Down This Technological River, We So Merrily? Go

What if I told you I was going to change your life?

What would you say?

Change your life for the better, of course.

Well, by ‘better’ I mean change it to be what I believe is better.

But my intentions are good and I truly believe it’s better.

So, are you with me?

Oh, one more thing. I’m not just going to change things for the better by giving you something. I’m going to change how you actually perceive something. In fact, how you perceive everything. Yes, everything. That’s “better” — right?

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Now this proposed scenario I’ve written above seems rather odd, doesn’t it?

Is it odd because of what it’s actually proposing? Or is it odd because these actual words have never been heard before in that way?

In case you were wondering, it hasn’t been asked of you. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

So what exactly am I talking about?

Okay, I’lll stop beating around the bush and I’ll tell you what I mean (as you’ve already been reading my words for 50 seconds or so, and that’s me taking up a lot of your time, right?) Have you noticed that we get more easily annoyed if someone is taking up too much of our time.

Hmmm, perception of time…. Is that what I’m talking about?

Let’s just say perception. And yes, time is one of the things being perceived that’s being affected. Part of the change.

Although the mechanism that’s doing the changing is social media. I know, this is not a huge reveal, or an unheard of deduction. Yet the conversation has only really just begun. Where do we start?

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We can start with the term social media. It seems like such an innocuous term, but social media isn’t just media that we engage in socially. It’s pretty much how we predominantly go about our online experience. Social media is more synonymous with the internet itself, rather than an actual social interaction or form of media. It’s like the combination of the 2 becomes far more than the sum of it’s parts. This is an important distinction to make.

Since it’s inception and delivery into our societies, social media continues to bombard us. It appears that most of this bombardment is due to our own choosing, right? Perhaps there isn’t a binary answer to this question. I’m also not looking to place fault or blame. I’m more concerned with creating a conversation regarding this aspect of evolving society.

This is where understanding the basis of choice can become tricky. But what if you were eventually let in on a secret. A confession that these mechanisms for social interactions were designed in a way to have you interact more than your own choosing would allow.

Even without a secret or a confession, how much convincing do we need. We can each take our own stock inventory of our time and behavior with social media. Stock of our thoughts on the matter too. Has use in these platforms increased over time? For many the answer is yes. Therefore it may be helpful to be let in on some of the secrets currently being revealed.

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The level to which you are aware, will vary depending on how frequently certain information pops up on your newsfeed. There’s only so much information we can be exposed to at a given time. Hence the reason I’m taking the time to share my understanding of some of what’s come my way regarding the pros and cons of social media. Information that confirms things that I’ve been sensing for myself over the years.

Recently some big powerhouse names in the tech filed are saying alarming things regarding social media and the platforms that they’ve introduced to us. People like Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya have been coming forward suggesting that there are indeed adverse effects. Suddenly they’re now proclaiming their concerns.

One these latest admissions states that social media provides a feedback loop that’s similar to giving us continual hits of dopamine. Yes, that’s dopamine — the neurotransmitter in our brains. Many addictive drugs have been shown to increase dopamine neuronal activity. It appears that the most successful social media platforms have been continuously upgraded by the design to inherently increase dopamine in the users experience.

So, yes, with regards how I began this discussion… the bastions of silicon valley have opted to change your life. For the better. Not with Something. With Everything. For better… and worse.

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We don’t have to just rely on their words though. We all have our own experiences to pull from. And there are other resources to explore, other than from those that are still in the social media reformation game. I believe this topic will continue to be a trend as we move forward with technology and how social media has shifted human interactions.

My immersion into this foray of understanding the personal effects of social media began in the winter of 2016. At least that’s when I was able to be consciously active in a deeper understanding of it. I started the year living in Hawaii, with very limited online access. I was mainly there to enjoy the outdoors and a more natural way of living. It wasn’t until I was there for an extended period of time that I noticed week after week, I was loosening the grip my online behavior held on me. The adverse effects diminished.

