Social media trends come and go in the blink of an eye. While what’s hot on TikTok right now will be long forgotten in the next 24 hours, one trend across platforms has not only stuck, but has been steadily gaining traction over the past year.
The “moving in silence” movement which emerged last year during the height of the pandemic has not only endured but evolved. Adherents of the trend are turning their backs on the Gen Z preference for oversharing on social media, instead choosing not to broadcast their every thought, opinion, destination, location or meal as a way of reclaiming their lives from the tech behemoths that have a hand in every aspect of it.
“We live in a time of oversharing, where social media has become a two-headed beast of exhibitionism on the one hand, and voyeurism on the other,” says Juan Korkie, clinical psychologist at The LightHouse Arabia in Dubai. “When people are constantly sharing details and pictures of themselves, where they are and what they are doing. This is exhibitionism: behaviour that constantly attracts attention to oneself.”
'Users feel the need to share more and more'
“There is science behind why people need to broadcast aspects of their lives on social media,” says Racha Hijazi, clinical psychologist at Camali Clinic in Dubai for child and adult mental health.
“When people get likes for their posts, their brains fire off with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates pleasure. This behaviour is very rewarding for their systems and they feel the need to share more and more. The brain acts in a similar fashion in gambling and other addictive problems which explains why social media sharing can easily become addictive.”
Social media platforms are rapidly expanding into every aspect of our lives. No longer content with allowing us to share thoughts or photos, these days we shop on Instagram, build communities on Discord and get our news from Facebook’s algorithm. Earlier this year Twitter moved into finance, trialling its “Tip jar” feature that allows users to send money to their favourite accounts and users.
Tech companies have always maintained new functions and features are a reaction to what their audience want. Namely that it is no longer enough for the experience to be broadcast, but the minutiae – the how, what, who, when and why – must be too.
“Social media will continue to evolve as human behaviours do too, and there will be platforms to cater to those behaviours,” says social media consultant and strategist, Alexandra Maia, founder of House of Social. “Look at Discord. It transformed into an amazing community app; TikTok is a haven for creative individuals; the NFT world gives artists an amazing outlet. There is and will continue to be space for a huge diversity.”
What does it mean to “move in silence”?
Moving in silence on social media is about not broadcasting your every move. Turning off your location, holding off on announcing personal experiences and events, particularly ahead of time, and ultimately, not sharing your personal business with strangers.
“You would start to focus more on the moment and enjoy the activity at hand, whether it being having dinner at a restaurant or being at a family gathering,” says Hijazi of the knock-on effects of moving in silence.
“You would certainly focus more on face-to-face interactions. You would feel more in control of your own personal life, not having intruders or strangers cyberbullying you with hurtful or inappropriate comments. And surely, maintaining a true sense of who you are with less exposure and less need to have to conform to certain social images.”
Data analysis company Statista said of social media use over the past couple of years: “All leading social platforms seemed to thrive and reported monthly active usage growth in 2021, compared to 2019.”
While traffic, as well as the average time people spent on social media, was up throughout the pandemic, so too was the opportunity for users to consider their relationship with the omnipresent phone in their pocket, silently tracking and recording their every move.
With research readily available concerning the detrimental effects too much time spent online has on concentration, focus, happiness and self-esteem, savvy social media users are becoming more aware of the fine line between entertaining social engagement and having behaviours and emotions controlled or manipulated.
“For me the question is: ‘Why do we share, and what do we want to happen?’” says Maia. “A lot of people share because they are looking for validation – a quick feel-better boost, or to show off and flex – instead of working on themselves so they can feel more confident in a way that doesn’t depend on the number of likes or views an image or video got.”
“Those who spend hours a week scrolling through posts by others, liking, commenting … that person is vicariously living through the lives of others,” says Korkie. “Irrespective of whether [they are] oversharing or spending a lot of time watching other people, [they are] not present.”
Easy steps to move more silently
Taking steps to reduce your reliance on social media for a mood boost or self-validation are relatively easy and involve re-evaluating the relationship you have with your phone and social media.
“Stop recording life, live it instead,” says Korkie. “Stop trying to capture moments with a device, capture it with your full presence instead. Detox from sensationalism. Stop pursuing the intense, amazing, awesome and earth-shattering. Consciously move away from the addiction to intense experiences and develop your ability to find beauty and pleasure in the mundane.”
She also says: “Stop watching, get dirty. Step into your life, do new things, make mistakes, have your own experiences. These are your experiences and they are far more valuable than the lives of others.”
“Are we sharing because we want to bring value?” asks Maia of the question social media users could ask themselves. “Tell and share our stories, connect, make space for others, build communities, entertain, educate, inspire?
“You’ll have days or weeks when you’ll love to share and others when you don’t, it’s that simple. People need to do what feels right for them.”