I’m addicted to social media and I know it. *clap clap*
Those of you who don’t use social media may not care so much about this topic. My dad might read this and wonder what’s happened to my generation and shake his head (although to be fair he loves/relies on his electronic device just like the rest of us – YES YOU DO DAD DON’T LIE).
I only just realised the other day that Facebook (and most likely Instagram as well) tells you who and how many people tap forward or tap backwards through your stories. AKA it shows you who is skipping through your stories cos they’re bored AF of your shit.
I wish I never looked.
I haven’t looked into viewers, follower specifics, views etc. for so long and somehow I went down a rabbit warren of looking at statistics on all my platforms just last week. I re-opened the Unfollowers app (which I had before Instagram brought in all the page stats stuff) and realised who had unfollowed me. Mostly strangers, some acquaintances, a few friends and an ex-boyfriend, but whatevs, not even taking it personally … dicks.
Jokes, jokes (not really). Whilst it feels like little jabs into my gut and I wince slightly, I have to constantly remind myself that my content, voice and life, are not of interest to everyone. Just like I’m not interested in everyone else’s interests.
Still, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, our addiction to ‘chasing likes’, receiving praise via comments and emojis, is real, whether or not we’re always conscious of it. It feels good to get likes, it feels good to be followed – it doesn’t feel good when people unfollow/unsubscribe/don’t really like things as much as we were hoping.
And look, it’s not entirely our fault.
You know when you lose your phone (or you think you’ve lost it) and a little bit of panic starts to set in? Thanks to some sciencey stuff I’ve been reading, it’s not so much the losing your phone that causes this anxiety, but rather our attachments to the hyper-social environments we carry around in our pockets and have within an arms reach, every minute of the day.
I’ve known this to a degree for some time, but I went and researched it just to double check. It turns out:
Although not as intense as hit of cocaine, positive social stimuli will similarly result in a release of dopamine, reinforcing whatever behaviour preceded it. Cognitive neuroscientists have shown that rewarding social stimuli—laughing faces, positive recognition by our peers, messages from loved ones—activate the same dopaminergic reward pathways. Smartphones have provided us with a virtually unlimited supply of social stimuli, both positive and negative.
Every notification, whether it’s a text message, a “like” on Instagram, or a Facebook notification, has the potential to be a positive social stimulus and dopamine influx.
And it makes sense.
I am addicted to social media. I know I am. I feel the thrill when I get likes and follows and comments. Those thrills might not be as overly obvious as the thrill of a rollercoaster or heading to the airport for a holiday, but they’re definitely there. I also feel the disappointment, embarrassment and sometimes even shame when it goes the other way, assessing my self-worth a little too often for my liking.
I check my social media apps way too often and constantly tell myself I need to stop. Sometimes I detox for awhile and when I start to feel good, I log back in, always to the Gram (that’s my vice). Not only is it addictive and fun and a great way of staying connected, I use it as a tool to get my blog in people’s faces. How else am I going to do it? Write letters like a peasant? I think not.
Maybe you’re in a similar situation.
Maybe scrolling through your newsfeed is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Maybe you’re reaching for your phone just minutes after you’ve put it down for no apparent reason. Maybe you constantly refresh your feed, checking to see if people have liked your latest pic. Maybe you spend hours aimlessly scrolling and when you look up two hours have gone by. Maybe you track your followers and feel a little down when that number drops. Maybe.
OR maybe you’re someone who hasn’t fallen into the trap.
Maybe you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t even have an Instagram account and say things like “oh I’m not on social media mate” or “I don’t see the appeal/I don’t like it”. Wot? Who even are you? Obviously there are enormous benefits to not being on social media and the list of downsides seem to be never-ending: bullying, social isolation, anxiety and depression, poor sleep quality, being “connected” but having no idea how to actually connect in a physical sense or real-life situation … there are so many that have arisen in recent years.
And whilst I would probably be someone who would benefit greatly in so many ways by not being on it, I can’t see me doing that anytime soon.
I enjoy social media and I love the potential it has.
When you focus on how much good it can achieve and has achieved, it’s remarkable. The sharing of stories and information, how people have changed their careers and built brands from practically nothing, people staying connected across the world and raising money for causes they might not otherwise have known about. Communities and nations banding together in times of terror and sharing stories of love and hope, cute videos of dogs and tear-jerking ones of men and women coming home from serving their country. Whilst we need to always consider and work on the negatives, I think it feels better to focus more energy on the positives.
And yes, we’ve still got a lot to learn.
Especially with balancing our screen time and real-life time. I think most of us would agree that we want to spend less time on our phones and more time ‘living’, and yet sometimes find it hard to put our device down, not take photos of every occasion or even leave our phones at home. We’ve got to keep working on ‘being in the moment’ rather than looking at everything through a screen.
As I am a self-confessed addict my words are probably not all that helpful, however I am of the belief that controlling your addiction, rather than abstaining and going completely cold turkey, is probably healthier and easier.
If you think you might be addicted, try a few little things to start with: pick up a book rather than your phone for ten minutes, no phones at the dinner table, put it in your drawer at work, talk to your friends at dinner rather than looking at your screen and for God’s sake unless you’ve put your phone in a holder and are using hands-free, or have parked and have the hand-break on, STOP FILMING YOURSELF WHILE YOU’RE DRIVING YA DICKHEADS.