are we so dependent on it and why can't we find will to give up. "well you were addicted to different activities , like reading . You can't stop the world from evolving." -this has been my argument for several year, but in the back of my mind I always knew that something was very wrong with what was going on. I had phases where I would decide to give up social media fully. It would last 2-3 weeks, then something would happen and I immediately ran to it. This past year has been tough for me in terms of corona. Being left alone with so much time to yourself, you really start seing things you've been avoiding for very long time. I'm starting to see how dependent I am, not only on social media but on my phone in general. I put it in different room while studying to eliminate distractions but all I can think of in that period of time is when am I going to be able to have my phone back. It brings us so much comfort that we don't want to understand it's harms. I can't name last time I was trully alone. As soon as I feel uncomfortable, anxtious, etc. my phone is my escape. Is that normal? absolutely not. Do I understand that? 100%. But at the same time , am I still addicted? unfortunatly. Few months ago I came across your center and I finally felt that I wasn't alone. There were actually people who not only realized the problem but started a movement. Since then I've been taking small steps towards improvement. I can proudly say, I deleted my instagram and tiktok accounts. Sadly I can't really delete my facebook or gmail because I need it for my univercity but I'm willing to participate to make even the smallest change. Thank you for bringing attention to topic that must bring freat fear to everyone!

If you've never experienced addiction, a small warning, it sucks. I mean that literally: it sucks you in and prevents you from being happy, reaching your dreams, or living life.

Mahika, 15, Frisco, United States
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Mahika, 15, Frisco, United States
May 21, 2021

Earlier this year when the Social Dilemma came out, I - just like everyone else - flocked over to Netflix to watch it. I'd heard about it from school and after watching it I felt INSPIRED. This motivation to break away from technology coursed through me. I took all the measures: detoxed my phone, even deleted apps, limited phone use. I joined seminars and tried to become a part of this amazing community, this movement. Obviously, this doesn't sound like your normal "technology ruined me" story, but just wait.......So everything was going well, I was reaching my goal of having a good relationship with technology. And then it all stopped. There was no more adrenaline, and slowly those apps I had deleted reappeared on my phone. Not only did I go back to my former self, but I also got worse. WAY WORSE. I got addicted. The worst part is that I knew what I was doing was wrong, I knew the dangers of the endless scroll, but I still got sucked in. It caused me to push aside my studies, my education, my GOALS. I know what it's like to be a caged bird because I was social media held me captive. These small apps on my phone made me fall into depression, and I felt the only way to not feel sad was to use those very apps. If you've never experienced addiction, a small warning, it sucks. I mean that literally: it sucks you in and prevents you from being happy, reaching your dreams, or living life. You must be wondering how I'm so self-aware of all this now. Well bad things to end, and by the extreme measures of my parents, I lost my phone. Which was the root of all my issues. When my phone went I needed to accept that it was over, and that's when I saw the damage I had caused in my own life. I had nothing else to do so I fixed it. I'm still fixing it. It's not easy, I'll say that, but I've truly experienced life after coming out from this dark place. You don't realize how beautiful the world is if you stare at your phone all day. I realized how much I hadn't noticed about the people around me and myself. Now a little advice for everyone who's suffering as well. Sure the phone gives you happiness but you can use it whenever you want. Even if it's for an hour, go outside and breathe the fresh air. Go for a walk or play with your dog. I promise you will feel happier and lighter. We aren't here for long - life is short - so don't waste it on a device that will outlive you.

I had begged my parents to let me open an account, and after a discussion about internet safety, I was finally allowed to have one. It ruined my life in less than a month.

Rachel, 23, Lake Oswego, United States
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Rachel, 23, Lake Oswego, United States
February 24, 2021

I started my freshman year of high school in 2011. By then most of my peers already Facebook accounts and I was feeling left out from all the fun they seemed to be having online. I had begged my parents to let me open an account, and after a discussion about internet safety, I was finally allowed to have one. It ruined my life in less than a month.I rarely used my account to scroll through the news feed. I didn't add many friends at first, and only added people I knew at school and some family members. I thought I was using the service responsibly. But before long I found myself replacing in-person interaction with the private messaging system. I only remember hanging out with my friends at birthday parties and after school programs. I would finish my homework and get online, staying up past 2 am every night to chat with my friends and waking up at 6 am to get to school by 7:35. I quickly lost sleep, stopped exercising (even though I've always been involved in sports), and my health (both physical and mental) suffered for it. What I didn't realize at the time was that my online interactions perpetrated a toxic relationship with the guy I had a crush on at the time. He knew about it and he manipulated me by using my feelings for him as a weapon. I was so desperate for his attention that I would have done anything for it, and using social media exclusively meant I didn't have any other, healthy friendships to compare. He opened up to me about his mental health issues so I made up my own to fit in and try to relate to him. I told him I was so depressed that I started to believe it. It was the most insidious form of cyberbullying I've ever seen. I didn't realize how much I was hurting and I thought I deserved it because I was so desperate. I withdrew from my family, from all my other friends. I started self-harming and received validation for it. I hurt myself more. I lost more sleep. I exercised less. I withdrew more.Eventually it got so bad my parents installed controls on my computer that logged me off after 10 pm. I resented them for it at the time but it was the best thing they ever did for me. It saved me. I ended the toxic friendship. I found new friends. My health came back and I grew more connected with my family. Over the years I used my Facebook account less and less, until eventually the only reason I still maintained the account was because a few of my project teams in college used the messenger service to collaborate (and exchange memes).The harm it did was real and it still hurts. I still regret the friendships I withdrew from and how it hurt my family. I'm 23 now and finally deleted my Facebook account two months ago. I don't miss it at all.

There used to be such freedom in the way that we behaved as kids, and now people were obsessing over likes and hearts and everything.

Amanda, 19, Sydney, Australia
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Amanda, 19, Sydney, Australia
February 24, 2021

I got on social media around high school, and I saw people become more distant because of it. There used to be such freedom in the way that we behaved as kids, and now people were obsessing over likes and hearts and everything. For me using social media like Facebook made me feel terrible and self-conscious, and I'd compare myself constantly to the lives of friends. Asking myself, why isn't my life as cool as theirs? Why are they so much more popular than me? It was really bad for my mental health. Along with that I used Instagram and Twitter, and over time my attention span got completely decimated - I was so used to short posts I'd look at for 2-3 seconds, that I couldn't even focus on anything for a long period of time anymore. Twitter was good at first but around 2016 onwards it just became a cesspool of hate, criticism, and negativity. I couldn't believe it when I saw people wishing death upon others even when the topic was like, video games or something. There was a time I went on holiday with a friend from primary school, we were basically best friends. She didn't get off her phone the whole time! It was like the relationship had been replaced by a digital device, and I notice it with even couples who are dating who literally don't even look at each other, they look at their phones. The one thing that really sickens me is I have always been a creative person, obsessed with music and drawing and writing. I went from reading 30 books a day as a kid to not being able to read the first few paragraphs. My brain felt like it'd been hijacked. I've deactivated my insta, facebook and twitter and I still use reddit and youtube - I got rid of the recommendations though.Ever since 2012 I felt like the world was going insane and I couldn't figure out why. People seemed more stressed, more anxious, self-conscious. Things felt like they were going bad all at once, and the 24/7 cycle makes the world's problems seem right outside our bedroom door. I used to love OG facebook and youtube. They were so cool. But lately I've been wondering about the price we had to pay.

I deleted all my accounts and guess what! I became a human being again.
Swathi, 20, Eluru, India
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Swathi, 20, Eluru, India
October 14, 2021
Basically, I am an introvert. I can't get along with people that much in my high school. But after I joined college, I observed everyone using social media like Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter, etc. So I thought it would be cool if I joined them too and it helped me in a way to connect with people indirectly. But In this lockdown, I can literally say that I spent all my days seeing my Phone I didn't realize what I am losing in this real-world until I lost someone who is closer to my heart. After losing him, I am totally stuck inside my mind and depressed. So I changed my focus from thinking and used social media like crazy. I thought it will help me feel good. But day by day it's eating my brain and my anxiety has gotten worse. I am not having conversations with my family anymore. Then I realized that using social media and being addicted to it is the reason for all the chaos in my mind and my relations with family and friends. So I deactivated all of them for a month just to see how it works. And now I deleted all my accounts and guess what! I became a human being again. Most importantly I am happy now.
I finally reached a point where I couldn't stand the yelling and screaming that seemed to come from every voice on the app
Victoria, 22, Toronto, Canada
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Victoria, 22, Toronto, Canada
August 11, 2021
I was beginning to feel overwhelmed every single time I clicked to open one of my social media apps. As someone who likes to be informed about world events and engaged as a global citizen, Instagram (my app of choice) was becoming a key source of learning and news. I was proud to be an armchair expert on every issue taking place in the world at one time... until I realized just how exhausting that can be. I found myself bracing for bad news and getting caught down rabbit trails of information while telling myself it was just some "mindless scrolling". It was easy to decide which of my friends and followers were on the same 'side' as me when it came to controversial topics and I was aware that my opinion of some of them were changing quite rapidly. The pressure to post my own stance was profound, and even when I reached a point of comfortability with my own decision to stay out of the conversation, or to share something I had found meaningful, there was no short of collateral damage. I argued with people that in real life are very close friends and family, and felt anxious that this would change our 'real' relationships. I finally reached a point where I couldn't stand the yelling and screaming that seemed to come from every voice on the app and took a break. The relief that followed was unmistakably freeing. Now I choose which global events I have the capacity to engage with, and have meaningful conversations with people face-to-face. I am still learning to set boundaries and listen well to others that have different perspectives, but I'm glad I get to do this with real people.
I would go through periods where I would have kept the app off my phone for weeks, only to decide to download it late one night, and not be able to delete it for another month. The app made me feel so horrible, but somehow I could not stop.
Adelina, 14, Scottsdale, United States
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Adelina, 14, Scottsdale, United States
March 1, 2021
The first distinct moment dealing with social media that I can remember vividly was when I was in 7th grade. I was scrolling on my instagram feed while laying in my bed late at night, maybe around 9 or 10, when a picture pops up on my feed. It was of my best friend hanging out with the group of girls in the school I hated, but secretly was jealous of and desperately wanted to be a part of. In that instant, I broke down crying, not knowing what to do with myself. This began an awful downward spiral of insecurity and depression. If I am being honest, I remember little from that time in my life except the fact that I was broken, and I knew that social media was behind it. I made the decision to delete Instagram off my phone, and the things I felt began to alleviate, and I started to be myself again. Well, except sometimes, when I couldn't help myself but to re-download it. All of the feelings I had worked so hard to get rid of instantly began rushing back. It's an addiction, that eventually I learned to manage. All was well for a while, until I downloaded TikTok. The endless scrolling, time wasting, mind controlling app. I do not even want to think about how much of my life I have wasted because of TikTok. To make it worse, it made me feel depressed, anxious, and awful. I can't explain why it made me feel this way, and why I continued to use it despite this, but I did. I finally came to my senses at some point, and deleted it. That lasted maybe 3 hours until I downloaded it again. Out of all apps, TikTok is the most addicting by far. I instantly started experiencing withdrawals. I would go through periods where I would have kept the app off my phone for weeks, only to decide to download it late one night, and not be able to delete it for another month. The app made me feel so horrible, but somehow I could not stop. It took months to finally get me off of it for good. As of today, I have a instagram and snapchat account, but don't keep either on my phone. I download them maybe once every two weeks just to check things, and delete it right after. This system gives me the best ability to keep the benefits of social media and eliminate the harms of it. I am so worried for my peers, and for the generations after me. It makes me shudder to imagine the horrific things my friends might be going through trying to deal with social media, and how the use of technology may impact the future of our children, and our world as we know it. This must stop.

