I scrolled down the timeline in hope. Hope of what? Hope of not missing out? Hope of something to make me laugh? Hope of filling in the time? Hope of finding…. finding what? What was I hoping to find on the timeline?
It was so easy to just keep going down the timelines of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Just one finger, moving from the bottom of the phone screen to the top. So easy, so seductive, impossible to get away.
I was a conscious social media user. Look at me! I had the notifications turned off, and I wasn’t on the phone all the time. I would put my phone away if I was in company. So good! So sensible! If I was so good, why was I getting overwhelmed with all the constant checking? Oh, and that feeling of hopelessness after putting the phone down! Well whatever I was hoping for certainly was not on the timelines.
This was me two years ago. As an adult, who had known life before the smart phone, I was aware that this was not healthy behaviour. This behaviour was akin to addiction.
My concerns were confirmed by a BBC Panorama documentary, Smartphones — The Dark Side which looked at how social media companies have deliberately developed habit forming technology. It was interesting to see how the developers themselves did not use this technology, and protected their children from it as well.
I didn’t want to give up the smart phone altogether because there were so many benefits to it. However, I wanted to create a more conscious relationship with it so I took the following steps:
- Deleted all social media apps from my phone.
- Turned my phone black and white. (Yes there is a setting for that!)
- Put the phone away from me when going to bed.
- Checked my messages only when I had time to reply.
All of a sudden there was more time and space. The result was a feeling of calmness, presence and hopefulness. So this is where hope had been hiding all along! What are your hopes and are they on the timeline of the social media app? What could you do with the extra time and freedom?
Is it really all bad?
The year is 2020, and I am stuck abroad as the lockdown comes into force around the world with countries closing their respective borders, and tourists being stranded without flights. I download the social media apps on my phone to find out what is going on. I find groups online of others who are stuck abroad and this gives me hope and a sense of connection. I am able to get information via social media which is not available anywhere else and find a way of getting back home.
As we are forced to physically distance in this new world, social media has provided a way to connect with our loved ones. At a time when the mouth is being covered by a mask, it has provided the platform from where people are able to speak their truth.
Unconscious Numbing Behaviour
Recently, I found myself scrolling down the timeline in hope… been here before!! I knew what to do!! This time I took it a step further and deleted the shortcuts off my laptop’s browser. It was too easy to click on it in ‘hope’. Now when I want to visit the social media sites I have to type it in. I find this extra step stops me from mindlessly wandering through the timelines.
Why do we get into this numbing behaviour?
A new documentary on Netflix The Social Dilemma echoes the message of the BBC documentary with the tech experts sounding the alarm on the addictive nature of the technology, and taking it a step further by exposing how this technology is being used to manipulate human psychology to influence our behaviour. Yes, it does sound terrifying!
Reports from those that have watched the documentary are feelings of anxiety and anger. Anger is a symptom of feeling helpless or out of control. Remember, you have a choice and control over your own actions and choices. You are a conscious being, and you have the right to exercise your right to being conscious with your actions. Is your relationship with social media, conscious or unconscious? If we are not living a conscious life, we are living an unconscious life. Either way, our breaths are being used up. How do you want to live your life?
How easy it is to say that we need to live consciously. If it was that easy we would all be doing it all the time. Instead we allow ourselves to be numbed by random videos and posts as we scroll down the timelines of the respective social media apps. For a short time, we have a sense of hope, a sense that we are doing something, something that feels nice. The likes and the comments release a dopamine, signaling to the body that this feels good, and to keep doing this. The life away from the screen does not feel good, and that is the real problem. The problem is not that this technology is addictive, the problem is that it feels better than the life we are living.
To change the life we are living takes an initial input of energy. It takes time and effort to reassess our lives and look at what is working and what needs to be improved. It takes time and effort to work out our values and what is important to us and then to create a life that we love. Sometimes that is exactly what can stop us. If we feel love and joy, it means we can feel! Feeling can mean that we also feel other emotions which we are hiding deep inside, emotions which are painful; in fact these emotions which have been repressed so deeply are the cause of the physical pain and diseases that show up in the body.
Feel the Emotion
How do you deal with these emotions which are stopping you from living a conscious life? Well in short, feel the emotion. Feel the uncomfortable emotion until it goes away. Write to the emotion, sing to emotion, do what you have to do, but acknowledge that it is there and then feel it. You will also find other emotions sitting with the original emotion. Feel them, they are stuck in the body, only because you are using all your energy to not feel them. The emotions got stuck in the body during a traumatic time, when to feel these emotions would have been overwhelming for the body, and in order to protect you the body disassociated from feeling. Now they need to be felt, so they can be released.
Put a timer in front of you. Then find the uncomfortable emotion in the body. Then sit and feel it. Within three minutes the emotion will dissipate. Yes, that is all the time it takes, but we don’t like to feel these uncomfortable emotions such as sadness, fear, helplessness. Instead it is so much easier to reach for anything that will numb these feelings, and with the phone as our constant companion it is not difficult to find something that will soothe away this uncomfortable feeling. If you cannot feel the sadness, then you will not be able to feel the joy either.
The Colour of Joy!
The developers of the apps use the colour red in their notifications. The colour red is also a colour of joy and vibrancy. Our brain has an association of urgency with the colour red and lights up to take action. However, the action that we take by clicking on the app, does not result in true joy and vibrancy. The true joy and vibrancy come from within. True joy and vibrancy are not urgent, but slow and steady. What is your true joy?
I love how I can use social media for connection and finding out so many new and wonderful things. Yes, I have found myself being soothed by random videos or posts, and I am aware that I have the potential to waste time. However, I also find that this behaviour is more so when I am not conscious. Now, when I find myself in this mindless, unconscious behaviour, I use this to remind myself to stop, breathe and become aware of how I am feeling. If this behaviour is happening too much, then it is time to go back to my values and re-assess my life purpose and goals. To find my greater ‘yes’, so that I can say ‘no’ to everything else with ease.