One topic keeps coming up in my reading online and off; in real time discussions with friends; in my correspondence with creative friends; and in my own journal.
Addiction. Specifically, social media addiction.
Almost everyone I know is feeling it in some form or other. The ones who are brave enough to confess it describe similar habits. The incessant itch to check for messages whenever you have a free moment, even while sitting at red lights or waiting online in the grocery store. The urge to scroll through your FB or Twitter feed over and over again, just to see if something new popped up since reached the end of it just two minutes ago. Feelings of agitation and anger at political news and the vitriolic commentary that invariably follows.
Now we are finding out more and more ways that social media has infiltrated our lives, our privacy, even our very democracy. Why are we still using it at all??
Earlier this year I became increasingly disturbed by my own social media addiction. In January, I removed Twitter from all my devices and haven’t looked at it since. I haven't missed it one bit. But Facebook - well, that’s where I connect with people I know and care about, the folks who are my “friends” in real life, the ones whose lives I am interested in. They share news of their accomplishments, of joys and sadness, of interesting places they visit. They share snippets of their creative work, post about things that make life better for them.
For me, the true value of social media lies in these connections with real people.
So I attempt to pare down what I see in my news feed - the advertisements, the news stories, the political memes, in search of items of interest from people. Still, it seems I am bombarded with all these things that are not only meaningless, but harmful to my mind and my spirit. I walk away feeling distracted, unfocused, and often disheartened and angry. Why do I continue to expose myself to that?
A friend called me the other day and asked if everything was alright with me because I had been so “quiet” on the internet. It’s true - I post less and less often, not wanting to add to this incessant hodgepodge of information that circulates relentlessly out there. Like many others, I’m feeling a need to go deeper into my own thoughts, allow myself space and time to read and consider things more thoroughly. All the skimming and glancing and flash points that come at you when you scroll through social media reminds me of strobe lights in a disco- eventually you get a headache and heart palpitations!
With the recent revelations about Facebook’s privacy violations, many people are deleting their accounts. But must we throw the baby out with the bath water, as the old saying goes? If it’s used properly, FB is a wonderfully convenient way to stay connected and also share items of interest - I use it a lot to publicize events for community organizations I volunteer with. I would hate to lose that ability, as it’s quite effective.
But along with many other people I know, particularly the thoughtful types who really want a deeper connection with the world around them, I’m beginning a shift toward “slow” media and long form writing in magazines and books; I'm sending cards, notes, and letters through the mail to mark special occasions or just check in with a “hello.” I’m trying to limit flipping and skimming headlines, because it increases my anxiety level and makes my mind feel fractured and fragmented. Yes, I’m concerned about the invasion of my privacy that seems to be a given with social media, but I’m also concerned about the intrusion into my intellect and psyche, the way the internet makes me think differently, the way it hijacks my attention and emotions (no to mention my time!) on far too many occasions.
In the end, I’m hoping less social media time will result in more focused thinking, more reading, more emotional equilibrium, and even more sleeping!
How about you? Are you feeling a need to change the way you interact online? What are you doing differently? How has it helped?