“We’re all lab rats in a giant, global experiment.”
I wanted to share my thoughts on the addiction that is social media as well as a few ways to cure yourself of it. Upon doing some research, I found out that the obsession that a lot of us have to our social media accounts isn’t a coincidence. It’s orchestrated. Many (if not all) of these social networking companies are working hard to make their network as addicting as possible in order to protect their bottom line. Business ads, sharing, notifications, posts, videos, and photos are just a few ways to keep the user so engaged to a particular network, that if the user did decide to remove his/her account, they would feel so disconnected from the world that they would eventually come back. That feeling of disconnect is described as FOMO: fear of missing out.
Instagram Software Engineer, Greg Hochmuth, made reference to this by describing it as the network effect. Hochmuth stated, “Once people come in, then the network effect kicks in and there’s an overload of content. People click around. There’s always another hashtag to click on then it takes on its own life, like an organism, and people can become obsessive.” Which isn’t rocket science, but it made perfect sense as to why I used to spend hours browsing through social networks as if I had all the time in the world.
Aside from starting this blog, removing a few of my social media accounts has been the most cathartic thing that I’ve done within the past 5 years. No exaggeration. I have enough integrity to admit that, like most, I became hooked on the attention that I would receive from people who I knew and the ones that I didn’t. I began craving the amount of “likes” that I would receive from a witty Facebook post, waiting on the amount of “retweets” that I would receive after one of my extensive Twitter rants, and looking forward to that “double tap” that I would receive from my Instagram crush on one of my rehearsed selfies. After I realized how pathetic I looked waiting on the adoration from folks who don’t really know me, I had to make a change and fast. I was losing my mind, so I decided to remove my Facebook and Instagram pages; two social media outlets that took up the majority of my time. And the only reason my Twitter account survived the purge was because of the different media outlets, journalists, bloggers, scholars, and other intellectuals that I follow who keep me informed about news that matters. Also, around that time, I was going through a period of unhappiness, so it didn’t help seeing different followers and celebrities post pictures about their perfect lives, with their perfect careers, living in their perfect new house, with their perfect significant other, prepping for their perfect vacation, to their perfect gateway, and going to an expensive restaurant that serves perfect food that they can post with their perfect phone. I became envious of those people because all I did at that time was eat, work, exercise, sleep, and repeat (and not necessarily in that order).
When used the right way, social media is an awesome tool that can help expand your personal/professional brand, help build your network, assist with your research, and it can just be fun to use. But when the fun starts to cloud the fact that we live in a real world, with real people, and real situations, then it’s time to reassess some things. If you have the tendency to check your direct messages before your work/school email, then you, my friend, may be addicted to social media. Now, if you realize this and you’re trying to break this habit, try a few of the following tips:
- Remove the social media applications that you find the most addictive from your phone.
- Limit your usage on your social media accounts to no longer than an hour or less per day.
- Temporarily deactivate your account.
- Find a new hobby; exercise, reading, painting, cooking, and etc.
- Direct message your social media crush by sending them your number and your best selfie, then permanently deactivate your account like a real man/woman.
Folks, I know that we tend to make fun of this online obsession, but it’s real. Being obsessed with the attention is real. Being obsessed with the opinion of others is real. But you can break that obsession by simply enjoying the real life that you live and by not sharing everything in the fictitious world that is the Internet. Give yourself a break from it, and I promise you it will still be there when you leave. And if you do decide to come back, you’ll realize that you never really needed it to begin with.
Until Next Time…
Elian, M. (2015, December 14). Social media addiction is a bigger problem than you think. Retrieved April 10, 2016, from http://www.computerworld.com/article/3014439/internet/social-media-addiction-is-a-bigger-problem-than-you-think.html
Singer, Natasha. “Can’t Put Down Your Device? That’s by Design.” December 5, 2015. Accessed April 10, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/technology/personaltech/cant-put-down-your-device-thats-by-design.html?_r=0.