This post is is not an invitation to follow my lead and leave social media. It is a plea for raised awareness about the larger impact these platforms may be having in your life. Is social media addiction a thing you need to be concerned about? Read on and then let me know what you think.
Can you stop yourself logging back in?
If you can’t, then what is going on, are you addicted?
According to Dr. Gabor Mate, an addiction expert, “All addictions are attempts to smooth the pain.” This may seem a little dramatic for some because we don’t want to identify with being in pain and certainly don’t want to admit it publicly. Therein lies the problem. If we keep practicing our addictions of choice they will continue to take us away from the pain,. We stay anaesthetised, numbed out and distracted from what is actually there, underneath.
We will remain trapped on the merry-go-round never able to jump off for fear of feeling something we fear. Fear of the fear!
Drunks, junkies and social media addicts
In this 3 min video Dr. Mate talks about What is Addiction? His language focuses on the drunks and junkies. Most of us probably can’t associate ourselves with these emotive words. It might be better if we did.
As with any addiction, when using social media we are caught up in behaviours which promise us something, they offer a reward. The next cigarette stops the nicotine craving, the next drink stops the tremors and so on. With social media the drug is our own self created dopamine. The need for our next wee fix keeps us checking and scrolling.
We social media addicts are having our human vulnerabilities exploited. Our need for social approval, to connect and feel like we belong has been highjacked by these companies. They have us going back time and time again looking for that like, or love, that little notification which affirms.
Like dope junkies we are continually looking for our next fix. That little hit of dopamine generated by the ping or red dot which lights up our brain….we are satisfied, not for long though, so back we go looking for more.
Check out this video with Tristan Harris a former Google Design Ethicist. He knows a thing or two about this checking, scrolling, checking, scrolling, loop many of us have been caught up in.
I’d love to say I’m free, I’m off (even that language says it all!) all social media, yea, out of the trap, but it’s not true. The lure of dopamine means that, after all this time (nearly a year) I am still looking for my hit. I check email instead and my text messages hoping I’ve had a response. It’s the same damn thing, I am hooked.
For those who seem to have enjoyed telling me they hardly ever go on, that they don’t have an issue with it, that it’s not a PROBLEM for THEM. Well guess what there’s no badge for that, it’s not a flipping competition.
- And really, before you say that, just check around, be honest, no addictive behaviour going in in your life anywhere, are you sure?
- You may not have an issue with FB but what’s going on with apps, twitter, snapchat, instagram, tinder, pinterest, texting, messaging, email and all the rest?
- What about other forms of screen use, TV, Netflix, youtube, what about shopping, gaming, food, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, sugar and the myriad of other ways on offer to numb out, dumb down and essentially switch off from reality?
- And, what is going on that you have to tell me how little you go on these, why are you needing to “justify” (that’s what it sounds like) your choices?
Would you announce to an alcoholic telling you how long they have been sober that you don’t have a problem with alcohol or would you be more compassionate?
These card carrying “I don’t have a problem with FB” people could do with exercising a little compassion. Maybe they, honest to God, do not have any addictive or compulsive behaviours going on. However the more I look into to this the more I see that huge swathes of us ARE addicted, but we may not even know it.
This is a big societal problem. Denial, excuses, avoiding the issue, justifying and attacking will never help. We need to turn towards ourselves and others caught in these traps and offer our love, compassion and understanding. Acknowledging the problem is the beginning of being able to do something about. We need to, not only break free from the addictions, but also to deal with the underlying pain which led us there.
What is our pain?
The pain is whatever we don’t want to or can’t bear to look at. It’s the stuff that we tell ourselves we don’t need to deal with or that we should be over by now. It’s the stuff which lies below the surface, the feelings that we fear, that howl of our hungry wolves calling from the cellar.
We therefore dampen their cries and muffle their call through our addictive behaviours, but they don’t go away.
Turning to face our snarling, foaming internal fears is tough. However overall, for me, it is proving to be a huge relief because what calls from our cellars needs to brought out into the cold light of day. By exposing these collective pains which our modern society so beautifully and easily distracts us from; we can heal. In healing ourselves we will simultaneous heal our planet, this is Radical Self Care.
Facing our pain
Over my years of peeling away layers of childhood trauma and recovering from chronic illness, I have faced many challenging and painful feelings, limiting beliefs and unhelpful behaviours. However, recovering from those was only part of the story, underneath lay deeper issues wrought in the legacy of modern life:
- The need for connection,
- To feel like we belong,
- Wanting to know that we matter to someone, somewhere,
- The longing to be part of a tribe who care about us and we about them.
I suspect many of us lack these. Modern life often separates us from our families by taking us to other parts of the country or world. In addition we work long hours, often commuting many miles and on top of that we are tired and time poor. Many of us are affluent enough to have one of everything with no need to share or borrow now. As a result the opportunities to come together are limited and often confined to those we work and live with.
We have lost our tribes, become disconnected and separate from where and to what we belong. The purveyors of social media have exploited this to the max. They offer a pseudo form of connection, one that fails to truly deliver.
Loneliness is at an all time high. The Campaign to End Loneliness in the UK tells us:
Over 9 million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the population – say they are always or often lonely, but almost two thirds feel uncomfortable admitting to it (British Red Cross and Co-Op, 2016)
When CFS/ME had me housebound, the fatigue meant I had no energy to reach out. This led to social isolation and loneliness. I often imagined everyone else was connected, together and having fun without me. Not so, it seems. According to the research huge swathes of the population experience loneliness to some degree or another on a regular basis.
We are not stupid, we know that real connection with real people is what feeds us and makes us feel good. We love it when we:
- Get together with family or friends.
- Join with a neighbour to fix a shared problem.
- Come together for community events.
- Receive a call from an old friend, or perhaps even a letter.
- Share food with others.
- Dance, sing or make music together.
- Overcome difficulties and challenges as a group.
Social media deludes us into thinking we are connecting, it is a fake fix, simple to use and highly addictive which we need to learn a lot more about. Brené Brown says:
“Social media is a great communication tool but a sucky connection tool, If we are using it to communicate with each other, if we’re using it to talk to each other then it’s helpful and it can be great. If we are using it as our only form of connection to each other then it falls really short……It’s not a substitute for real connection.”
So, will you continue to scroll around the internet anaesthetising yourselves with likes?
Will you be checking and re-checking incase someone has responded to you?
Thumbs up to that folks, or maybe, in fact, thumbs down.
Future posts will cover more about this digital dilemma we confront, how we got here, what we can do about it, and how it might be possible to use it in a way which enhances life.