There were so much drama, so much depression coming from that. It's like this was a trap built for me to become even more sad than before.

Anonymous, 17, Union City, United States of America
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Anonymous, 17, Union City, United States of America
May 21, 2021

Social Media, in my personaal opinion was just to gain attention from others when I was younger because I was the unpoular kid once. But as the years progressed, there were so much drama, so much depression coming from that. It's like this was a trap built for me to become even more sad than before.

I learned that life was beautiful without a phone screen in my face all the time.

Haley, 17, Englewood,
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Haley, 17, Englewood,
May 21, 2021

Freshman year I got grounded and had my phone taken away for a majority of the year. When i finally got it back i forgot how to even turn it on and vaguely remembered my password. In the beginning it was hard because it thought that I was gonna die without my phone and social media. In the middle i would ask my mom if i could have it back like every few weeks and then in the end i didn't even notice it was gone. I feel like losing the privilege I've had a majority of my life was daunting in its own way. I feel like it was a great learning experience and that I could take in my surroundings better. I learned that life was beautiful without a phone screen in my face all the time. Now as a junior in high school I have my cellular turned off so I can enjoy the car rides I take with my family and so I can take in my surroundings.

Facing food instability and homelessness, there were seemingly “small” images, videos, and advertisements in social media that I would see that would remind me over and over that I was different.

Juliana, 20, Tallahassee, United States
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Juliana, 20, Tallahassee, United States
February 24, 2021

I’ve learned in my experiences of social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat that the way in which we define certain words matter. When I say that we “define words”, I don’t mean defining words by researching the Oxford definition. I mean that we, as a society, collectively agree to certain societal norms and standards that are directly reflected in our social media feeds. These definitions seep into our understanding of ourselves and our understanding of what society expects from us. As an example, when I was in high school, I had a sense of being different from others because I was forced to grow up fast. Facing food instability and homelessness, there were seemingly “small” images, videos, and advertisements in social media that I would see that would remind me over and over that I was different. I would see people going to proms, football games, and parties, while I was working late hours to support myself financially. I would see these images repeatedly to the point that I began to mentally differentiate myself from others based on their social media presence, rather than who they were as people. Rather than speaking with my peers about who they are and where they came from, I closed myself off from the conversation, assuming I knew them because everyone tells the truth on social media, right? The presence of social media while I was in high school very much heightened my sense of being an “outcast”. I truly believe that if these platforms were written with humanity in mind, social media could have been a beautiful place for me to get the social support that I needed. I needed to be reminded that I was loved, looked out for, and seen, rather than different, invisible, and alone. Now that I am out of high school, I do set clear boundaries with social media because I know how it impacts me. I delete the apps during the holidays, because it provides a false sense of everyone living out of a Christmas movie. I use the screen time feature that Apple provides and limit myself. Now that I set clear boundaries with my relationship with social media, I can define what a “home” means. I can define what my sense of “normalcy” is. Removing myself from the societal expectations and standards that social media suffocates me with allows for me to see the world for what it is: a beautiful place filled with people who have their own experiences that I can learn from, rather than a place where everyone is “living their best life” without struggle. Normalize adversity and authenticity in social media, rather than forcing us to pretend that our struggles do not exist. Thank you for listening.

Now I have some friends who are always there for me and who know the real me and not the one who is virtually present only in their mobile phones.

Abhijeet, 21, North Solapur, India
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Abhijeet, 21, North Solapur, India
February 24, 2021

Let me clear this first of all that I was not addicted to any of these social media platforms. I am an undergrad. I started using Facebook since 7th standard, it was my friend who introduced me to Facebook. Initially there was only Facebook, smartphones were not there in the markets, there was scarcity of internet data. So my browsing was limited to Facebook only, it was the starting phase of Facebook and I was so desperate to go online, see what others are doing and the special feature of Facebook Chatting online. This single feature attracted me to Facebook a lot. Me and my friends used to spend a lot of hours in the cyber cafe just scrolling down the feed of my account and chatting with known and unknown friends. Whatsapp entered in the markets. This app changed all things for me, it made communication so easy and fast like never before. Sequentially all the social media accounts started to hit the markets. After wasting a lot of time on these platforms I realised that I am loosing some precious time of my life and helping earn money to some technocrats who build platforms like these. Then I quit facebook on 15 June 2017. Immediately after quitting facebook, it was something unusual for me, But after some time I got used to it. Now its been 3.5 yrs and I don't think I'll be ever activate my Facebook account. Now as whatsapp is there for some official purposes as well, till now I was unable to get rid of it. but as I have finished my college I uninstalled whatsapp. and now I am not active on any social media.Impact of Quitting Social Media accounts:-Aaaahh after social media my life become so easy to live. I started reading books, I could concentrate on my studies much better, I am loving trees and some pet animals. I spend like days with some of my close friends...... sitting in cafe.... getting to know each other in this real world. Now I have some friends who are always there for me and who know the real me and not the one who is virtually present only in their mobile phones. I am knowing myself much better, working on my strengths and weaknesses, I am building myself and creating my own future. At the same time now I am more sensitive towards environmental problems, societal issues etc. Actually I was active only on Facebook, Whatsapp, Youtube and Telegram. After knowing what happens behind the screen of my mobile (like the algorithms and all) I am more aware of my actions on internet, and I don't think that I'll be active again on these platforms except for official use.Guys just give yourself one chance to live without social media for some months.... you will realise the things which I have realised so far. Life is much more than this virtual reality.

I am so glad I never downloaded tiktok.

Anonymous, 18, Westbrook, USA
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Anonymous, 18, Westbrook, USA
May 21, 2021

I am so glad I never downloaded tiktok. I see how many people my age are addicted to it and even more worrisome, kids way younger, kids I work with in my childcare job. I didn't download it because I knew I would become addicted to it and I have been tempted many many times but I have kept that promise I made to myself and I'm so happy that I did seeing how people are now.

...it isn’t the people that I fear but the application itself that makes me do things I’m consciously unaware of.

Mira, 21, Seremban, Malaysia
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Mira, 21, Seremban, Malaysia
February 24, 2021

3 weeks before watch the Netflix film, I had deleted my Instagram account because Something just hit me and I’ve been quite unhappy for a real long time the more I spend my time on the app. After watching the movie, I have gotten a clear picture of what’s actually going on and I felt rather relieved and paranoid at the same time. I used to be very careful on what I share on my social media accounts but now I’m not so sure anymore because it isn’t the people that I fear but the application itself that makes me do things I’m consciously unaware of. I have reduced my usage of Twitter and Snapchat. Most of my friends think I’m just being paranoid or plain stupid but I know my priorities now. I have learned how to manage my time and I feel free. I’m not obliged to post anything or have the need to even share a picture of what I ate. I don’t care what people do with their lives because in the end of the day I have to take care of my mental health and stability. I wouldn’t say I have completely deleted my social media accounts, but I have learned to use them wisely as a tool instead. And I have to thank the film for this.

All that did was tear me down and make me compare myself with others.

Kobe, 20, Malolos City, Philippines
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Kobe, 20, Malolos City, Philippines
May 21, 2021

Posting IG stories made me care a lot more about my online image, i legit wanted to prove to my followers that i had a life too but all that did was tear me down and make me compare myself with others even more. I'm 5 months clean from social media and not once do i regret deleting my soc meds. Best decision I've ever made.

