I’ve noticed more people comparing social media to smoking lately, which is a compelling but limited analogy. The parallels are obvious: Both feel great at first but worse as time passes, demanding increasingly constant, compulsive consumption to achieve diminishing payoffs. Both are bad for you in general. Both are engineered and marketed to be irresistible and addictive. People quit both constantly, or talk about quitting, and frequently relapse. Both—and this is what I think people are getting at when they compare the two—are likely to fare poorly in historical hindsight. The reputation of cigarettes has already collapsed, just during my lifetime; social media currently occupies a much earlier point along the same trajectory, but many of us await a comparable movement that will force us all into a healthier mode of digital existence. Health and wellness are hallmarks of the present zeitgeist, or at least the pre-pandemic zeitgeist, but that largely remains confined to our bodily condition, while our terrible internet habits rage on.
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