Most of you will think I’m crazy for making this observation, but if you’re willing to stick along until the end of this article, I will have you convinced of this one fact that social media is as addictive as heroin.
As addictive as heroin? How silly is that! Has anyone overdosed on social media and died? Do people show withdrawal symptoms when their phones are taken away? Is there a large black market that caters to the demands of social media addicts?
Yes, Yes and Kinda.
There are reports of many young adults who have fallen into depression and have seeked out social media as an outlet for their pain. Not everyone on the internet will be sympathetic to your suffering, and reading their negative comments especially when you’re in a very delicate state of mind, can lead you to take some extreme measures to cope with the pain. This could be an obsessive indulgence of porn, or something physical like wrist cutting to dull the pain.
Most of us have turned away from our society and family and towards our smartphones to pursue a reality thats not as harsh as the one we’re living in today. Smartphones give us something reality could never provide us with, a series of continuous dopamine hits. Every game you play and every video you watch dulls your sensitivity since there’s only so much pleasure you can experience in one setting, so you spend more time online.
Imagine what happens when someone decides to take your pleasure device away from you. Even if its just for a moment or two, it will drive you nuts. You’re probably thinking,
“Oh, thats so not me.”
Let me ask you this, how long have you been browsing the net before you decided to read this article?
“But I’ve only been reading stuff online, and I know its good for ME!”
Okay, and how much of what you’ve read have you actually retained? Well? Hahaa! Checkmate!
Cultagram, Cultbook, Cultsapp
Now, Although there isn’t a black market that supplies us with the goodies, there are markets out there in the open who do the creating and distribution. I’m sure you’ve heard of Facebook? What about Twitter? Oh, oh! Instagram? You don’t have an Instagram account? Were you living under a rock?
It becomes a sort of cult where anyone who doesn’t use a particular social media is backward and stupid and those who do are progressive and super smart. Its funny how its the opposite. The more time you spend online, browsing through insipid content, the duller you’re mind gets with each passing day.
If you’re using the internet as a means to further your exposure to the world of business, economics, philosophy, literature or art, instead of letting it sap away at your health and vitality, then this article isn’t for you. You’re making use of this wondrous tool, instead of letting it chaining you up like a slave. But thats not the case for the vast majority of us, and its shocking how we aren’t aware of this fact.
I’ve written about my love affair with smoking and mentioned how insidious a trap it really is. It started off as an on and off thing, and rapidly made its way into my life. “Smoking a cigarette or two once in a while is fine”, “everything in moderation is fine and dandy”, these were the stories my mind kept reciting to me.
I used to smoke occasionally, thinking it was alright to suck on a couple of cancer sticks here and there. I mean hey, whats the harm? Its not like I’ll contract cancer by occasionally smoking a product proven to have a thousand or so carcinogenic compounds. At least I won’t get it today. How do I know? I just do. Don’t ask any more questions.
It made me feel good. It provided me with a short lived high that allowed me to experience a sort of self confidence I never had. But it never stuck around for long, and receded once the bud burned out. This is when I’d proceed to light up another one because it gets dark and I need some light to navigate my way back home…okay that was bad.
It wasn’t just confidence, it was a deep sense of calm and level mindedness that allowed me to laser into whatever problems I had, and momentarily burn away all redundant thoughts and worries that were latched along with it. It worked quite efficiently too, until one cigarette a day wasn’t enough to reach my Zen mode. I needed to go deeper, to find myself. This translated to more cigarettes and an increased chance of ending up in the hospital.
Here’s the funny thing, I thought I was doing okay. I didn’t think I was addicted to it in any way. In my head, occasional smoking was a way for me to let off some steam and to clear my head. I’d also made sure to not cross the one cigarette a day mark, but I kept dancing over the line from time to time.
But then I started smoking whenever I had my “occasional” drinks, or everytime I flunked an exam, to relieve myself. My occasional habit continued at the hostel I was at. This went on until I became a super optimistic guy who viewed everyday as an occasion. Cigarettes cured me of my pessimism.
And the worst part is I didn’t realize this on my own. Its only after listening to a friend of mine talk to me about my behavior that I was able to see what I had turned into, and the kind of hamstering I had done to convince myself of the crazy shit I was doing.
Thats the thing about addiction, its insidious, and you won’t even realize that you’re addicted. Ask any smoker whether they would consider themselves addicted to cigarettes, and nine times out of ten they will respond by saying no. They believe they are in control, or only smoke a few per day, which in their mind is okay. And no, cigarettes don’t make you look sexy.
As of now, the method used to sway people away from smoking, drinking etc is by employing a variety of fear tactics. Smoking gives you lung cancer! Esophageal cancer! Heart attack! Alzheimers! Asthma! Alzheimers! Decreased fertility! Alzheimers!And it works. With kids. Until they grow up and become adults who have been exposed to chronic levels of fear inducing nonsense for such a long time that they have developed an immunity against them.
Its not the cancer, nor the Alzheimer’s you should be worried about. All addictive behaviors serve your worst interests, and once you enter that circus, your mind will revolve around them until the day you take your last breath.
With social media, the damage done is even worse. You spend hours browsing through it, because you have nothing better to spend your time on and since everyones doing it, its considered to be normal.
The tech moguls themselves have restricted their kids from using social media because they know how seductive it is and after all, they’re the ones who’ve created it. Social media programs you to keep using it by providing you with a series of dopamine hits by toying with our ego. When we get a message, it makes us feel good and we end up craving for more which is why we keep checking our feeds, count likes and read every comment.
And we use it everyday, for hours on end. Think of what it does to you, when you keep your head buried into your smartphones. It becomes irreplaceable, and tearing yourself away from it is not an option. I guess thats why they’re called smartphones. They trick you into investing the one resource you can never make up for called TIME.
It erodes your natural coping mechanisms and replaces it with compulsive attention seeking behavior. It severely damages your self-esteem which is why you spend most of your time online, posting selfie after selfie to get people to like you.
Also, it absolutely kills your attention span. Most of the problems you face can be linked to this one fact alone. Period. The lower your attention span gets, the more anxious you get, the more anxious you get, the more you indulge in it to feel better about yourself. Its a vicious cycle and no one realizes this.
So Whats The Solution?
Start by tracking the amount of time you spend online. You have to be aware of how much time you’re squandering away, me telling you that you’re wasting time won’t have any effect on you. You have to realize it.
Say you devoted 1/10th of the time you do on social media on an activity like learning a new language, playing the guitar, sketching etc. By the time you hit day 365, the progress you’d make will be immense. How many skills have you developed by liking , commenting and following other users?
I used to spend an average of 8-10 hours on them and had nothing of value to show for it. I dont spend as much time anymore ever since I decided to get my stuff together and started this blog, which in itself was a huge step forward. I’ve decided to publish at least two articles per week, without any compensation on its quality and content. Its not as easy as it sounds, and its quite the challenge which makes it worth the struggle.
Find something similar and devote 10 minutes of your time to it. Then slowly increase it to 20 minutes, maybe after a week or so. Once it gains momentum you will automatically spend more time with it and believe it or not, you’ll start enjoying it. You will look forward to it and block out all distractions, even if its for those few precious moment.
Get your dopamine hits from quality tasks and activities, and watch as it grows into skills you can eventually monetize. This will take time, but don’t lose hope. Even taking baby steps towards your goals is better than wasting your time and resources on short lived highs. This is the only life you’ve got, so make it worthwhile.