Social Media Detox: that will be the best thing you'll ever do to your life.
Rodrigo, 20, Nova Friburgo, Brazil
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Rodrigo, 20, Nova Friburgo, Brazil
October 14, 2021
Social Media Detox: that will be the best thing you'll ever do to your life. Back in 2017 i was really addicted to social media. Every hour waiting for a notification, every time thinking about new posts and thinking about other people's posts. But when i deleted all social media based platforms I saw how your "friends list", in real life did not really care about you. Why people send friend requests in social media to people that in real life don't even look to our eyes and say "Good Morning, How you doing?". People that we always are worried about what they posted, about "likes", but in real life don't even chat, ignore and think that you don't exist. It is something like a second life - the online one, and it is really weird, I'm sure you don't like it either. Try it. I'm sure you'll give yourself more value and change the way you see yourself, the world and others.

I really struggled when I looked in the mirror after joining social media- I’m too fat, or I have ugly features, or my neck is too long, or my hair doesn’t frame my face correctly.

Morgan, 14, St Louis, United States
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Morgan, 14, St Louis, United States
February 24, 2021

I was around eleven or twelve when I first started really delving into social media as a whole. I was a young girl still- merely an insecure and immature child who was struggling with sexuality and unsure of where I fit in or belonged, so when I learned that I could roam the internet and make friends I was all ears. I downloaded Tik Tok (everyone was doing it, why not me too?) and I had Tumblr. I always avoided other social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat because I had heard all of the stories that people had shared about things that happened to them and their mental health- and I figured it wouldn’t happen to me if I just steered clear of particular sites so I allowed myself to dive deep into exploring the internet. I REGRET IT!!!My self confidence PLUNGED. When I was younger, I used to love myself so much, love my body and my personality and I never obsessed over the little things because everyone makes mistakes sometimes. I really struggled when I looked in the mirror after joining social media- I’m too fat, or I have ugly features, or my neck is too long, or my hair doesn’t frame my face correctly. I overthought every word that I spoke, for fear of being unliked by someone. It was always something, and it still comes back every once and a while. I also have seriously struggled with depression and anxiety that I never had before social media, and I overlooked it until I started to have suicidal thoughts and considered starving myself to loose weight. I hated myself, and I hated my life. I constantly saw people who hated other people over the littlest of things. I saw anon hate, as well as blind hatred out in the open with a name attached. I experienced hate myself. I saw posts of people who would tag “gay pride” or something only to talk horribly about it for the sole purpose of people in the LGBTQ+ Community to see it; and the same thing under other tags as well. So I, young and new to the internet, was faced with a harsh reality that people are not entirely kind, and there are hateful people who hate you even though they only know one thing or sometimes nothing about you. I was confused, and I was hurt.I deleted all of my social media accounts during the Coronavirus pandemic. It was bringing me so much more anxiety than I would normally have and it was weighing me down so much. After I deleted it, I started to feel so much better. The social media impact on mental health is insane- and it’s REAL. I never realized how bad it was until I deleted everything; my confidence is beginning to rise again, and my depression is getting better, and I have started loving myself again. I can walk around feeling good and confident in myself. Social media is meant to be a wonderful place, that’s what it was designed for. But people are cruel, and for some the internet’s poses as a mask to say whatever they should wish and never face consequences for it. After deleting social media, I saw the world around me again. The beauty of nature. The smell of old books. The sunrise and sunset. This was the world I was missing when I was on social media; the real, authentic world that I can touch and see and love because the world IS a wonderful place regardless of whether or not I can do a Tik Tok dance or not. Social media is bad- but it can be changed. It takes empathy and common decency that gets lost the more time you spend on the internet to create a world where we can al stand hand in hand no matter what your race, religion, sexuality, or anything else that makes us different. Being different is a beautiful thing- you shouldn’t hate me for liking a different anime character than you, and I shouldn’t hate you for liking a book that I don’t like. It is our differences that makes this world the place that it is; a diverse, beautiful place. With time and effort, social media could become healthier than it is now. But as for right this second? I recommend deleting your social media, or using your social media to raise awareness of how toxic we are being through the internet and how it is seeping into our everyday lives. You won’t regret deleting social media. It made things so much better for me and my health, and I am confident that it will do the same for anyone reading this who is struggling with mental health or self confidence like I was.

I started to back away from social media and just live my life and I feel free. I don’t have to worry about other people’s validation in my life and I can just be who I want to be and live my life the way I want to live my life.

Daniel, 18, Englewood, United States
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Daniel, 18, Englewood, United States
May 21, 2021

Social media has always been in my life from snapping people to just posting funny pictures on Instagram. I don’t think I remember a time in my teen life that I haven’t had a phone with social media on it. As I get older I realize that there are way better things in life than just obsessing over it. As I look back in life I can see how many fun things I missed out on because of social media and trying to post all the fun things I didn’t instead of just living in the moment. After I thought of this I started to back away from social media and just live my life and I feel free. I don’t have to worry about other people’s validation in my life and I can just be who I want to be and live my life the way I want to live my life.

I spent more than 6 hours on instagram, every day, without knowing it.
Ludovica, 24, Catania, Italy
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Ludovica, 24, Catania, Italy
August 16, 2021
I struggled to organize my studies and I didn't take exams because I spent my days scrolling through instagram posts and watching videos on youtube. I spent more than 6 hours on instagram, every day, without knowing it. In those hours I could have studied to build my future, so I had to use an App Block app to force myself to do something concrete.

Tik Tok had started recommending weight loss videos and “what I eat in a day” videos to my “For You” page.

Anonymous, 13, Orange County, United States
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Anonymous, 13, Orange County, United States
February 24, 2021

Last year I experienced feelings of depression and even gained an eating disorder because of apps such as Tiktok and Instagram. I would see people online who were older than me posting about the best/most unique parts of their life and theirselves. By seeing these I was convinced I was not good enough. Tiktok had started recommending weight loss videos and “what I eat in a day” videos to my “For You” page. These videos promoted the comparing going on in my mind by only filling me with thoughts about how I could alter myself to be “better.” I ended up isolating myself and was on the verge of going to the hospital. To this day I still have a bad relationship with food but I have now realized the horrible impact social media had on me. When I now try to have conversations with my friends they want to go on their phones. This has caused a great problem in which my friends no longer know how to converse “IRL”. Hopefully by speaking up about these problems there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. For now I appreciate all the work everyone is doing to change the negative side to social media.

I sometimes wonder to myself when will I ever be perfect, like the girls on social media
Roselyn, 14, Menifee, United States
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Roselyn, 14, Menifee, United States
August 16, 2021
I sometimes wonder to myself when will I ever be perfect, like the girls on social media or models. It hurts when you look at them and you want to be them but also admire how everyone respects them more than someone from the “beauty stander”

I remember one night specifically that was probably when I was at my peak of using that app when I just caught myself using it for a couple of hours without stopping...

Siri, 13, Cary, United States
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Siri, 13, Cary, United States
February 24, 2021

I downloaded TikTok for a short period of time out of peer pressure because all my friends had it and I wanted to see what it was like. I became addicted to it after a while and I remember just using it all day every day as much as I could. I remember one night specifically that was probably when I was at my peak of using that app when I just caught myself using it for a couple of hours without stopping, I just had this feeling of fear come over me as I realized that I was addicted to the app and without thinking about it I just deleted the app from my phone before I could second guess myself. I never got the app again nor did I get any other social media and I'm so so grateful for that decision. All of my other friends have Instagram and Tiktok and Snapchat and all of the other apps and I can really see how it affects them and how much they use it, I try to get them to use it less but it's hard and I really do think change needs to happen within the companies themselves in order to get this to stop.

When I was on social media, it would suck up my time uncontrollably
Boo, 16, Brisbane, Australia
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Boo, 16, Brisbane, Australia
August 11, 2021
When I was on social media, it would suck up my time uncontrollably and before I knew it the day was up, I'd achieved nothing I'd wanted to, spent no time with family and just totally ignored the world around me. I was scared I was falling down a rabbithole away from reality, so it was time I took ahold of my life. I've now realised how trapped I was, and though it was a temporary decision at first, I made it permanent and now I'm free.

I'm tired of feeling like I'm dumb, not pretty enough, not rich enough, not popular enough, not everything enough

Lily, 20, Los Angeles, United States
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Lily, 20, Los Angeles, United States
February 24, 2021

As someone who was in the 8th grade when Instagram first came out I remember it an innocent hub of photos, but it wasn't too far down the like that likes and followers were a big factor to your profile. I remember being in 8th grade and making excuses to my parents why I should make a Instagram, meanwhile I did have a facebook, my first experience with that being one for a school project. My parents at the time were not aware of Instagram and what it was about, I wish they didn't let me make an account but I was granted permission so I had two. fairly innocent, I would post random photos. fast forward high school and in and out of high school I am disabling my social media and getting back on it, constantly. I thought that me getting a flip phone would decrease my social media use but it didn't, I would use my brothers iPad. I see how people have all different perspectives of social media. but at the end of the day its a fake profile. I had to disable my social media this month after debating for a few months. I already knew when I had a social media account how different it feels when I don't have one, but I know the best thing to do is to not have one. I find myself educating myself more on what's going on all around. The thing is, that I've noticed among my generation is that social media is playing a huge part in allowing people to just follow the herd, and even though the people posting may feel like they are "woke" or "fighting the system" they are not open minded to understanding that there are people who may have a different opinion about things and that is okay, as humans we are all allowed to have different perspectives and understandings on certain issues, but when it comes to that Instagram story, if you were to post the slightest thing different from what everyone else posts, you get totally bashed for it. Social media is creating a generation of people who may think they are on the frontlines but in fact, sitting in the back not actually putting there posts to action. It is all about action. Social media is shaping the minds of our growing generation when we should be the ones to shape it ourselves. I am scared and I'm concerned about the depression, narcissistic, one sided perspectives our generation will start to have. I done think people understand that there is a world outside of there cell phone and there close circles. There is a whole world out there, what are we doing staring at a screen comparing ourselves to fakeness. I'm tired of feeling like I'm dumb, not pretty enough, not rich enough, not popular enough, not everything enough- that is all the illusion of social media. Ever since being off social media this time around I have taken the full detox, no tik tok, snapchat , Instagram face book, none of it. I am learning so many things about myself, what it means to be 20 and how these years are crucial to my growth as a human being on this earth. I think in the future there's going to be two types of people, those that 100% embrace all the factors of technology and those who may question it and those who choose to stick to reality, which means that we endure less dopamine to the brain than those who accept all the crazy wonders of technology. I have decided to use my brain, my skills, my personality and all things that make me in the real word. If I truly cared to talk to someone, or if someone truly cared to talk to me, we could just give each other a phone call or send a dang letter! It's not that hard, I hope more people my age grow to realize this. I am tired of having narcissistic friends that only care about taking selfies and getting likes.

