How Social Media Serves as The New Drug (and What We Dan Do to Change It)
by Daniel D. Maurer, TIR Founder
Recently, my brother sent me a private message on Facebook. It went something like this . . .
Bro: Watching this now . . .
(*Dan's Note:I've edited the video down to show the most relevant info. The full, original YouTube video can be found here.)
(Our FB chat cont . . .)
Me: I will check it out. Thanks.
Bro: Fact: we're using drugs - there's a release of dopamine when we use social media - it still can destroy relationships and deaden experience of the world.
Bro: We're addicted.
(Two days later . . .)
Me: Watched the video. I agree with all of his points. I think some Gen Xers have similar difficulties (me too). The points of technology are spot on too. In the same breath, I am EXTREMELY happy that you're on social media. Why? Because you're sharing your work with me and I like seeing your creative side! Also, you've connected with other people in a real, palpable way. It's a mixed bag, like most new technologies.
With that, I also think that the "addiction" has the very real potential to destroy relationships we already have around us. Carol and I were thinking how we model our own social media use (and Internet, in general). We're going to be establishing one day as screen-free and go from there. It's tough for us both though, because we do our work on screens, but we want to make a difference.
Thanks for passing along the video! (It made me laugh though . . . kinda ironic! I know about the issue, because you TOLD me on social media. LOL)
Have a nice day today! I'm going to eat at a Hmong restaurant tonight with another writer I've connected with.
Bro: Write about your Internet addiction as a Transformation is Real topic?
I've gotta admit it—my bro pissed me off when I watched the video. Mostly because I know he's right. After thinking about this long enough, I'm taking the time to write about this on this blog, because hey . . . it's something I want to change. Maybe you do, too. First things first. Time to admit something . . .
Simon Sinek is spot on, I think, with a couple of things.
Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram deliver a hit of dopamine just as easily as gambling, drinking or drugs.
I have a row of "favorites" (bookmarks within my browser). Here's what it looks like . . .
If you look right under the address bar you'll see three 'buttons' on the far right (right to left):
GMAIL FB T
Those are favorites (bookmarks) to: my Gmail account, my Facebook account, and my Twitter account.
Know what I've noticed since I've watched that video I posted above? I hit those things like a rat self-administers liquid cocaine to its bloodstream! I find that instead of writing, I often go to my browser and compulsively hit those buttons over and over. And as soon as I've dealt with the notifications or new messages in one, I move on to the next button.
What makes matters worse is that there are plenty of other bookmarks to click, click, click away at:
Check my Amazon Author Central account. Check.
Visit my website to look at the stats. Check.
Click on bit.ly to see if there are any new clicks. Check.
Head back to my email account to see if there are any new orders. Check.
And so it goes on. Either until I start feeling guilty enough to actually do something productive, or I simply grow bored from the lack of input I'm getting.
My brother is right. I am addicted to social media.
(TIR has this to say about gambling. It's an addiction that can ruin lives as well. I've been quite lucky as our family is exceedingly anti-gambling, so it hasn't caused problems in my own life.)
And it's not just when I'm on my laptop; in the rare times I head out with my phone, I take every spare moment to turn it on and see what's going on, online.
Social Media dazzles us with dings and notifications, but can deaden the interpersonal connections we have available IRL (In Real Life).
Sinek's also on point when he says that people (he argues Millennials in the video, but I'd say it's most of us), miss out on the real opportunities we have to experience the world and make real, genuine connections.
Like most new technologies, social media has been adopted faster than we've been able to discern its long-term effects. We're only beginning to deconstruct it after the fact. And even though I believe as an indie-writer it's been exceedingly helpful to connect with real people across the globe, I do think that my use of social media has at least the potential to severely damage my brain and destroy relationships. (Plus, any postings about cats are usually quite entertaining!)
It's time to get honest about my social media use. Because I want my life to reflect the honesty I'm preachin' here on TIR! Maybe it's time you asked yourself, too. Be honest. Is your use of social media damaging your relationships or taking away from experiencing the more "mundane" aspects of life?
Well. Okay. What to do about it?
For one, I take occasional breaks. It at least seems to break up the hold it seems to have on me. I take the bookmarks temporarily off my browser. But I gotta admit. I cheat! I go back a couple times of day to see if there are any "important" messages I might have missed. Most of the time, there aren't.
Other times, I simply force myself to turn off my phone or close my laptop and pay attention to my wife and/or kids and/or cats and dog. But I have to confess, I'm all the more excited to open up my laptop or turn on my phone and bask in the warm glow of the LED screen.
Probably the most effective strategy for me is to set strict time limits and follow them. I'm usually pretty good about following those once I set them. But again, unless I set the habit every day I'm probably not going to follow through on a long-term commitment.
I haven't yet installed this computer program, Cold Turkey, which from my understanding blocks you from visiting "addictive" websites. I wonder how long it would last, honestly. Besides, I'm really good at getting around blocks that either I have set for myself or that others have made for me! (What can I say? I'm a clever addict!)
I also need to be honest and reflect that social media has, overall, been a positive experience for me. I do worry about what it's doing to my brain though. And maybe that's the most important thing, anyway . . . just to acknowledge that the potential to disrupt my life is there if I'm not careful.
I will be writing a part-two to this piece later this Spring when I take a little break from Facebook and Twitter (I'm not on Instagram or Google Plus all that much anyway). I'll let you know what I discover.