Just four years ago I was a cheerleader. Social media was supposed to be the great hope for democracy. I know because\u00a0I told the world so. I said in 2014 that no-one could predict where this revolution would take us.\r\nMy conclusion was dusted with optimism: a better connected human race would find a way to better itself.\r\nI was only half right: nobody could indeed have predicted where we have ended up. Yet my optimistic prognosis was utterly misguided. Social media has led to less human interaction, not more. It has suppressed human development, not stimulated it. As Big Tech has marched onward, we have regressed.\r\n\r\nLook at the evidence. Research shows that social media may well be making many of us unhappy, jealous and \u2013 paradoxically \u2013\u00a0antisocial. Even Facebook gets it. An academic study that Facebook cited in its\u00a0corporate blog post\u00a0revealed that when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information they wind up feeling worse. Just ten minutes on Facebook is enough to depress \u2013\u00a0clicking and liking a multitude of posts and links seems to have a negative effect on mental health.\r\n\r\nMeantime, the green-eyed monster thrives on the social network: reading rosy stories and\/or carefully controlled images about the social- and love-lives of others leads to poor comparisons with one\u2019s own existence. Getting out in the warts-and-all real world and having proper conversations would provide a powerful antidote. Some chance! Humans have convinced themselves that \u2018catching up\u2019 online is a viable alternative to in-person socializing.\r\n\r\nAnd what of consumer choice? Don\u2019t book your next city break via Google. Research shows that a typical search for a family vacation begins with \u201cthe best hotels in\u2026\u201d or the \u201ctop ten hotels in\u2026\u201d. Yet these searches return paid-for links from big identikit hotel companies and well-funded broker websites.\r\n\r\nLocal bloggers, like the guy in Jaipur or the girl in Paris who make it their job to suggest the most interesting stays, don\u2019t appear until search page ten (AKA nowhere). Discovering real places, recommended by locals and run by real people, got a lot harder in the internet age. Guidebooks used to do the job, but few buy them anymore.\r\nWe are becoming unthinkingly reliant \u2013\u00a0addicted \u2013\u00a0to ease-of-use at the expense of quality. We are walking dumpsters for internet content that we don\u2019t need and which might actively damage our brains.\r\nThe technology industry also uses another technique to keep us hooked: feeding us a bottomless pit of information.\r\n\r\nThis phenomenon\u2019 is the effect Netflix has when it auto-plays the next episode of a show after a cliffhanger and you continue watching, thinking, \u201cI can make up the sleep over the weekend.\u201d The cliffhanger is, of course, always replaced by another cliffhanger. The 13-part season is followed by another one, and yet another. We spend longer in front of the television yet we feel no more satiated.\r\n\r\nWhen Facebook, Instagram and Twitter tack on their scrolling pages and update their news feeds, causing each article to roll into the next, the effect manifests itself again.\r\nPerhaps we should go back to our smartphones and, instead of playing Netflix or sending texts on WhatsApp, use their core function. Call up our friends and family and have a chat or \u2013 better \u2013 arrange to meet them.\r\nMeanwhile, Big Tech could carve an opportunity from a crisis. What about offering a subscription to an ad-free Google? In return for a monthly fee, searches would be based on the quality of content rather than product placement. I would pay for that. The time-savings alone when booking a trip would be worth it.\r\n\r\nApple pioneered the Do Not Disturb function which stopped messages and calls waking us from sleep, unless a set of emergency-criteria were met by the caller. How about a Focus Mode that turned off all notifications and hid our apps from our home screen, to ease the temptation to play with our phones when we should be concentrating on our work, or talking to our spouses, friends and colleagues?\r\n\r\nIn the 1980s, the BBC in Britain ran a successful children\u2019s series called\u00a0Why Don\u2019t You?\u00a0that implored viewers to \u201cturn off their TV set and go out and do something less boring instead\u201d, suggesting sociable activities that did not involve a screen. It was wise before its time. The TV seems like a puny adversary compared to the deadening digital army we face today.\r\n\r\nThis is based on my forthcoming book,\u00a0Your Happiness Was Hacked, which will show you how you can take control and live a more balanced technology life.\r\n\r\nThis post by Vivek Wadhwa appeared first on Wadhwa.com and has been reproduced with permission.