14 years old and I had already gone three days without eating, addicted to instagram to see all these girls with perfect bodies. It felt like a downward spiral I could not get out of.

Francesca, 17, Manizales, Colombia
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Francesca, 17, Manizales, Colombia
February 24, 2021

I was happy. I was active, ballet, soccer, volleyball musical, number one in my class, lots of friends. My life was not perfect but I learned to manage it and to be positive. Then came freshman year of high school. Did he text me? How many people liked my post? Do I like how my body looks in pictures? Unfortunately, the answer was no. I found a community in social media to "help" me but it made everything worse. 14 years old and I had already gone three days without eating, addicted to instagram to see all these girls with perfect bodies. It felt like a downward spiral I could not get out of. But I did. It was a long process that I have not recovered completely of yet but I did it. Next, COVID hit and in quarantine my use of social media escalated exponentially. I stopped talking to my family, to my friends, and doing any exercise. Average of 6 to 7 hours on TikTok, wasting my life, my time, my life at 16 meant nothing. I got to a really dark place where I thought about self harm. I was not pretty enough, skinny enough, funny enough. No one would want me. Lie. Lie. Lie. After lie. Social media is full of lies, nothing you see is real but we are convinced that their lives are perfect whilst mine is awful. No it's not. Believe me. I'mm 17 now, escaping from that rabbit, dark hole. I feel so much better now, with a purpose. Do not get me wrong, I have no idea what I am going to do with my life once I graduate, but everything seems clearer now. It all started with a long break from social media.

I felt so insecure about myself. My abilities, my looks, my roots, my potential. This because I was comparing my life with people around me and people I saw on social media.

Nathan, 21, Midlaren, Netherlands
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Nathan, 21, Midlaren, Netherlands
February 24, 2021

I felt so insecure about myself. My abilities, my looks, my roots, my potential. This because I was comparing my life with people around me and people I saw on social media. I never realized being different is my key to joy and happiness. I still struggle with social media because I think I can't miss out. It has been integrated in my being because I've been using it since I was a teenager. I'm sort of afraid that I'll miss important updates about people and the world when I would delete it. It feels like I'm not strong enough to make this decision. I often doubt about it and this doubt is eating away my believes of having a great willpower. I used to be on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter but I got rid of that attraction. Now I only feel being stuck with Instagram especially. And YouTube sometimes as well.

I decided to finally let go of Tiktok and Instagram... I found myself getting to bed at 10pm, instead of the usual 1 or 2 am
Yvette, 16, Hsinchu City, Taiwan
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Yvette, 16, Hsinchu City, Taiwan
August 16, 2021
Up until around three months ago, I was averaging 4 to 5 hours per day on my phone, with the number going up to 14 hours over the weekends, most of which was being spent on Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube. Having grown up in the digital age, I never felt as if my life was good, not even as a kid. I envied many of the things I saw on social media and was exposed to many inappropriate situations far too young. After getting the book Digital Minimalism (Cal Newport) recommended to me, I decided to finally let go of Tiktok and Instagram, the two apps holding me back from doing things I truly care about. For the first week, I found myself getting to bed at 10pm, instead of the usual 1 or 2 am, but I also felt as if I was missing out. After two weeks, I decided to "reward" myself by getting Instagram back for just a day. What I found was that I truly did not care for the majority of the posts I missed, and that no one really noticed my absence. I believe that social media utilizes the 'spotlight effect' that creates a general sense of self-importance that would make us think that everyone else is hyperfocused on us. The day I downloaded Instagram back, I used it for three hours. When I realized, I was very disappointed and deleted it again, because I thought I had already beat the addiction. Now, months later, I feel very liberated. It's an odd feeling, but it feels as if I'm free to do whatever I want without the judgment of others. I still occasionally check my social media apps (once a week or so), but have used it instead to focus on the positive benefits it can bring, such as connecting to friends living abroad.

My anxiety is spiking when I sit there and wait on people to like my stuff.

Lea, 21, Los Angeles, United States
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Lea, 21, Los Angeles, United States
February 24, 2021

So I have two experiences to share that both occured on instagram. I follow a lot of feminist and activist accounts. While I just wanted to support marginalised communities I have been vilified in the comments because people misunderstood me. One time I was accused of being homophobic even though I wanted to do the opposite with my comment and uplift the lgbtq+-community. I don't like being vilified for something I never said but I also know that sometimes it isn't worth it to fight with strangers about your moral opinions. The second experience I want to share is that because of post anxiety I can't post something on there except stories. I get so invested in how many likes I get that I just stopped posting except instagram stories. My anxiety is spiking when I sit there and wait on people to like my stuff. I've also come to an agreement with myself that I don't want to lie about my personal life so I'll never post anything personal because I don't wanna seem egocentric. I just made it my goal to uplift marginalised communities and voices. That's how I made peace with the craziness of social media.

I have disabled my account for months on end and feel GREAT and productive and free without the app. However, as soon as I get it back I fall back into my old ways.

Ana, 20, Elizabethtown, United States
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Ana, 20, Elizabethtown, United States
February 24, 2021

My experience on social media has always been very love hate. I have a very hard time getting off Instagram when I need work to be done. I cannot help but waste hours on the explore page and watching people's stories. In an effort to stop my time wastage on the app, I have used time limits and unfollowed almost 200 of the 400 people I follow. Still, I find it very hard to get off. On top of that, the app definitely shows a false sense of reality. I feel bad after being on the app, as if I am missing out on something important and that people look better than me. With the being said, I am still a very happy person and thankfully this does not affect me deeply, but I think that's the case because I limit myself so much. I have disabled my account for months on end and feel GREAT and productive and free without the app. However, as soon as I get it back I fall back into my old ways. I would get it back with the excuse that I need it to stay up-to-date on school events. With COVID there is not much going on and I graduate in a semester. So I disabled my account for good. I won't get rid of it in case I need it for school but I wish I was able to just let it go altogether. I started Instagram when I was 16 so not that young, but I still have a hard time letting it go. I barely post but use it for the explore page and looking up people. I always and still to this day feel that without an Instagram account you are seen as weird or introverted. I feel that if I do not have an Instagram I am the odd one out. I wish I never made one in the first place, I have never gotten any direct benefits from the app. It just clutters my brain and causes negative affects. I also have the pressure of having to keep up with DMs from friends. I do not want to have to constantly check and respond to their images and videos they share. I don't like the expectation of having to like someone's post or view their story. I literally do not care about 95% of the people I follow nor do I see them with or without COVID, but I still "have" to follow them. I am so excited to actually let it go and connect with my family and real friends more. I am so happy for this movement and hope that many people realize that Instagram isn't that important and is actually a waste of time.

I knew it was time for me to leave that platform when I realized that I was walking on eggshells.

Gracie, 17, Arlington Heights, IL, United States
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Gracie, 17, Arlington Heights, IL, United States
May 21, 2021

I used to be an avid twitter user. I used it to follow various celebrities that I liked. I knew it was time for me to leave that platform when I realized that I was walking on eggshells, scared to say something wrong that would make the other strangers in the communities I was apart of angry. I had watched other users get bullied off the app when they had made a mistake or said something wrong and when I realized I was genuinely scared to say anything for fear of “being cancelled” I knew it was time to leave.

...we specifically learned different ways to keep users “hooked” to products and platforms by means of psychology.

