The error message stared at the disgruntled Spotify user from the other side of the screen.
“Connection failed,” it reads. “Something went wrong. Try again.”
So the listeners did. And then tried again. Finding no success, they rushed to Twitter to reckon with the sound of silence and discovered they weren’t the only ones having trouble logging into the Spotify and Discord streaming apps on March 8.
The reactions were a mix of horror and humor as young adults and teenagers reckoned with the silence echoing in their headphones.
“When Spotify is down and you have to sit quietly and listen to your thoughts for the first time since you were 12,” one user share.
“So after a stressful 30 minutes of shutting down Spotify, we conclude: [T]it’s my only source of serotonin”, someone addedIronically.
another listener sum the situation in a mock headline: “BREAKING NEWS: SPOTIFY DOWN WORLDWIDE, FORCING MILLIONS TO BE ALONE WITH THEIR OWN THOUGHTS. »
The streaming app, featuring over 82 million tracks and 3.6 million podcasts, has 406 million users worldwide, making it the most popular audio streaming subscription service in the world. Listeners spent over 1.7 billion hours streaming audio from Spotify in 2021.
The dramatic, albeit humorous, responses from teens and young adults to a few hours without entertainment point to a larger problem: the time-consuming threat of social media and its ability to drown out reality.
The generation that grew up online
Amanda Fronckowiak, 20 and a student at Michigan State University, says she spends about an hour a day on TikTok — specifically, Catholic TikTok, where she has amassed 15,900 followers and 504,000 likes for her posts videos talking about Catholic doctrine.
“Honestly, I might have seen another person post Catholic stuff and the rest was very Protestant,” she told the registry for TikTok, a social video platform where content is limited between three seconds and one minute. “I made it a point to try to put as much content specific to Catholics. Instantly I got a lot of hate because it was so different from what everyone else was posting.
She persisted, posting regularly on topics like contraception, Marian theology and salvation.
“Obviously that’s something the devil doesn’t like,” Fronckowiak said. “But I see a lot of people standing up for the Church and having open discussions with other people of different faiths. I think it’s been so successful, just to introduce people to our beliefs and dispel the misconceptions that I think are so prevalent.
She first joined social media platforms in middle school, when she created an Instagram account. She began to notice that if one of her entertainment or social apps crashed, similar to Spotify’s complications with logging in, she felt she had to quickly find another platform to occupy that time.
“I couldn’t sit without my phone and be happy. I was constantly looking for something else as a replacement or waiting for this app to be fixed,” Fronckowiak explained. “I started to find my value in what people would say to me there and how many likes I would get.”
This greatly affected her mental health, as she felt increasingly anxious as she spent more time on social media. Over the past year, she has struggled to set time restrictions on different apps and has seen a noticeable difference in happiness because of it. She found more time to spend in prayer and silence, to “listen to the Lord and not fill up with the noise of social media in the world.”
When users open their “For You” page on TikTok, the first screen they see on the app, they see content selected for them based on their interactions with it. The app counts the seconds they spent lingering on each video, which pulls in which clips users “liked” and commented on, and which ones they saved and shared. Using this data, the app organizes a stream that “learns” – a stream that directs videos presented specifically to each user.
Media companies prioritize their engagement rates, Fronckowiak said. She doubts they are taking any action to correct the addictive qualities of their products and thinks instead they feed on how it attracts an audience.
She described how young people can begin to find their identity on social media, forming around the comments and likes on their posts and the validation they receive.
“Then they just keep posting or scrolling and waiting to fill that void and seek that validation,” Fronckowiak continued. “I think people are dealing with a lot more loneliness and a lack of self-esteem. From a mental health perspective, it’s going to be really detrimental to people as they develop more in their teenage years. adult and have no time to grow spiritually in the Lord.
While she thinks many young people who grew up in an era of increasing internet use and the creation of social media apps, dubbed “Gen Z”, recognize the problem, she doubts that many be prepared to deal with it.
“There is a difference between awareness and acceptance. A lot of people are aware that it’s a problem because they see how it affects them and how many hours they spend on their phone,” Fronckowiak said. “But I don’t think many of them accept the seriousness of this problem.”
Parents who don’t fully understand the problem and approach it from an outside perspective, perhaps because they simply haven’t experienced anything like it, also affect the likelihood that a teenager or young adult face it, according to Fronckowiak.
By encouraging screen time limits and observing how social media specifically affects their children, parents can monitor that they cause bigger problems, she added. Open discussions about its effects and addictiveness can help people manage their use.
What does the Church have to say?
Pope Francis addressed the mixed possibilities of social media in a 2019 address on World Communications Day, as well as in his 2022 Lenten address. He highlighted how the problem only affects young people.
“Young people are most exposed to the illusion that the social web can completely satisfy them relationally,” he said in 2019. “There is the dangerous phenomenon of young people becoming ‘social hermits’ who risk completely alienating society.”
He acknowledged that social networks also have great benefits, allowing people to better discover themselves and help others, while providing opportunities for manipulating data and gaining economic benefits. The latter occurs without proper respect for people and their human rights.
“Lent is a propitious time to resist these temptations and cultivate instead a more integral form of human communication, made of authentic encounters, face to face and in person,” Pope Francis said in his recent Lenten address. .
In 2017, Cardinal Robert Sarah of French Guinea wrote a book titled The power of silence: against the dictatorship of noisereflecting on the importance of time spent in silence.
Christ spent 30 years in silence and always retired to the desert to converse with his Father, Cardinal Sarah explained. Jesus spent 40 days in prayer, the length of a modern Lenten season. It is vital to go into the desert, wrote Cardinal Sarah, because God speaks in silence.
“How can one study in the midst of noise? How to read in noise? How can you train your intellect in noise? How can you structure your thinking and the contours of your inner being in noise? He asked. “Sounds and emotions detach us from ourselves, while silence always forces man to reflect on his own life.”
This is why Fronckowiak advises caution when using social media.
“Whatever the devil makes bad, of course, you can make good. So anything you can bring the Lord into, in terms of social media, can bear a lot of fruit, especially for young people, because it has the ability to impact them very positively and introduce them to things they might not hear. otherwise,” Fronckowiak said.
“But that being said, the devil can twist anything good and make it bad. Many young people are beginning to find their identity in social media.