"Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences." -Psychology Today
At least a few times a day, I pick up my phone exclusively for validation.
Something triggers me - whether externally from a person or experience, or internally, where my mind is jabbed with a mistake from the past or distress over an unwritten future.
In those moments, possessed by some hungry creature, tethered to my ego, I pick up my device. My fingers flick to instagram, or whatsapp, or facebook, often scrolling through all of them until I get the "bump" I need.
Someone, somewhere, has emailed me, or messaged me, or acknowledged me. Someone likes me, somewhere. And my ego is satiated until the inevitable shifting of my current mental state. The validation is a distraction from what I'm trying to process internally. I've struggled with my mental states my whole life and for all the others out there that can empathize, I think social media can often do more damage than good.
Social media is a tool, no doubt. In a world where arguably the leading desire of young people is fame, I think its safe to say social media isn't going to disappear. However, I believe we need to check ourselves, take occasional breaks, and untether our worth to how liked we are on our digital platforms. I believe we need to re-evaluate what matters to us as a species, and that begins with the individual.
We've all heard the phrase that we are more connected than ever because of technology yet more disconnected than ever because of technology. I often find myself comparing my life to someones I know absolutely nothing about besides what they post for the world to see.
Is this the life I'm supposed to have? Is this the body I'm supposed to have? Are these the places I have to go, and visit, and explore... to experience happiness? Why is their following growing so quickly while I'm losing followers? Do I have to follow in someone else's footsteps to be liked? I become a victim.
I often put down my phone feeling worse about myself than I did before I picked it up.
Figure 5. Tether. The Hater
I'm not ignorant to the fact that there is some bitterness creeping into my current relationship with social media. Like any relationship, or conversation, when it stops feeling good, it's time to take a break - it's time to step away and see the bigger picture. And the bigger picture exists in front of you, in the real world, not hunched over, neck craned to swipe, like, comment, and repeat.
I recently moved back to New York- Brooklyn to be exact. Two weeks ago, I took a break from building furniture for a bike ride around Prospect Park. I left my phone at the apartment after a quick mental deliberation.
The park was quiet, beautiful, and filled with something I can only understand as God. My hat and helmet created a tunnel of vision that enhanced every rain kissed leaf, tree, and blade of grass. The park was emptied of people, minus the occasional cyclists and runners enjoying the gods of rain and thunder as they danced and drummed above.
I remember thinking during the ride how a phone on my hip could have potentially pulled me from the magic of this present I've been given. "If it's not on instagram, it didn't really happen." One of the worst quotes ever imo.
The best things in life happen with your head and heart up. When you are so immersed in the present that anything captured with your eyes and your heart is more than enough- that is content that lasts forever.
I'm grateful for social media - especially instagram. It's connected me to incredible individuals. It's allowed me to share my message with the world. And sometimes, I get some pretty cool shit. But I control it, it does not control me.
Everyday, since that bike ride, I've gotten one step closer to a full on detox.
It's not easy, especially when you have a following that people envy. It's a challenge to step away from something that has brought you recognition and praise, and lean into the pieces of yourself that ultimately matter the most to you, and seemingly little to everyone else.
Everyone wants to be liked, including me. I wish I could say I don't give a fuck what anyone thinks about me but I do. With each word I type, and image I create, I get one step closer though. So I'm going to #godark for a bit. One month, no social media - just email and text. Time to put the digital content aside for something I can touch.
I challenge you all to do the same. A day, a week, a month. Start small. Take a step back, leave the phone at home, and enjoy your life. Notice what comes up, notice what comes out. Use all of that free time to journal, meditate, take a pottery class, something creative... or perhaps simply appreciate the act of being, and less-on doing.
Much love to you HumanHeroes. Keep moving.
Rest in mind.