Alexandria, 23, Deltona, United States
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Alexandria, 23, Deltona, United States
February 24, 2021

I’m getting my Master’s Degree in Mass Communications and Social Media (yes, social media), and will be graduating in December. I’ve absolutely loved the program thus far, and have learned more about the communications field and social media than I ever could have imagined. There have been many moments during the past year where I’ve felt so excited and hopeful about the field and the opportunities it brings. There have also been moments where I’ve felt uncertain about the field, even considering my own personal journey and realizations with social media. Beyond the intended benefits of connection and accessibility, I was seeing a toxicity from social media in my own life and the lives of the people around me. I began to fight this ethical battle in my head around the idea of someday contributing to the growth of toxicity in the field, or even just having to submerge myself in it for an income. In my Emerging Technologies class, we specifically learned different ways to keep users “hooked” to products and platforms by means of psychology. It was interesting from a creative and technical lens, but incredibly terrifying from the view of the consumer. I was suddenly realizing all of the methods and techniques that I was falling prey to, in a negative way. Later that semester, my professor assigned a reflection paper, and one of the questions was “are you excited about the emergence of technology and social media?”. To put simply, I wrote, “no, I’m not. In fact, I’m terrified. I see the benefits of connection and accessibility from both mediums, but I cannot ignore the impending negative impacts. When will it stop feeding us tailored information? When will it stop using our data for monetization? When will it stop affecting our mental health? I don’t know that it ever will”. I was expecting to get points taken off for my rant, but instead was met with an overwhelmingly agreeable response. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way about social media. I wasn’t the only one considering deleting every single app off my phone despite paying thousands of dollars for a master’s degree in the field. I wasn’t the only one seeing the problems that needed fixing in the industry. But that didn’t make me feel any better. There wasn’t some weight that lifted off my shoulders in learning I wasn’t alone. If anything, it added more pounds onto whatever weight I was carrying in the first place. Then I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I obviously wasn’t met with any ease or calmness regarding my concerns with social media. However, seeing the former CEOs and Presidents of various social media platforms explaining their own frustrations with some of the systems they even helped to create gave me some much needed perspective. We are allowed, in fact encouraged, to be critical of the things we’re involved in or passionate about. Tristan Harris didn’t quit the field knowing what he knows; instead he remains in the field with hopes of fixing it. Fixing it starts with our own habits, and how we choose to be affected by the industry as consumers and contributors. Let’s limit our screen time. Let’s turn off our phones at night. Let’s turn off notifications for “who posted” or “who liked” and everything else that doesn’t matter. Let’s be intentional in our interactions beyond the phone screen. Let’s work to stop rewarding companies who use us as products with our time. Let’s acknowledge that we do not have to “cancel” social media to make it less toxic; instead we can work to make strides to steer the industry towards the way of positive growth for everyone. As I approach my (virtual) graduation and continue applying for jobs, I am keeping my ethics and desire to change this fragile and increasingly toxic industry at the forefront. While I see the obvious benefits of my industry and the many opportunities it provides for accessibility, growth, and connectivity, I also see the benefits of change and renovation as it pertains to ethics, health, and safety.

I began to be aware that I was believing things that... didn't exist.

Jasper, 24, Cape Town, South Africa
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Jasper, 24, Cape Town, South Africa
February 24, 2021

Both Facebook and Reddit were the worst. Facebook was an endless scrolling distraction, removing me from myself, making me watch more and more far right content, and distracting me from my friends, family and work. I despised it, and decided that I should try to live without it - but I still had Reddit. Reddit was okay? Surely? It was a way to get the newest information about the world? So was Youtube? They were just videos. How wrong I was. Firstly; Reddit became a balm for my social anxieties, and paradoxically, also a stimulant of them. There you can frolic and get drunk on the syrup of humour, new information and the illusion of debate and community. Meanwhile you get slowly sucked in, spending more and more time on it. I began to be aware that I was believing things that...didn't exist. Or they did exist, it just felt more and more like a cult, a group of anger and not support. I found that strain of outrage and anger in all my communities - I tried to take a break, but would be dragged willingly to gorge on the dopamine rush, the faerie food of reddit. Youtube is the same; I began to watch more right things - "the intellectual dark web" slowly stepping onto more and more anger and outrage and "common sense." I tried just "unliking" all the video I saw. That did not work. Then I began using blocking apps to stop recommendations, and only show subscriptions, and limit my time on Youtube. Facebook, Youtube and Reddit all led to a warped image of who I was, of what I was worth. Youtube and reddit fed into each other and led to an echo chamber, which led to a depression. After that I tried everything to stop myself being on any social media - I feel a lot happier.

I am facing the reality of the attention deficit and lack of real social skills that has left me with.
Kallum, 17, Birmingham, United Kingdom
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Kallum, 17, Birmingham, United Kingdom
August 16, 2021
I found myself becoming more and more addicted to apps like Instagram in my mid-teens, where I would spend hours just scrolling through content which had no meaning or value to me. Now as a young adult I am facing the reality of the attention deficit and lack of real social skills that has left me with. Something which was a trendy new tool to speak with friends quickly became an escape from reality and a means of 'fast-food' entertainment which undoubtedly has left me in need of a 'tech diet'. Now I think it's more important than ever to knock down and rebuild this idea of how we use digital technology and re-purpose it as a tool as it was meant to be - and to be completely honest I think that the CHT and their experience in industry are the perfect people to take lead in the issue.

My generation is barely existing in a war against our own mental health

Caitlyn, 19, Centennial, United States
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Caitlyn, 19, Centennial, United States
May 21, 2021

When I was a freshman, four students at my high school died by suicide. Numb and confused, my 15-year-old brain could not begin to grasp the depth of the tragedies. As a result, I became more sensitive to the young people around me who were also struggling. I lost sleep over my friend, Katie, whose battle with mental health heartlessly robbed her of the contagious laugh I loved so much. I cried with my little sister when she was viciously attacked by an online group full of hate. I watched anxiety envelop my cousin until she could no longer eat. And I certainly was not exempt; friendless and alone, I often felt invisible. It became clear that my generation is barely existing in a war against our own mental health. I really appreciate everything CHT is doing to promote positive uses of technology, especially since social media is often a cause for mental health issues and teen suicide, yet it is usually the first place young people seek when they are hurting. CHT and Girl Scouts inspired me to create a positive virtual community where young people can anonymously post their personal stories, struggles, and heartfelt questions without the fear of judgement or rejection. It is a safe and positive place that welcomes all. Please share asafeplace2share.org with anyone who might benefit from our uplifting community. Together, we will fight relentlessly to ensure that no one in our community becomes a casualty of this merciless war.

Only a discovery that my favourite YouTuber may be a white supremacist shocked me back to my senses.

Anonymous, 21, I, Pakistan
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Anonymous, 21, I, Pakistan
May 21, 2021

During lockdown, I had too much time to spend on YouTube. Several rabbit holes later, my views on Feminism, and politics morphed into ones where my respect for certain members of society was much lower than before. Only a discovery that my favourite YouTuber may be a white supremacist shocked me back to my senses. Even though I avoid preachy YouTubers now, I still YouTube is a source of toxicity in my life.

the number of followers on Instagram became an index of how ugly or beautiful... a person is
Aadit, 16, Amritsar, India
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Aadit, 16, Amritsar, India
August 11, 2021
For me, the number of followers on Instagram became an index of how ugly or beautiful, or how good or bad a person is... As a result, I started disregarding my own talents and personality.

One of the biggest issues ive ever dealt with social media was feeling like people forgot about me.

Anonymous , 18, Union, USA
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Anonymous , 18, Union, USA
May 21, 2021

One of the biggest issues ive ever dealt with social media was feeling like people forgot about me. For 6 years ive had social media on my phone and at first it was to keep in touch with friends and to see all the fun that my friends were having, but as time went on i would check the apps and see that they were all hanging out and that i was never invited to these and inside that hurt me horribly and put me in a bad place for months at a time because all I told myself was that I just might not be a good enough friend and thats why I was never invited to these events and hangouts. During this period I just sat inside and did nothing for days and weeks at a time and would just scroll through these apps and see everyone having fun and as time went on it got worse and worse until finally I just got rid of the apps all in all and went outside and later found a great new group of friends that i've had all throughout highschool and it's been some of the best years of my life, so I guess you can say there's always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow you just gotta start from the bottom and work over that big bridge.

Seeing a notification from him made my heart drop, since it was usually something terrifying, but I could never turn away.

Sophia, 15, Basking Ridge, USA
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Sophia, 15, Basking Ridge, USA
February 24, 2021

When I was in 7th grade, someone who I thought was my best friend was emotionally abusive for over a year on Snapchat. He sent me videos of him self harming, would tell me he would commit suicide then not respond for hours to scare me, make me spend hours and hours of my energy to talk him off the ledge, and make me feel like I was never good enough to save him. Seeing a notification from him made my heart drop, since it was usually something terrifying, but I could never turn away. If I left him on open or on delivered, I was scared he would die. If I didn't spend all of my energy on typing pages and pages of chats trying to help him, I was scared he would die. The whole time I thought I was just being a good friend. This unmonitored exchange of Snapchats completely traumatized me and robbed me of my innocence, happiness, and trust in future friends. Since he lived far away, I thought Snapchat was the only way I could possibly keep this emotionally draining friendship, and since I was on Snapchat 24/7, I could never get away from him. I ended up ending our friendship because he threatened to kill my friend and her entire family lol, but I was left emotionally scarred, and this single friendship over Snapchat caused me myself to fall down a rabbit hole of depression, anxiety, OCD, suicidal ideation, and self harm. While the real person to blame was the friend, Snapchat's addictive layout and system of highs and lows set the emotional harm over the edge.

My focus has drastically dropped using these technologies. I couldn't even focus on a thing for more than 5 mins.

Harsha, 19, Guntur, India
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Harsha, 19, Guntur, India
February 24, 2021

Soo social media started to me when I was young only around 14 years I have had my Facebook first then but later on it didn't really affect me that much cause I didn't used to care about it that much but later on days passed by now I'm 19 years old and in this 2020 year I felt that I was in addiction with my smartphone I was using my phone around more or less 5 hours a single day and 8+ hrs in some days that has been a wake-up call for me so from then I tried multiple things to quit social media and smartphone use tried removing apps but eventually I started finding other ways to use my phone again and again at this point now I am addicted to Instagram I was using it for 2+hrs in a single day for mostly messaging and memes and mindless scrolling..... Later I realized that I am also addicted to YouTube. I was watching mindless videos every day.. (My focus has drastically dropped using these technologies. I couldn't even focus on a thing for more than 5 mins & My relationships also not so good using this tech) Then I tried using a not soo smartphone recently only and very basic phone which can be used for calls, messaging, WhatsApp. only and the best thing is the battery in that phone only lasts around 1.5 hours only so I know the things that I want to focus on. (Tried Siempo launcher it's the best one.)then after a week of changing my smartphone to a basic android phone now my screentime is less than 2 hours.I don't have any regrets about changing my smartphone to an old basic android phone.The problem is with the apps and till date now I feel like checking my Instagram around 10 mins a day but didn't felt the urge that i used to and siempo doesn't let me use more than 5 mins...My small advice to people is that just try to live in this moment.. Our parents don't have this technology but they are happy and they have better relations than ours.(Instagram is not worth the time that you spent on it.)Thank you Centre for humantech for giving a wakeup call to me and the people in this movement.Special thanks to (Team Siempo.)

