Young Vietnamese become wise to insidious effect of social media

By Bui Linh   November 15, 2022 | 03:57 pm PT
Young Vietnamese become wise to insidious effect of social media
Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram apps are seen on a smartphone on July 13, 2021. Photo by Reuters/Dado Ruvic
Nam Anh has a YouTube channel with over 400,000 subscribers, but he is not really enamored of social networks.

The 28-year-old says social media made it difficult for him to concentrate on studying and working as he constantly has to check for breaking news.

So three years ago he decided to turn off almost all notifications on his phone.

He does not even have the Facebook app and only uses it on his computer. He used to follow 400-500 people on Instagram, but now that number has dropped to 176.

"I put my phone on vibrate most of the time," he says.

Calling apps time-consuming and obsessive, young people like Anh say they are regaining control of their time by stepping away from them.

Besides, limiting use of social networks enables them to obtain news from more accurate and a bigger range of sources.

This phenomenon of young people quitting social media is occurring not only in Vietnam but also in other places.

New studies show that Instagram is losing its grip on the next generation. A recent survey commissioned by investment bank Piper Sandler found only 22% of respondents between the ages of seven and 22 saying Meta’s popular photo-sharing platform was their favorite app, down from 31% in spring 2020.

Last year it was reported widely that Facebook’s internal studies had found Instagram harmful to teenage girls by causing body image issues, anxiety and depression, but downplayed the findings, according to the New York Post.

A survey by Tallo in December last year found 56% of Gen Zers saying, "Social media has led them to feel left out by their peers."

Despite not going a day without his smartphone, Anh did the 30-day social media detox challenge and stopped using Instagram completely.

"At first, not using social media gave me a lot of free time and I was frustrated because I didn’t know what to do," he says.

This forced him to make a to-do list to fill the time he had used to scroll through the phone. He also started to watch the news on TV to stay updated.

Hoang Thanh, 20, a Hanoi student, finds it bizarre that his/her friends take hundreds of selfies every time they meet and spend so much time editing the photos and replying to comments on social media.

"Social media is not for connecting people anymore, it has become a place for people to show off and brag about their lifestyle and expensive trips," Thanh says.

Thanh decided to limit the use of social media by not using smartphones for one or two hours a day before gradually increasing the duration.

Now Thanh can stay off social media for the whole weekend.

"I told people to call me if they need anything instead of texting me on social media. After a few months I no longer have the fear of missing out like before."

Ngoc Mai, an administrator of a minimalist lifestyle group, says digital minimalism is a hot topic among members these days, and they frequently discuss and share their experiences in limiting the use of devices.

"This shows that many young people are starting to pay more attention to balancing between social media and real life."

Dr Nguyen Phuong Chi of the University of Arizona in the U.S. says many call this digital detox, and there are people who detox for days, weeks and even months.

The Digital Vietnam report published by We Are Social and Hootsuite says the number of social network users in Vietnam at the beginning of this year was 76.95 million, or 97.8% of the population aged over 13, most of them aged 18-34.

On average, Vietnamese people spend six hours and 38 minutes online every day, including two hours and 28 minutes on social networks, comparable to the global average.

Chi says the Internet has gradually become a modern and indispensable living space for many people. Just like physical space, digital space too needs to be cleaned to optimize work performance and save time.

He recommends digital minimalism, including organizing documents on desktop and phone apps into groups, turning off unnecessary notifications, putting their phone in ‘do not disturb’ mode when working, and earmarking time for Internet detox every day.

"Just like taking a break after work, we also need to stop using the Internet and technology gadgets for a while in a day to clear our minds and relax our eyes."

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