I was there for nearly 3 months. By the time I left, I felt much healthier. It was almost as if I had gotten rid of some toxic layer that I was carrying with me. Was it of a physiological nature? Was it that I was simply able to change many behavior patterns by being in a new environment? An environment that didn’t contribute to me getting hooked by some of the bells and whistles that social media platforms. Bells and whistles designed to grip me to be an avid user.

When I came back to NYC, I was deliberately mindful of my online behavior. Shortly after my return, I came across an article by Tristan Harris called How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist. It was eye-opening and all too relatable. I already knew what my own body and mind were telling me was true, and I soon found some external confirmation about what was going on systematically.

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As a holistic health counselor, for over a decade I’ve worked with many people with varying health goals. Many of these health goals are broader in nature and span across lifestyle goals. In the early days of exploring these goals with others, online activity was often suggested to enhance one’s experience, or to compliment a desired behavior change. Lately, more often than not, online activity deters from succeeding with goal changes. It can be a distraction or hinderance to creating one’s desired changes.

Even though I was witnessing this in others, it crept up on me too. Gradually, the day arrived when I was checking Facebook first thing in the morning, before anything else. What was the tipping point for that behavior? Then soon I was spending hours on Instagram, when I barely used it when I first created an account? It was about posting the pictures that I was taking, right? Or did it somehow suddenly become about how often others were liking those pictures? Aka, a dopamine hit.

Along with my experiences, I’ve seen versions of this coming up from person after person. I image that even as I share this, you can relate to what I’m saying. Having similar examples. What is it about? Have you questioned these little impulses of thought? Or have you just been shrugged it off as something of little or no concern?

I’m a proponent that there should be some concern. To me it’s a health concern. And not just behaviorally. If you’re still wondering if there any actual physiological effects, have you ever heard of Phantom Vibration Syndrome? It’s the feeling you get when you think your phone is vibrating. In many instances, this is your brain interpreting an itch as the vibration your phone would give you. There’s more going on here than we’re aware of.

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So this is enough to put you in a panic right? Well, if this strikes a chord in you, take heed to look into this more. If you’re staring to consider that you may need to curb aspects of this happening to you, then be mindful about it. Treat it like something that happens to us systemically and habitually. Think about some of the ways you can deliberately shift your habits.

Here’s an analogy that may help you consider what to do next or how to respond to your new perception of what’s happening.

It’s as if you’re floating on a river. You initially felt clam in the water, floating along, felt good and you felt in control. But soon the flow of the river picked up more than your perception accounted for. At this point you’re not going to be able to push against the current of the river, and you certainly don’t want to start aggressively swim and cause yourself expend unnecessary energy. Do not flail about on the river, find a way to navigate and keep floating.

Ways to navigate this powerful river:

Start with an assessment of your online behavior.

Take inventory of the platforms you’re using.

How frequently do you check them?

Be honest with yourself!

Don’t just estimate at the end of the day. Dare yourself to take a tally throughout the day.

It’s only from here that you’ll get a true sense of how this relates to you personally.

Then you can start evaluating your emotional investment in your behavior.

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If you’re feeling bold and want to take further action, do a search of the words: Effects of social media on…

and you can fill in the rest.

Although your search engine will start filling it in for you with the following:

teens

society

college students

relationships

mental health

youth

I suggest typing: the brain (as in, your brain)

That should get you acclimated enough to a whole new avenue of where the discussion can go.

I also encourage listening to some of the podcasts that Tristan Harris has been discussing the subject. And yes, reaching out to me.

As a disclaimer (you know, because “disclaiming” is what we do now on social media — similar to that new impulse that I’m taking up too much of your time) I’m not vilifying social media. To be clear, I’m a proponent for it to some degree. I’m writing on it and sharing with it. It is still a wonderful tool, with a lot of merits. But perspective is a friend, as is moderation.

I’m a holistic health coach & writer living in Brooklyn, NY. I’m the creator of www.highheartwellness.com assisting others to reach desired health goals.