For a long time I was barely living in reality and started living in a fantasy almost.

Tosca, 22, Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Tosca, 22, Amsterdam, Netherlands
May 21, 2021

I got addicted to youtube when I was in high school because I had no friends and got bullied from time to time, at the time I didn't realize it was to cope, but I did know I was lonely and had no friends. Because YouTubers have such a personal relationship with their audience, you feel very close to them and their content, not realizing they aren't telling you everything about their life. I was a fan of Shane Dawson, and he is the poster child for this. He was manipulating his audience and using the algorithm to his advantage during his career. I remember feeling close to him and him always thanking his audience and hyping them up, which made me feel very seen, even though I wasn't. A few years after I got sucked into online activism/SJW corners of the internet on Facebook and Instagram and for a long time I believed I wasn't being biased/subjective when I very clearly was, and I started to have pretty dark thoughts and opinions. Again I felt connected to people, more disconnected from the outside world and this time it got much worse. I also had resentment towards everyone around me, thought they weren't who they said they were. I shut everyone out because I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was "cutting off problematic friends and family" when I was nitpicking about the things they did that were problematic (aka maybe watching a certain tv show with an actor that had done or said something questionable). I thought I wasn't addicted. I rationalized it in all the possible ways. Later when I did realize I was addicted, I said it was for the right reasons and I needed to stay "woke", because I didn't trust any other sources anymore. I wanted to quit the platforms but because I felt it would prevent me from doing online activism I stayed. This feels weird to say, but I felt very ashamed for being white. Not a "healthy dose of white guilt", but full-on, deep-rooted shame about who I was as a person because I was white. For a long time I was barely living in reality and started living in a fantasy almost, and deep down was aware of it and ashamed so it took a long time for me to own up to it. I spent a lot of time rationalizing why it wasn't as bad as I thought, or admitting to myself that I was addicted but not doing anything to change it. I was using alllll the platforms too, all of them except Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr. I eventually got a very close friend that's now my best friend basically through our mutual addiction. I think we enabled each other at times, but it was so good to finally have someone to relate to. I still sometimes fall back into my addiction, but I have real friends now and a life. There are a lot of liars on the internet. And why wouldn't there be, it's so easy to lie on there. There were times when I thought someone was so honest and so genuine, and so themselves that there was no way they could be bullshitting. But once I finally started independently researching, aka researching someone's background with a neutral mind and considering the option that they might not be who they say they are, I found out those exact people were lying and just how gullible I was being. It sucks getting lied to. The biggest liar is the platform itself. It's very hard to do good on there and simultaneously managing your addiction. If you can, it's better to do good in real life, with people you can meet face to face or at least text. So many things in my life got sabotaged because I couldn't quit, mostly my grades. I had trouble paying attention to things in my surroundings, I stayed up till late at night (in my teen years, I watched youtube every night until about 3 am a lot of times), I got massive anxiety and social anxiety that I'm still dealing with, I used my phone as a crutch to avoid interacting with people, everything that had to do with real life stopped being appealing to me, it just wasn't as exciting. But you don't need any reason to quit, you don't have to stay for any creator. For me I waited deleting because I didn't wanna say goodbye to all the people I followed who I felt personally connected to, but eventually I decided to just do it, and it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders and kind of setting myself free. Everyone deserves that.

I had a totally different persona on FB.

Gayathiri, 24, Kandy, Sri Lanka
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Gayathiri, 24, Kandy, Sri Lanka
February 24, 2021

I don't even know where to begin. I created a facebook account when I was 19. I had a bad breakup and I was looking for ways to distract myself and facebook gave me the best platform to do that. I was in facebook all day along and eventually I facebook started determining my self worth. If someone comments on my post or messages me it will make me feel good. If my posts didn't get enough likes I would feel down. I started to get into fights with people over comments - the typical comment wars. I had a totally different persona on FB. It looked like I am an unapproachable rude person even though I am a humble person in real life. My fb contacts from university started perceiving me as my FB persona. It affected my self esteem a great deal. I felt awkward and shy to start a conversation with a new person. Where ever I went in campus I started to worry and wonder, who knows me and what they thought about me. I deleted my facebook account in last June and I feel really better. My self esteem has improved a great deal and I am really content, without knowing who got into relationship with whom and not getting into comment wars. People are taking social media way too serious. Yet again, when you enter into it, you get lost into a different kind of world that sucks you into it.

Me and my peers in 7th grade have been addicted to technology for a while.

Anonymous, 13, denver, USA
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Anonymous, 13, denver, USA
May 21, 2021

Me and my peers in 7th grade have been addicted to technology for a while and we weren't aware of our situation until our class study of technology's risks. And it wasn't until now that we realized how exposed to addiction we are. We all think this is a real issue that we need to be aware of. Most of the issues that we have had in our class have been about technology and most of our conversations have been about technology. Then we saw "The Social Dilemma" and most of our conversations about technology have stopped. Some of our classmates have not recognized their dependence on technology and social media and it has an affect on our whole class culture. Our hopes for our future are to try to get away from technology and to stop our addictions on technology.-Kenneth, Josan, Mario, Ashley (7th graders , St. Rose Of Lima Catholic Academy , Denver, Colorado )

My total screen time since I started using twitter was 785 hours.
Violett, 18, JEDDAH, Saudi arabia
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Violett, 18, JEDDAH, Saudi arabia
August 16, 2021
I have been using social media too much.. Especially instagram since i was 10 years old, i always thought how great I am by keeping up with every single thing around me and meeting people who have the same interests. Until I realised how much time it took from my dailylife and how it wasn't a dailylife but more like instagram like and i deleted my acc and the whole app.. Those days i still didn't know that the problem was with the apps themselves not myself so I started using twitter and oh boy that was the worst hole i have even been into. It was worse than instagram by hundereds, awful news, lots of problems and fight in the timeline and my addict to it was unbelievable my totall screen time since i ever started using twitter was.. 785 hours.. I wish i was joking but this us from 2018 till november of last year where I realised that something is wrong this needs to change, i didn't find anyone who shared my sentiments those days and even my cousin said that i was crazy for hating social media and how will I live if i stopped using them?? Glad to tell you I started digitial minimalism, deleted many apps so now I am at any social media at all only whatsapp for talking with my family and friends and youtube but with addson and no recs no trend and no feed or comments. From november 2020 to now may 2021 I can't express how my life changed for the better. I am still suffering yes im still working on my screen time but now at least i am using it more effeciently and intentionally with my own autonomy. And i am dealing with my problems without the pressure of running away to social media only to feel even worse than before. Using tech wisely is not a once or short term solution, it is a life time journey and i am still learning but at least as i hope.. For better :)

I realized I was becoming more hateful and less open minded.

Madison, 23, Louisville, United States
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Madison, 23, Louisville, United States
February 24, 2021

I deleted my favorite app TikTok last month. I spent hours upon hours everyday on the app. As a young Democrat, I only saw liberal messages and content creators on my FYP. I stopped seeing a conservation. Instead, it was an echo chamber of the same ideas. You stop viewing the other side with humanity if you never see or hear from them. I realized I was becoming more hateful and less open minded. After watching the Social Dilemma, I realized why. The algorithm only showed me content it thought I would like, ie liberal content. A light bulb flicked on in my head, and I immediately deleted all of my social media. I haven’t looked back, and I don’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would.

The day I graduated from college, I uploaded an Instagram post sharing the news with my network, only to realize a few hours later that I was checking how many like I got.

Bautista, 24, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Bautista, 24, Buenos Aires, Argentina
February 24, 2021

After several months of feeling uneasy with social media, I reached my turning point 3 years ago and never ever looked back. The day I graduated from college, I uploaded an Instagram post sharing the news with my network, only to realize a few hours later that I was checking how many like I got.At that moment, I said to myself "How is it possible that after 4 years of hard work and studying, I'm paying more attention to the count of likes instead of being innerly satisfied with the goal accomplished and the closure of an important stage in life?". After that, I stopped using all my social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin) and continued to see more and more downsides of the apps I used, specially in those around me. Once you quit, you really see how addicted people have become to their phones and social accounts.It's as if a cloud had been lifted from my sight. My attention came back to focus and I could reconnect with the real world, real interactions and real bonding with people. All in all, if social media doesn't make your daily life happier, what's the point in having them at all?

