I recent­ly read a sta­tis­tic that I can­not stop think­ing about: More than 90% per­cent of the data in the world was gen­er­at­ed over the last two years.

Read that again. It bog­gles the mind. In some ways, it makes per­fect sense. Compared to the 15th cen­tu­ry, we now con­sume as much data in a sin­gle day as an aver­age per­son from the 1400s would have absorbed in their entire life­time. During the pan­dem­ic, being online was the only way human­i­ty had to stay con­nect­ed. But 90% of all infor­ma­tion that exists? That is a lot of noise.

Are we bet­ter for it? The Diamond Sutra, which dates back to 868 C.E., is thought to be the old­est sur­viv­ing print­ed book. If all the amaz­ing words writ­ten since then haven’t dra­mat­i­cal­ly changed human behav­ior, what makes me think my social media posts will push the needle?

I recent­ly received a busi­ness pro­file update from Facebook alert­ing me to low activ­i­ty on my account. The account for my yoga stu­dio has expe­ri­enced a notice­able drop in social media engage­ment, with few­er peo­ple see­ing and respond­ing to my posts. Social media algo­rithms take into account hun­dreds of vari­ables to pre­dict whether users will pause, like, click, com­ment, share, or hide posts; this pre­dic­tion is called a rel­e­vance score. My rel­e­van­cy score dropped appre­cia­bly last year when I was post­ing few­er times per week and stopped mak­ing videos and respond­ing to every com­ment. After run­ning the met­rics, it was clear that I am irrel­e­vant in the social media world.

The next screen offered advice to climb the engage­ment lad­der again. Did you know that the aver­age U.S. adult only spends 33 min­utes a day on Facebook? Don’t miss your chance to reach your audi­ence! 

I was advised to post more videos – posts with faces per­form almost 40% bet­ter than those with­out faces

To use more hash­tags – at least ten! 

To engage with oth­er posts more often – drop a heart to get a heart!  

Basically, it boils down to this: the more time I spend on social media, the more my con­tent gets show­cased. When I spend less time online, my posts get shown to few­er people.

Out of the almost 8 bil­lion peo­ple on this plan­et, more than half of them are on social media. Every minute of every day, Facebook gen­er­ates 4 mil­lion likes and over 500,000 post­ed comments. 

I feel trapped, forced into using online plat­forms that take more than they give. I don’t want to eschew social media com­plete­ly. I still have to mar­ket my small busi­ness (also, dog videos). But I also sus­pect that the real work of my life gets pushed aside by the imag­ined demand to stay active on social media.

How do any of us hear in all this noise? 

The word noise aris­es from 13th-cen­tu­ry English, mean­ing quar­rel­ing. Around the same time, it was a French syn­onym for nau­sea. Sounds about right. There’s plen­ty of quar­rel­ing online and plen­ty of rea­sons to feel nau­seous. The answers – at least for me – can­not pos­si­bly be found by spend­ing more time online. Remember the sta­tis­tic that popped up after I ran a met­ric analy­sis? Did you know that the aver­age U.S. adult only spends 33 min­utes a day on Facebook? I can­not be the only per­son that is deeply trou­bled by the use of the word only

I’m long­ing for less noise in my life, not more. 

I don’t want to be heard above the noise. I want to hear the truth under the noise.

That requires step­ping back from my phone. It’s no acci­dent that the words silent and lis­ten are spelled with the same let­ters. It’s two sides of the same coin; one needs the other.

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.