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Social media - the manipulation machine that we need to manage and use with care! - By Sophie Fagan

Updated: 6 days ago


photo credit – Tracy Le Blanc

“It’s wrong to say we’ve grown apart and can’t understand each other.

What’s really going on is that we see less than ever before of what others are seeing, so we have less opportunity to understand each other.”

― Jaron Larnier, The Social Dilemma


Following a three-and-a-half-year break from all social media and a lot of musing, feeling and philosophising, I have decided to step back into the online world of the ‘metaverse’.


In this blog, I wish to share what I’ve learned from my time being social media-free, and how I intend to re-engage with the world of posts, reels, and algorithms.

Because I feel it's really important to maintain a healthy relationship with these tools, which do serve a purpose but can also be detrimental.


I hope you find this blog useful and, if nothing else, it raises questions within you about your

own relationship with social media, empowering you to take control of how you choose to

use these tools, as opposed to them manipulating and using you.

I am by no means an expert in this field, but I am a human who loves to connect and

empower people, and I remain open to learning and questioning my own beliefs and opinions.


Please do feel free to comment and question my sharings so we can keep the conversation

going and growing our awareness together.


Why the break from social media?

“Addiction gradually turns you into a zombie. Zombies don’t have free will.”

― Jaron Larnier The Social Dilemma


In 2021 I watched the documentary The Social Dilemma, which affected me deeply and

raised important questions about social media, its impact on the world and my own

relationship to it.

I think I have always felt some discomfort around social media, and this film made that

abstract discomfort more concrete in the form of real-life accounts from the creators of

Facebook and Google amongst others.


It provided facts and statistics of the negative impact it can have on both the individual and

society. This time of questioning led me to the book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and philosopher featured in

The Social Dilemma.


Both resources made clear the manipulative, behaviour-altering power of social media, and

its dangerous potential to polarise people. It’s also highly addictive and can contribute to

poor mental health, particularly that of adolescents whose young brains are still developing.


On this basis, I decided to deactivate my social media accounts for a year, the intention

being to create some space in which to reflect on their pros and cons, which definitely came

with some risks. As a self-employed massage therapist, Tai Chi teacher and event facilitator,

social media was integral to how I promoted and marketed my work. But all things

considered, I felt it was a risk I had to take.


Over three years later…

The intention to go for a year without social media turned into three and a half, and I can

honestly say it was glorious!

On a personal level, I noticed I was able to be more present in the moment, that my

relationship with my phone was a lot healthier, meaning I was enjoying longer periods of

time without checking it or feeling the need to open apps.


The way I experienced beautiful moments like precious time with friends became even more

special as there was no intention to record, share and use these moments as posts -

liberating!


From a business perspective, it was interesting. The break from social media coincided with

a break from Tai Chi teaching, so there is nothing to report on that front. But I was surprised

to find my massage practices busier than they’d ever been before. I was fully booked in

Amsterdam and Utrecht, which validated my decision.


All that said, I did ultimately decide to return.


If time away from social media was so nourishing, why consider going back?


For the last few years, I’ve been developing Embodied Empowerment, a platform I co-

founded with Villia de Koningh, a place for practitioners who hold space for others to come

together to be supported, inspired and connected.


Our motto is Strength in Community, and I’m committed to making our emerging community as strong and collaborative as it can be. I’ve also started working with Welkom Utrecht, an organisation supporting refugees and asylum seekers.


As much as the absence of social media has brought me many rewards, now that I’m

embarking/continuing to build on a number of new ventures, I do wish I could more readily

share and support the growth of these and other projects. The ultimate goal is to create

a self-supportive global community, which can, in turn, help the wider community of the

world.


More and more I have found myself asking the question.

Is it possible to use social media and keep my integrity?

Because I still have strong beliefs about the dangers of these tools.


Strength in flexibility


When I make a decision I can be steadfast, even rigid, inflexible in my capacity to go a

different way, but if Tai Chi has taught me anything, it’s that true strength lies in the capacity

to be flexible and adapt. If we can keep our form and structure (integrity) we can bend and

flex in many different ways and allow things to flow with greater ease and purpose.


I was holding firm to my new identity as a person who doesn’t use social media, who had

drawn a line around something she felt was Bad and had no uses at all. But nothing is ever

completely black or white. Most things exist within the grey. And the answers we arrive at at

one time in our lives doesn’t mean we should then stop asking questions.


Now, the question I’m asking myself is, How do I reactivate my accounts and engage with

the world of algorithms in a positive, mindful way?


A Social Media Manifesto


To be clear with myself about my intentions when using social media, I developed my own

Social Media Manifesto, an evolving document to keep me grounded in the things I have

learned from my years of being social media-free.

It acts as an anchor and important reminder of why I stopped using social media in the first

place, but also of the genuine potential for connection. Most importantly of all, it’s there to

remind me that I do have control over if/ how/ when I choose to use it, which is something all

too easy to forget.


There’s only so much we can do in the face of a multi-billion goliath of an industry, the

purpose of which is to grab and keep as much of our attention as possible. Perhaps all we

can ever really do is make the right decisions for ourselves on how we use it. At the end of

the day, we do have the power and we can make it work for us.


You can read my Social Media Manifesto here, https://bit.ly/45t5MAq and perhaps you’ll feel inspired to write one of your own?


I’d love to hear your thoughts about your own social media journeys - please

feel free to let me know what you think!


About Sophie Fagan:

Co-Founder of Embodied Empowerment - TaiChi - Massage Therapist.


She strongly believes in the ability to empower others to enhance their own well-being through experiencing new ways of connecting with themselves and the environment that surrounds them.


"We have to experience something in body and mind to truly know if it serves us"- says Sophie.


Strength in community is also at the foundation of how Sophie likes to work and be in the world. This is why she creates regular events and ways for fellow practitioners to come together at Embodied Empowerment to support, inspire and connect with each other.


Sophie is also a Holistic Massage therapist and teacher offering client sessions and workshops in Amsterdam and Utrecht as well as online.


She is also a Tai Chi and Chi Gong Teacher offering workshops and retreats all year round.


To discover more: Sophiefagan.com




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