After using it for 2 months I started feeling mentally disturbed as I felt self doubt, jealousy and anxious looking at various post of my friends on insta

Yash, 21, Nashik, India
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Yash, 21, Nashik, India
February 24, 2021

It was 2018 when I was in my first year of under graduation and I signed up on instagram...... After using it for 2 months I started feeling mentally disturbed as I felt self doubt, jealousy and anxious looking at various post of my friends on insta.....i used to compare myself to others for looks and followers and began hating myself.... I cried too sometimes about it.... So I started to unfollow people whose post induced negative feelings in my heart and also muted off the notifications of instagram ..... This Went for like 2 years and it was very hard for me to resist to not open the app....I even tried to disable my account but couldn't resist the urge to recover my account.... I asked myself why was I using insta.... It was taking toll on me as I felt like I m in prison so I deleted my insta account after lot of thought and hesitation ..... After deletion of my insta account , I felt so happy and started loving myself without comparing myself to others.... I started taking care of myself and my heart felt so free..... I stared focussing on my hobbies and work instead of worrying about my number of followers and feeling jealous about number of likes and comments on other ppl posts ........This has been one of the best decisions of my life .....Take care

I feel like I've become a numbed zombie
Trainor, 22, Toronto, Canada
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Trainor, 22, Toronto, Canada
October 14, 2021
It's come to a point where I don't know what to do without this technology. What do people normally spend their time off doing? It's far easier these days to sit down and look at a screen then to engage in any important or pleasurable activities outside the internet. I feel like I've become a numbed zombie who see's no value in anything outside distracting his own immediate attention.

I got addicted, always checking my phone, obsessed with keeping my streaks, worrying that someone needed my attention 24/7.

Dasani, 16, Phoenix, United States
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Dasani, 16, Phoenix, United States
February 24, 2021

There's been real tension in my household lately, and social media has been my sort of coping mechanism. When I felt alone and hopeless, I could just scroll through instagram and not feel like crying anymore. I've never been allowed to go out much, so when I felt disconnected with my friends, I just spread my face across snapchat so I could talk to new people. I got addicted, always checking my phone, obsessed with keeping my streaks, worrying that someone needed my attention 24/7. I thought that was great to be needed, interested in, and meeting interesting people, until some of those people started asking things of me that I'm not comfortable with. Disconnected once again, I deleted snap and went back to my default scroll. Then I watched the social dilemma and really got to see that I wasn't the only one having these types of problems. I started to limit my screen time, schedule my days according to online school, pick up other hobbies I haven't done in a while like drawing, being part of the church choir, ect. I still don't have the best social life, but at least I'm spending my time alone productively.

Instagram was making me hate myself and made me want to be someone I wasn't.

Jay, 21, Garfield, United States
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Jay, 21, Garfield, United States
February 24, 2021

I used to be on Instagram a lot, but at the age of about 15 or 16, I realized what it was doing to me. I realized it was making me feel bad about myself and having major fomo. It made kinda depressed so I decided to take the first step and not cave into the network effect where I feel like I have to have it to stay connected with people. I found that if people are meaningful enough they would connect with me in whichever way is comfortable. Instagram was making me hate myself and made me want to be someone I wasn't. I'm glad I realized its impact on me at an early age and stay away from social media for months. I did go back eventually, but this time I stopped posting because I didn't want to make others feel bad. Then just recently after social dilemma, I decided to unfollow everyone who wasn't close to me and now my feed mainly composes of funny videos which is why I mainly use it. When looking at social media from the outside in, you can see the deliberate steps that companies have taken to ensure you stay on their platform and pay attention to it. I truly believe that social media is not good for society, at least the way it is currently being represented. I think after social dilemma, the next documentary should be about dating apps, because they are pretty great at making some people feel really bad about themselves and making others feel great. Also the way they are marketed, it almost makes you feel like that is the only way to actually meet someone. Linked in also makes you feel bad about your career but I still use it just for the profile for recruiters. Wish that didn't feel like the only way either.

There were many times I fell into that common spiral of comparing my life to that of the glitz and glamour I saw on-screen.

Chanel, 25, Santa Barbara, United States
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Chanel, 25, Santa Barbara, United States
February 24, 2021

Social media... Where to start? There were many times I fell into that common spiral of comparing my life to that of the glitz and glamour I saw on-screen. I've lost a cousin to suicide who I would've never guessed had depression because of what he posted. I've also had to endure the harmful effects of cyberbullying, the constant validation-seeking and "needing-to-prove" mentality, and so on. While both experiences affected me greatly, they opened up my eyes to the bigger picture: What we see on the Internet is not always what's happening in reality; It's just a fraction. In order for my experiences on social media to feel more fulfilling and positive, I started working towards using it less. Eventually, I found myself only keeping up with those I maintained connections with. I deleted my Facebook account in 2018 and always went back to Twitter but finally deleted it this year after seeing a bunch of political debate that often looked like unhealthy arguments. Something that I also do often and consciously so is de-cluttering my Instagram feed every once in awhile. That meant following accounts that were good for my mental health, and unfollowing a number of other accounts. Over time, social media become more of a fun and creative outlet. It's been a more authentic, intimate experience. Having a healthier relationship with social media makes life easy, relieves social pressure, and also allows me to genuinely connect with those I care about and care about me. These days, mental health issues are on the rise and social media usage is making it hard to live life. Some platforms are so addictive that it's hard to maintain self-awareness and have control. I think it's important it is to separate digital worlds from the life that's unfolding right in front of us. True human connection is what the world needs now more than ever. I hope that the industry can becomes healthier for society's sake, and that people don't have to experience the harmful effects before they take it upon themselves to change their habits.

I turned to self harm to cope with my internal distress and ended up joining a pro-anorexia group-chat

Anonymous, 18, Westbrook, USA
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Anonymous, 18, Westbrook, USA
May 21, 2021

When I was in 7th grade I started having really terrible mental health problems. I turned to self harm to cope with my internal distress and ended up joining a pro-anorexia group-chat, becoming a member of a forum on a separate website. In the kik group-chat situations I even came into contact with a predator posing as a young girl in my age group. I used Instagram to find people who felt the same as me about their body image and posted very damaging and dangerous things. This went on for years and I truly believe that if it weren't for the social media platforms and groups that I found so young (11 years old!) I would not still be fighting to finally recover years after when I am a college student with real world responsibilities. It was damaging physically and mentally and will haunt me for years to come.

What I've noticed is that TikTok has become a life-consuming obsession among young kids. Kids that aren't even in their teenage years yet, are glued to their phone screens 24/7.

Denise, 21, Weston, United States
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Denise, 21, Weston, United States
February 24, 2021

I'm a child caretaker currently working for a family in Connecticut.Generally I work with younger kids, but recently I joined a family with teenagers. I won't describe any further details for the sake of their privacy.What I've noticed is that TikTok has become a life-consuming obsession among young kids. Kids that aren't even in their teenage years yet, are glued to their phone screens 24/7. Some kids have admitted that they are addicted, they spend 14+ hours on social media in a day. Yet, when asked what's interesting about TikTok, they struggle to formulate an answer.It's impossible to have even a 5min conversation with them without them losing their focus and continuing their endless scroll. How does this impact their attention span? How does it impact their ability to have human conversations? I don't think we can even comprehend the full extent of damage that is being inflicted on their minds by allowing them to be so consumed by these online realms.Another growing concern is how fake news is impacting the younger generations. These stories are being forced on them through social media, misguiding their entire perception of the world they live in.All young children are naive by nature and will believe nearly anything they're exposed to without the consideration of getting a better idea of the bigger picture at hand.I think it's amazing how readily available such a broad scope of information has become through these online portals, but it's important that the information we receive is received with intentionality. We're all forcedly exposed to a one-sided perception of national and global activity due to targeted news and ads.We're robbed of the chance to know the TRUE FACTS of both sides of an argument, because we are limited to what the online portals think we should know instead of what we actually should know. I'm terribly afraid of how this addiction to technology and social media is impacting the younger generations. Not just today, but when these kids have grown to become the leaders of the world.I think that anyone with access to the internet and any social media channels should be well educated about what happens to the data that is taken from our interactions with the web. Why are the Big Tech companies so reluctant to share with us exactly what they use our data for? And more importantly, what data are they actually scraping from our interactions with their sites?If these companies are going to monopolize industries the way they have, and gain such value, we need to be much more aware of how we are really contributing to their scale and value. And why exactly their overtaking of these industries are causing a drastic increase in inequality.

I didn't sign up for it, and yet here I am 12-ish years later trying to undo things that are inevitably fundamental to who I am.

Annika, 20, Pasig City, Philippines
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Annika, 20, Pasig City, Philippines
February 24, 2021

I literally grew up with social media. Some of my earliest vivid memories are trying to figure out how I could get make a Multiply account despite being way underage. I spent many pre-teen summers playing pet society and farmville, or on youtube watching random videos. As the internet developed, so did I. I never really realized how detrimental it was to me or my mental health. Looking back, it was probably because my generation's parents were learning how to use technology at the same time. At that point, no one really understood how much it could actually do. Every kid was on social media then because it wasn't a huge deal, it was just like getting a new toy. While I do love that I grew up on social media so I get to look back at so many wonderful memories, that also means that I watched firsthand as it grew to be such a vile place. What used to be wholesome photos, statuses, and games became a cause for outrageous fighting between creators, and divisive moral, political, and religious rhetoric. I became more conscious of my social media use as I entered college, but it never really bothered me until I started looking at my screen time. Even now during the pandemic, I'd feel so ashamed about how much time I'd be on my devices if you combined my laptop, ipad and, phone. The social dilemma and discovering CHT's work, made me feel seen but also incredibly frustrated. I felt trapped because social media was hardwired into my brain as it developed when I was a kid. I didn't sign up for it, and yet here I am 12-ish years later trying to undo things that are inevitably fundamental to who I am. I started with little things like deleting some apps on my phone and ipad, as well as turning off notifications and trying to follow downtime more responsibly. The pandemic has made it really difficult to become responsible social media user, especially as a college senior with tons of extracurriculars. How can you lessen screen time when your entire window to the world is through your screen? Despite all that, I'm pretty hopeful that I'll eventually be able to have ownership of my social media use. Until then, the discomfort of not having notifications or youtube recommendations will have to do.

