Do you also feel like we’re all turning into cyber-zombies? Does it seem like everyone spends more time on their phones than with the people around them? Why do we find so much comfort in our devices?
This is one of the most important topics that I want to discuss, especially entering a new decade. How social media is absorbing us all, causing some form of digital dementia. You’ve heard the famous saying: We’re more connected than ever before, yet we all feel lonelier than ever before.
So what is it about social media that grabs our attention? And what can we do in light of this hyper-normalization?
I’m going to start by talking about my own experiences, the psychology behind social media and how to move forward.
I spent 2018 on a social media sabbatical: deleting Instagram, Twitter, Snap Chat & Facebook. I returned in 2019, with a lot more awareness and discipline.
It’s often really hard to imagine giving social media up. Our first defensive instinct: It’s how I stay in touch with my friends/family! Can you imagine your life without all the cyber distractions?
You’d have way more free time than you’d be willing to believe. Not only that, you’ll be left with your thoughts for several moments at a time; how daunting. This is not me trying to convince you to get rid of all your social media, but just to share the lessons I’ve learnt on how we can use it more effectively.
The reason I decided to leave social media for a year was because of my break-up. In December 2017, I went through a very turbulent emotional phase. I was trying to deal with ‘heartbreak’.
I realized that what made it so difficult for me to get over my ex, was how easy it was to see her online presence. It left me in a strange mode. Constantly stalking, comparing, judging and feeling unworthy.
When I first got off social media, it felt alien. I had no idea what to do. No more worrying about my feed, posting on my story, tweeting random thoughts or taking unnecessary selfies on snap chat.
A few days in, I realized how much free time I had. This tempted me to re-download some of the apps out of boredom. Luckily, I came across this insightful quote that helped me: “Habits cannot be erased, they can only be replaced.” Understanding that led me to start reading & meditating.
A week into the sabbatical, I realized that my attention span started rapidly improving. My brain was getting out of the “swipe swipe swipe, like, comment, swipe swipe swipe” thought process. I began focusing a lot better.
One of the most important aspects that changed: My relationships started to flourish. I started being more present with people I cared about and spent time with. I spent less time showing off snippets of my life to impress people I barely know.
That fundamentally changed the wiring in my brain, because I was becoming less dependent on the dopamine rush from getting likes and comments. “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
A massive illusion of social media is that you’re staying in touch with people. But liking, commenting and occasionally reacting to a story is not staying in touch.
It’s an artificial connection. We keep faking the same idea to ourselves until we’re convinced it’s the only way to live. But it’s not.
The psychology behind it
To ease the tension a little bit, I want you to understand a fundamental aspect of social media; the current intention behind its creation. It’s designed by scientists/psychologists/programmers who have dedicated their lives to ensure you spend as much time on the app as possible. Why?
Your attention (or time) = profit.
If you pay attention to the amount of data that’s being sold from all your searches, likes, swipes and posts, you’d be rather frightened. I’m saying this because you need to understand that your addiction is not entirely your fault.
It was created to be as absorbing and as charming as possible. Much like this world in the eye of a believer. Temporary, deceptive and full of temptations.
When you understand the way ads affect your subconscious and the way it’s abusing your mental power, you’d be more inclined to make better decisions. Remember: Better awareness -> Better choices -> Better results.
How do we move forward?
Learn more and stay conscious of the time you spend online. We’re entering an age where it’s more comfortable to stare at your screen when you’re bored than stare out of the window. (The latter provides the mind with impeccable subconscious insight).
We feel awkward, almost alien, when we’re waiting and not constantly checking our phones. Use the time limits on the apps and respect them. Encourage those around you to minimize their social media usage and try to have technology-free gatherings.
This will contribute to your mental health and hopefully improve the loneliness epidemic that we’re currently experiencing. You don’t necessarily realize it, but you’re always comparing yourself to other people online.
Whether you choose to accept that or not is up to you, your unconscious does 95% of the work for you anyway.
I know some of this may have been a little intense and that I could’ve covered a lot more ground. But this is as brief as I could make it.
I’m not trying to force anyone to change or to get you all to abandon social media and start living in a forest (although I wish I was). But for the sake of your happiness and mental clarity, spend a little more time being present with your weird thoughts and feelings, instead of scrolling aimlessly.
Let’s try to be a little less zombie-like, a little more present, and a lot more loving. Stop worrying about taking a picture of every moment, and start living in it.
Nothing contributes to a healthy relationship as much as active listening and honest communication. That just isn’t as effective when your phone is in your hand.
We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it.Erik Qualman
(A little ironic how I took pics to post on my blog, then talking about living in the moment haha).