Is Social Media Running or Ruining Your Life?

Grand Lake | Colorado

 I love technology and think that it serves an integral role in our human evolution.  In fact, the technology curve and the exponential growth of technology that we are seeing now is actually one of the most exciting and interesting dynamics of the world we live in right now.  That said, social media has changed the overall dynamic of the way people live their lives and that WILL have a long-term effect on the individual psychological state and the collective psyche over time.  To what end, we do not yet know yet, so it is worth exploring.

I agree that social media brings with it a host of immensely positive benefits, and yet everything in this life that is deemed positive also carries within it the negative already, so the thought here is simply to be aware and examine your personal relationship with social media honestly so you can make the best decision for yourself.

This video does a great job of explaining the general concept of connected but alone.

There is also a longer TED Talk on this topic, available here.

It all starts in approximately the same way. We want to connect to old friends or make new ones. Or maybe we have just heard all the buzz about books, grams, tweets, tubes and vines. For some of us it started because we were told we needed it for business and it snowballed from there. For others, they were reluctant at first, but eventually after hearing everyone talk about it for years, they slowly started entering the social fray. Others were in from day one, this new way of connecting seemed to fill a void, to fulfill a need and after all it was “a good way to stay in touch.” But is what we tell ourselves true? or just little lies we use to justify a behavior that we almost inherently know is somehow flawed.

For me, it all started about 5 years ago. I was a late adopter. Throughout college, I had started to hear rumblings about facebook and how you could use it to meet people and stay in touch.

My response? “ No thanks, I’m in college, I’m in a fraternity, I bartend…..I’m doing just fine.” (super bro response I realize, ha)

After college, I had seen the movement start to gain a little steam, but it was still not something I saw myself doing. I was a social person and preferred real relationships to online ones. I moved to San Diego and started working crazy hours at a financial company, basically 6-6 and weekends were devoted to learning how to surf. My response? “No thanks, it’s not really me and besides I just don’t have the time.”

Somewhere along the line I opened an account. Fast forward 5 years, see if you have noticed any of these in your life?

Primary Effects:

-Narcissism: Feel like you have to share all the cool stuff you do to show everyone how great your life is?  Do you get satisfaction from seeing all the people tell you how cool what you are doing is or how lucky you are or how pretty you are…etc?

-Loneliness: Feeling lonely now because you don’t have something to post or no one has commented on your stuff or like it lately?

-Fear of Missing Out:  When others make their posts of the cool stuff they are doing does it make you feel like you are missing out and you are not happy with what you are doing?

-Inadequacy:  She has a better body, he has a better car, a better job, makes more money, she is having a baby or getting married……and I am not.

-Desire:  I want more.  I need something more to be happy.  I want the car, the house, the wife, the better body, the child… and then I’ll be happy.

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It happens all too often, when there is a down moment in our lives, we reach for the pocket, flip the screen on and look for the blue square….tell me you don’t do it? Or maybe it’s the bird or maybe it’s the camera icon for you, but the reaction is the same and it’s almost more habit or addiction than actual conscious thought.  In fact, I would wager that you don’t even notice you were doing it most of the time.

You simply find yourself on Facebook or Instagram at certain times of the day and you don’t even remember the process you went through to get there.  How did it happen without you noticing? You see social media has become unconscious for many of us, ingrained in our lives and part of our autopilot, which means everything that we talked about above is going on almost behind the scenes without our even knowing it.

In fact, I would wager that you don’t even notice what you are doing 90% of the time.  You simply find yourself on Facebook or Instagram at certain times of the day and you don’t even remember the process you went through to get there.  How did it happen without you noticing?

You see social media has become unconscious for many of us, ingrained in our lives and part of our autopilot, which means everything that we talked about above is going on almost behind the scenes, without our even knowing it.

On the flip side, social media has connected us like never before.  Our ability to access news real time, connect to people from across the globe, learn and release our ideas to the world is literally changing the game, daily.  The social media environment is also disrupting itself and is a prime example for just how quick technology is changing, many times for what we consider the better, so why have reservations?

If everyone is doing it, it’s usually time to take a step back and reconsider.  I am not saying it’s wrong, just consider. The reality of social media is we have zero long term studies on its effects, both at a mental and emotional level.  We literally have no idea what it’s doing behind the scenes, but the short term effects for many people, if you are truly honest with yourself, are not great.  Sure it feels good in the moment, but so does any addiction.  How do you feel after, and what does it do to your mind and what you focus on for the next 24 hours?