I don't miss that life of social media at all. It was, is and will always be the best decision I have ever made for myself.
Ali, 21, Al Mizhar, United Arab Emirates
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Ali, 21, Al Mizhar, United Arab Emirates
August 16, 2021
I think it began to hit me more so than ever when I found myself obsessing over the likes and comments and started seeing that other people were getting the attention I thought I deserved. But then it just hit me that, I was doing this to myself. And social media was becoming the cause. I knew right away, I needed to quit social media before it made me quit things I did not want to quit. So here we are, Facebook was gone in 2016, Snapchat in 2019 and Instagram in 2021. And I have been happier since living a life that I am content with. I don't miss that life of social media at all. It was, is and will always be the best decision I have ever made for myself. And no one can convince me otherwise now. The Social Dilemma woke me up to the realizations, and I am thankful for it for making me aware and able enough to consciously decide to quit at the right time. And if I ever get the opportunity to help someone make that decision, I would help them out in realizing how much it would be helpful.
my senior English class watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix and I had never felt so validated.
Madeline, 18, Lenexa, United States
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Madeline, 18, Lenexa, United States
August 16, 2021
Today, I still use Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube, but my real awakening to this issue began when I used to use TikTok. I downloaded it in the fall of 2019 as a joke because many of my friends were, and I remember at first thinking it was stupid because people had been saying it was a "worse version of vine" so I almost didn't download it. I wish I would have known how dangerous the algorithm was before using the app because it didn't take more than a week for the algorithm to be completely personalized to me. I can't say for sure but if I had to estimate I would say spent at least 5-10 hours a day, each day, even when I had only intended to look at my phone for 30 minutes. The TikTok algorithm stands out to me as way more addictive and violating than other social media platforms largely due to it's endless scroll, and the way the for you page is designed. (to show you videos based on any of your liked videos and interests, as opposed to platforms like Instagram and Facebook where you are only automatically shown content from accounts you follow) Though I tried to curve my usage by setting time limits in Settings and taking "social media breaks" for days or weeks, the only way I could actually fight my addiction to TikTok was to delete the app altogether at the beginning of this year. It was hard at first but now I just wish I would have done it sooner. Later this year, my senior English class watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix and I had never felt so validated. The documentary found words to explain an issue that I had always felt was there, but an issue I didn't fully understand. Ever since I had my first iPhone in 6th grade, I sensed that technology addiction was an issue among my generation, but I didn't see my friends around me feeling as worried as I was about how much time we all spent on our phones. Our screen usage was always seen as a joke and something we were surprised about, but something we felt was simply due to us being lazy. After watching the documentary in class, I became fascinated with this issue and I'm now a huge fan of Tristan Harris, the Center for Humane Technology, and "Your Undivided Attention". I would say my main concern now is how this issue specifically impacts Gen Z, a generation who hasn't grown up in a world without internet. Growing up on social media, this is all we know, and now we are at the age where we are transitioning from addicted teenagers to adults who will be more involved in our society and eventually bring the next generation into the world. We need tech to be designed in a more humane way soon, so that our current problems, or potential worse problems with our god-like technology, are not passed down to generations to come. We also need to spread the word and sound the alarm about this issue, not only to policy makers, executives in the tech industry, and parents, but mainly to the teens that these issues impact who can really resonate with this issue.

...way too often I find the unconscious part of my brain instinctively clicking on snapchat and just wasting away time.

Nathan, 20, Troy, United States
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Nathan, 20, Troy, United States
February 24, 2021

When I think of social media, the first thing that comes to my head is how it lowers the quality of my in-person interactions with friends and family. Countless times this has happened where me and my friends go out to eat which requires carving out time from our busy routines to see each other. However, when we are actually standing in front of each other physically, no one is actually mentally there in the moment trying to enjoy the rare face to face encounter with the people we love. Instead, we're mentally consumed by something that could literally be done at any other time of the day -- scrolling through snapchat or Instagram stories. This doesn't make sense -- we made the plans to hang out and enjoy each other's company, so why are we using social media? Clearly, social media is designed in a way to make us crave it, need it, and unconsciously turn to it in moments where it wouldn't make sense to do so. Granted, this is something that I struggle with as well, which is extremely troubling since I think about this problem a lot -- imagine the people who are manipulated by this but don't notice the problem. Yet, way too often I find the unconscious part of my brain instinctively clicking on snapchat and just wasting away time. Our technology and social media can NOT be designed to manipulate and warp our unconscious behavior and decisions. This is seen first and foremost when even intentions to be present and enjoy the in person company of one another are defeated by the addictiveness of these platforms. I've found that only solution is to make it impossible for oneself to check social media -- shutting off phone, leaving phone at home, etc.Instead, the platforms should be designed with the intent of enriching our in-person lives, not warping our subconscious to crave acceptance and likes on the virtual platforms. At the very least, I think there should be a feature that detects how long you've been on the app, and forcing you to get off the app after an extended period of time. Personally, I have a snapchat addiction, and even though I feel unproductive and left out scrolling through snapchat stories and seeing what other people are doing (which I subconsciously look at when I have downtime). Yet, I can't just delete the app as a whole, since I communicate with my friends on the app, which I actually gain a lot of value from. I think there should be an option to opt out of the snapchat stories page, since that is not my intention to use that feature on the app. Yet, for me it has grasped the unconscious part of my brain and I find myself wasting time there.This deeply saddens me to be the generation this platform is tested on. While social media fuels our egos with likes and superficial attention, people are miserable standing in front of one another. I often times wonder what it would've been like to live 10 years ago. I wonder if I would be able to deepen my bonds with my friends and family, the people I love most, which is ultimately what really matters to in life -- not likes on social media. Through my experience, It's upsetting to feel the negative effects of social media. It's flat out immoral to create a product that warps our subconscious minds, which directly affects the connections we make with people in real life.

I have good friends here, who are Bengali, and who are least bothered by my identity and consider me their friend, but in Facebook it's a different reality.

Anjana, 23, Midnapore, India
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Anjana, 23, Midnapore, India
February 24, 2021

Hi, I am Anjana, 23, currently pursuing my masters' in physics. I belong to a community called 'santal', ( often referred to as Schedule Tribe or ST catagory) who speak 'santhali'. Although I was born and brought up here, among the Bangalees, who speak Bengali. I also speak Bengali.1. Recently, my dad joined a WhatsApp group, where someone shared a post, with a photo of someone saying, ' all the santhals should be thrown out of the state, because they don't belong here'. Now, 'Santhal' or sometimes called, 'Adivasi', are considered to be indigenous people of India. Although, there is some conflict regarding this and some believe we don't own any land here and therefore, it is not a place for us to stay. Also students belonging to ST catagory are given reservation in pursuing their higher education, for being economically backward mostly, in any institutions across India. So when I saw the post, I felt disturbed. I have good friends here , who are Bengali, and who are least bothered by my identity and consider me their friend but in Facebook it's a different reality. And I am not even on Facebook, yet these hate messages can reach me and altering me view as how I am perceived by people around me. I have noticed, I am growing self conscious while talking to anybody , trying to figure out whether person I am talking to, hates me or not? Or, how he sees me? As just another human being or someone from the ' different ' community?As we are offered some relaxation, some say we are not worthy of what we achieve, as it is given to us and that generates hate among them. And these kind of posts online are fanning the flames. I am worried if I go out tomorrow who knows, what kind of backlash I have to face! I want to be alive and live a good life but seeing such things puts a doubt. I have deleted it from my dad's phone but the damage has already been done. This person could have reported this post instead what he did is sharing it with another 10 people and helped spreading it more. How do we stop that?2. I got my first smart phone in my first year of college and by the end of graduation I was already struggling with my you tube addiction. It cost me my health, both mental and physical and also affected my studies. My grades started falling, I was in a rut, sleeping 10- 12 hours a day and always felt so tired. I was constantly on my phone, checking out new videos and scrolling. It changed my eating habits, I started skipping meals and sometimes dinners. Even when I ate I ended up throwing every now and then.I was ill often and decided to stay with my family and get tratment. It took me a while to recover and pinpoint the reason which was causing all of these. In expense of missing out on opportunities to apply for the universities that I wanted so badly to be a part of as I missed the entrance exams due to my sickness. 3. Also, I see how it's affecting my friends in college. During breaks, everyone is glued to their screens and it's difficult to have a conversation with them, in real space and time. Except for, what memes are going viral, or some stupid roast video. Sometimes, I have to pretend that I like them and laugh along , which is exhausting. Last year, after my graduation I took a break of almost 6 months from all the social media platforms , asked my friends to call me or drop me a message in the inbox, if needed and the results has been profound. I started reading more books, started new creative projects , learning guitar and also paint down all the ideas that I had been sleeping on only to watch some stupid videos on YouTube. It's been 2 years now I have left Facebook and use YouTube a lot less. I would have left WhatsApp if it weren't for the online classes. Right now it feels like those 6 months were the most ' alive ' and ' present' time that I have had. I was afraid that i might miss out something but after been through this ' retreat ' several times, it doesn't bother me much. And my friends also do this. We just have to message each other in advance that we need to get off the grid for sometime and will be unavailable, and it is okay with them.

#MySocialTruth is a story bank project for young people to share their experience on and off social media, and their ideas for how social media could be reimagined. The Center for Humane Technology will share #MySocialTruth with leaders from Washington DC to Silicon Valley.

Learn more about the movement for humane technology at humanetech.com.

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