Updated: Feb 2, 2019
Whatsapp, Facebook, Insta, Gmail, Snapchat, repeat.
Is social media making you feel depressed? Inadequate or plain bored? Kinda... empty? It's an endless pursuit; once one update or new pic has been posted, there's a need for more. And more. And more. And when will it end? We can never complete it. There'll always be room for more likes. More comments. More followers. More more more.
I don't know about you but I have found myself Googling on more than one occasion 'Addicted to social media/smartphone'. Even if you haven't actually Googled it you may have thought you spend too much time on them, or that your use of it is unsatisfying/unrewarding/pointless. How many articles do you passively read. Via our phones and social media, we are exposing ourselves to each day that could be replaced by educational and more relevant and conducive to our growth and meeting our life goals.
Social media has been designed by the same engineers behind casinos. Why is gambling so addictive? Because it works on the most addictive pattern of conditioning. In Psychology, it's part of operant conditioning called an intermittent reinforcement schedule. You don't know when you're going to win (or have a notification) So you keep checking. While you're there, of course, there are other things to keep you there. It also works via dopamine. Dopamine is linked to the reward centre in our brain. Some is released when we receive a message from someone we like, when we get a notification or a like - and it's addictive stuff. It's also released when we drink alcohol, take other drugs and win games. It is pleasurable. It also works in reverse. No likes? Miserable. So we check between the four main apps waiting for new notifications come in. We're hooked. What does this result in? Loads of precious time spent on the phone. And it is precious. Who got to their deathbed and thought "Wish I had checked FB once more today"
It's a bizarre thing really, to know so much about so many people, 80% with whom we are not even close. Yet, this is the age of information, sharing, oversharing (which sometimes feels like narcissistic competition) and the active allowing your sense of self-worth to be determined by a number of 'likes'.
How often do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through the Newsfeed to see someone you used to work with 7 years ago has checked into somewhere? Or that person you went to school with (Who you're probably only friends with because: A) You want to increase the number of 'friends' you have B) You secretly see their lives, C) You feel obliged to be 'friends' with them for fear they might think you are 'rude' or something) Has got a new girlfriend. Do you need to know? Do you care?
It's a funny obligation isn't it? Seems harmless enough to click 'Confirm' when you get a friend request because yes, you kind of know them and they never did anything bad to you, so why not? Yet do you really NEED their life information, along with the highlights of hundreds of other acquaintances' lives cluttering up your mind everyday in the form of 'news'? Ask yourself why you want to share your life online?
Every second of time spent cannot be recovered.
This is your life and it's ending one minute at a time - Tyler Durden, Fight Club.
However there are many positive reasons why we DO use it, of course. For me, it's the jokes. Chris The Simpson's Artist and Utter Philth - about Phil Mitchell. Well funny. Like anything, it's about balance. We are different and you know how much you want, or need, and what's best for you. So how can you claim some of your life back and continue (if you want) to use social media in a way that doesn't annoy the S*** out of you and leave you feeling inadequate? Here's 6 ways:
1. Install the News Feed Eradicator.
This is amazing. It's an extension for Google Chrome (and available on other operating systems) which you install and then each time you go on FB, no matter which login you use, your timeline is blank and in place of all the noise is just a motivational quote! This allows you to be reminded that you have logged into Facebook AGAIN and that you don't need to be there. If there are no distractions coming at you from the Newsfeed you can just check any notifications you have and then get off it and back to real life.
Or if that's too extreme and you like seeing the Newsfeed...
How often do you hear people who have deactivated it say 'FB is full of shit these days'? The algorithms are cleverly controlled by teams of engineers and psychologists who actually show you more of what you look at most. This restricts your learning. and your expansion. The documentary "Hypernormalisation" describes this as the "Hall of mirrors" We are just staring at ourselves in our phones all day. We don't learn much this way and so it keeps us occupied and blissfully desensitized to the bigger problems/issues in the world and increases control the banks and data collection companies, such as Facebook, are having over us. Algorithms also control the rate at which you get your likes on your new profile pic by controlling who it shows it to and when. They know people are at their most vulnerable when they upload that new picture, waiting anxiously for social approval. This means you log in more often to get your likes, as they have been programmed to come to you more slowly. It knows who likes your pictures most too, doesn't it? You know those little videos it makes about your friendships and says "You've liked each other this amount of times" Well, it knows way more than that. Ever noticed how the same people are liking your stuff all the time? Think about it.
Don't forget, you can unfollow people who are posting annoying/irrelevant stuff which is empowering. However, if you don't know that person so well and don't care about their lives, why not just unfriend them? Difficult and guilt-inducing, yes but having an unfriending cull will de-clutter your Newsfeed and consequently declutter your life. Be ruthless - what's the worst that can happen? Alternatively you can classify people as 'close friends' by hovering over where it says 'friends' on their profile and then there's a list on the left of your close friends which will just show their news when you click on it. Imagine if you deleted everyone from your FB friends list that isn't in your current Whatsapp chat list? How clear and concise would FB be then?
3. Change your perspective.
Instead of letting that wedding photo/baby photo/new job status/new life update/food photo annoy you, why not kill your own inner self-critic that is spewing out hate-talk such as "I DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR XXX " by giving it a like. Kill it with kindness. Celebrate with people. Become a Like Monster. Like everything. We are so stingy with likes, seemingly only jumping in if there's already many likes already on it. There's a psychological theory for that too, it's called conformity. How many things do you like that you really like? Furthermore, realise that these people have made these life choices. They have designed their lives to be like this and maybe they are showing you, via that envy, that you would like to work towards creating something like they've just shared.
4. Delete it from your phone.
Delete the app. You can still access it via a browser on your phone but it's less intrusive because you won't get notifications popping up. Every single notification takes precious mental energy from you. It nags you, at the back of your mind, that it's there and this prevents you from focusing on your tasks at hand. How many of us work with our phones an inch away and check them every minute? A report recently showed millenials unlock our phones 150 times per day. OFFtime is another great app that blocks certain apps and allows you to get on with your work without any distractions, allowing you access to what you need (ability to receive calls from certain numbers for example, in case of emergency)
5. Remember it's an illusion
Having the awareness that Social Media portrays the best of people's lives is the key to not feeling inadequate. While we live our lives 24/7 there is a huge disproportion to the amount of highlights of others' lives we are exposed to vs the highlights of our own lives compared to our banal, trivial daily tasks. How many people post pictures of them emptying the bins, shaving, cutting their toenails and washing the dishes? Not many. How about picking the kids up from school, running to catch buses, missing buses, eating leftovers and descaling the kettle. This is real life. We are so excited to share our highlights on Facebook and join the competition because it offers us a relief from our banality and a chance to shine and we want others to be happy for us/with us. However for those who aren't so close to us (most of our Facebook friends) it can leave them feeling rubbish. Another reason to have more of a refined list of friends.
6. Take a break from it.
Deactivate it and put your energy into your goals. It might bring you closer to your 'real friends' as you'll have more focus on those who you contact in other ways than FB. Aimless scrolling is killing your creativity and there are many studies out there linking the overusage of social media to depression. The amount of extra time you have to do "deep work" is incredible. What do you want to achieve in this life?
Just remember that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, whether you shout about it on Facebook or not. Also think how long it's been an integral part of your life. I got it in 2007. That's over 10 years now. A lot of time. We can't really remember life without it, can we? Interesting...