Even good things, when taken to extremes, can become destructive…

You like warm weather.
How about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit?

You like pasta.
How about 5 lbs of pasta a day, everyday?

You like your girlfriend.
How about never spending a moment apart, even at work?

My general thought on social media and what worked for my life, is that there is a “tao” somewhere in the middle of the obsessive compulsive usage that many of us exhibit,  to the complete disregarding of the technology altogether.  Odds are it’s going to be a bit different for all of us, so your task is to analyze your own personal relationship with it honestly, and it’s not always easy.

Why?  For the same reason people deny that they are alcoholics, or in an abusive relationship or addicted to work.  The same concepts are at play here, so try this.

Try This

Take a day off from social media, all of it.  Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat…etc all of it.  Log out and then watch and see what happens over the course of the day.

How do you feel?  Anxious?  Do you feel like you are missing out?  Or if you do something you think is cool, do you have an overwhelming urge to share it with everyone online so you can get positive reinforcement about how cool it was and you are?  (ha, no worries, I did (read:do) that a lot too).

If you feel so inclined, keep a journal and write down your thoughts every time you have an urge and then review it at the end of the day.  See where your head is at and the thoughts that are circulating around in your mind.  Now comes the hard part, admitting you may or may not have a problem.

So, let’s hypothetically say you are like me and had a bit of a compulsion to always know what was going on and to share everything I was doing for the reinforcement.  It was a habit, but at the end of the day, I determined it made me less happy.  So what can you do about it?  Simple, start living more deliberately.

Bringing awareness to an issue often has a profound effect, but for many, like myself, I had to take some more concrete steps to help stop the 300lb gorilla.  Here are a few of the simple tools I used for cutting the cord and at least making its use a bit more conscious.

How To Take Back Control

1. Log Out – This is probably the simplest and most effective tool that I have used to start cutting that social media umbilical cord and all you have to do is after you use it…log out. Here’s what happens, most social media engagement in my experience has been a spur of the moment, “let me just hop on real quick and see what’s going on” impulse. You push the app button or type in the URL address and you there, engaged before you even knew what happened.

What logging out does, is make it a conscious choice. Now you may still be subconsciously triggered to go to the social media outlet, but before you get engaged, you will be stopped by the login screen. This is the awareness piece. You now have a choice.  Do I really need/want to login or was it just a reaction that got me here. If so, shut it down and continue on with your day, knowing that you’re becoming aware of your subconscious minds little tricks. If you choose to continue, then do so happily, because you are now entering the social world in a conscious state and aware of what you’re doing, your objectives and can stay for the right reasons.

2. Schedule Your Time- This is a bit more of a drastic measure, but for some it is needed. Much in the same way that Tim Ferris advocates blocking off times in the day to tackle email, do the same with social media. Schedule it in your calendar.  1 or maybe two 5-10 minute time blocks throughout the day should give you more than enough time to stay engaged with friends and remain in the know. So now when the urge hits you or you find yourself at the login screen, calmly shut it down knowing that you will be back soon at your scheduled time and now you can get back to what you were doing without fear of missing out.

3. Consciously Replace Time- Now that you are becoming more aware of the time you spend in and even how you get into your social media accounts, lets see if we can’t start breaking the hold it has over us a little bit more.

First I must say, that sometimes I am simply looking for a form of voyeuristic 1 way communication that social media can do really well. Other times a phone call, meetup at a coffee shop, dinner or even text message conversation would do a better job of engaging the social aspect of my life. So I do this, if I find myself staring at the login screen of a social utility, I ask myself who I haven’t called in awhile, what friend have I not connected with lately or who have I been meaning to call, meet up or go surfing with.

In my humble experience, these choices engage real life conversations and experiences have always left me feeling happier and more fulfilled than ever using my Instagram account did.

Try a few of these techniques and let us know what works best for you and your experiences with social media in the comments below.

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  1. says

    Freaking LOVE this! I can relate to everything! I think I am going to be shocked by how much time I will “gain” back in my life. Thank you for your awesome articles xx

    • says

      Thanks Jody, It was a real eye opener for me as well when I started logging out and 20 times a day I would find myself staring at the login in screen not even knowing how I got there. Let us know how it goes for you!

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