You may have seen articles on how social media can be addictive, but what does this mean in the scheme of an everyday human’s life? Social media when used wisely can be a positive experience. The trouble is that so few of us have a supportive inner voice, so any positives can be outweighed by the negative.
Why does social media hurt?
Because it can become an avoidance to living, an avoidance to facing hurt or life challenges, an avoidance to what isn’t working in our lives and what needs to change.
My own addiction began some time ago. I tried many different ways to spend less time on Facebook and Twitter (my main networks of addiction) and promised myself one day a week social media free, but it never lasted. Eventually, like any addiction, I allowed myself to be drawn back in.
When I did a podcast on the subject of ‘Valuelessness’ recently I began to understand how much value I placed on social media interactions, engagement and likes on social media. I had been pointing my value compass ‘out there’ instead of ‘in here’.
I was still looking to other people for feedback for my worth and value, even if in smaller ways than I used to, many years ago when my self esteem was at rock bottom.
In What Ways Did Social Media Hurt Me?
- When I was feeling lost or lonely, I would surf Facebook looking for stimulation, looking for connection and the more I did this, the more lonely and lost I felt (especially when nobody noticed I was gone for a while)
- If my life was feeling empty or I felt bored, I was surfing Twitter looking for drama, the dramatic, what world events could I sink my teeth into to take myself out of my current experience of reality
- Stopping Everything – Looking at my You Tube channel, seeing only 6 views on videos I had posted, made me consider stopping everything
- Present Moment – It took me away from the present moment, it was stopping me being with me, whatever feelings I needed to embrace
- Insomnia happened when I spent time on social media before sleep, my brain was so wired by the tech I could not sleep for a long time
- When on holiday with my mum in Majorca a couple of years ago, in a beautiful café, overlooking the sea, with a gorgeous piece of cake and a cappuccino, I was stressed because I could not get a Wi-Fi connection to take a photo of this wonderful experience so I could post it on Facebook and I was snapping angrily at my mother because of this. All she wanted was to enjoy coffee and look out the window and chat. I was not there.
- My diet suffered – I made less time to eat well. I drank more coffee. The more I blocked social media, the more time I had to cook myself great meals
- I didn’t notice or appreciate what was in my life, instead I focused more on lack
- I compared my life with other people’s highlight reels
- I exercised less, because I was not in touch with my body anymore
- Meditation became a thing of the past, being online felt more urgent. It gave me a feeling of urgency more than simply being and peace
After I realised that my value and worth have nothing to do with social media and more to do with how I value me, I began to look to see what was working or not working in that area.
I started to notice that certain areas needed to change. I needed to post and look at social media less. The most important thing I did was limiting myself to only 1 hour a day via a productivity app called Cold Turkey (only for computers unfortunately). I also made Sunday my zero social media day. I had no access, no ability to visit Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest as this app blocks that.
Restricting Access Enabled Me to Feel More Positive About Myself and Life
Within a week of doing this, my mood completely shifted. Not only was I more able to do those things I had wanted to do with ease and grace (moving a big website over to WordPress – which before was something that really stressed me out), but I made more times for afternoon naps, rest, gardening and writing. I began to do more of those things I loved to do that I forgot I loved to do, because social media was swamping me with so much unhealthy and pointless stimulus that I lost touch with my creativity and present moment awareness.
When People Say They Need Social Media
I used to believe that if you were lonely and isolated, social media was a good thing. I don’t believe this anymore. A limited use like I am doing, yes, but to be checking it more often than you use the bathroom a day means something needs changing.
If the virtual world is stopping you from taking action, being creative, letting procrastination go, moving out of your comfort zone, preventing you from mental balance or getting help, you need to ask is it worth it?
And if you feel super resistant to this, you need to hear this more than anyone else.
If you feel despair or pain because you’re not living the life you want to be living and you have ideas about what you can do to change this, but you are not doing them, ask yourself if the reason you are not doing them is because you’re hooked into social media like a saline drip, not recognising you need mental and emotional space from those networks to rediscover who you are, what you want and go from there.
And if you don’t believe you are addicted you can get apps for the mobile phone that tell you exactly how much time you are on social media a week. You may be shocked to see how much of your human life you are spending in a virtual one.
I was spending 3-4 hours a day on social media. And that is a lot!
So, if you are spending more, it’s time to consider your choices and whether so much use is healing or harming you.
Vacations Live Online
If you go on holiday and spend a lot of time posting about your time there, instead of embracing your physical time there, this is not living.
If your photos need to be so picture-perfect for that ‘audience out there’ you need to ask why you value their opinion so much, more than your own life to be lived.
If your photos look happier than how you experienced those key events in life, ask yourself what role or mask you are wearing that you now need to let go of.
This doesn’t mean don’t take photos, it just means take photos with your phone as if it is an old fashioned camera. Don’t upload until you get home – after you have enjoyed your vacation.
I know of couples who sit next to one another on the sofa and post public messages to one another, on Facebook, while they are sitting next to one another.
Instead of holding that person’s hand or gazing lovingly into their eyes, they are losing precious time for love, appreciation and companionship to show a certain face to a virtual audience. This is not living guys. This is an illusion.
If you sit at the dining table for breakfast and one of you is on your computer surfing the news and the other is checking Facebook, where are you? Who are you with? Why are you not important enough or valuable enough to spend time with and why is the ‘other’ not valuable enough to spend quality time with?
Yes, check your emails, go on social media, but make quality time for connection. This is why we are human after all.
Love is not born out of cyberspace but meeting real humans in reality.
Mental Health Issues Like Agoraphobia
I am aware that certain conditions can make it really hard to meet other human beings, but by getting help, through a therapist, learning to connect even if via video chats, it is a start. We are not meant to live completely isolated, even if this means you go for a walk with your dog, meet the world or you go for coffee in a coffee shop where you are among people without needing to converse too much. These are all small beginnings and change begins somewhere.
If you suffer from anxiety, there are groups that help with this, some groups are specifically for people who suffer from anxiety and you never know what new friends can come out of a community like this.
I’m not in your shoes, I can’t say what is for you or not, I just ask you to question whether you are addicted, why you are addicted and what can you do to change this?
The decision as always, is down to you. What do you choose?
Tools to Help You Quit Your Addiction
Cold Turkey App – for computers and laptops
Smartphone users – If you have a smartphone go into ‘Settings’ and if you have a section on restricting sites for children, you can actually put Facebook and Twitter and other sites into that section, and it will block you from those sites much like it can do for X-rated sites online.
A timer – If you have no smartphone but still access the internet, set a timer that buzzes loudly to remind you to switch it off. You could even record a timer voice that says ‘Get off social media – Life is waiting for you!’