By: Sherry Levine, Regular Contributor
Image from theonlinemom.com
I wake up in the morning, open my eyes and reach for my phone. First, I turn off that devil's music (aka my alarm) and proceed to refresh away. These days Instagram’s first, but it wasn't always that way. A few years ago Twitter led the pack, and before that it was Facebook. I check my emails, refresh all of the above a few more times, and proceed to get out of bed. Whatever your app of choice may be we are using these social media platforms to be just that: overwhelmingly social. We have created a world where we have the ability to share every waking moment of our day and see every waking moment of yours. Aside from sharing, conversing and commenting, what are we really gaining from being so present on these platforms? Is it simply pleasure and entertainment? Or has it become a compulsion, dependence and a need to post and refresh and measure the response. I started to wonder, am I addicted to my phone?
There are so many facets to this question; I don't really know where to begin. I do believe that the short answer is most certainly yes. But let us explore this further. We didn’t get here on our own. Over the past few years, with the innovations in technology and the creation of these apps on our smart phones, we have basically re-programmed our brains to crave this stimulation, entertainment, and validation at ALL TIMES. It is no joke that I am guilty of refreshing Instagram, quitting Instagram, and re-opening Instagram to refresh again, in a matter of 40 seconds. Now I’m no Neurologist, but as a victim of this compulsion, I think it’s safe to say there is most certainly something chemical going on here. It seems almost impossible for me to wait in line, or sit in a cab, or wait in a doctor’s office without going to my phone for some entertainment. It’s as if looking out the window and being alone with my thoughts is no longer an option.
Not only is there a chemical reaction going on in our brains, but there's also a social reaction. It seems that the response to a post or tweet can instantly make us feel good or bad. As if our peers’ reactions to whatever we are putting out there is the final word on- am I liked or not, am I funny, pretty..etc. I truly believe a new compulsion has been created of needing to check my phone constantly. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m getting kind of sick of looking at my phone every second!
So I think the question that arises here is, where is the middle ground? It’s obvious that there are many advantages to this new world of social media. The ability to stay connected with people from all over the world, the ability to be creative and interact with friends. But at what point does it cross over into harmful? Ask yourself: Are you putting too much weight on the responses of your posts? Does the amount of “likes” you get validate your status more than a face-to-face interaction with a peer? Do you feel inadequate and inferior after looking at someone else’s posts? Is it possible that we are getting lost and sucked into our cyber lives and forgetting to live and enjoy our real lives? Is the world inside our phones more entertaining than the world around us? Gosh I hope not. How ridiculous does that sound? Yet, unfortunately, when you look around, and see a sea of heads looking down and phones out, you realize, it doesn’t seem too ridiculous after all.
So I challenge you with this. Next time you have a few minutes to kill, don’t pull out your phone and refresh. Perhaps enjoy the silence and beauty around you. Give your brain a rest from the stimulation. Sit with your thoughts and resist that urge to see what everyone else is doing and just think about your life and your goals. We are social beings and we need interactions with one another, but has this gone too far? I guess we'll slowly start to find out the real affects of this constant stimulation, in the near future.
Is giving your three year old an iPad actually detrimental, or is it beneficial and educational? Will all of this social media lead to overwhelming vanity and narcissism, or will it make us crumble in envy of other people lives? I honestly do not know. All we can do is do our best to stay in control of our own lives. I urge you to measure yourself not by how many likes you get, but by your accomplishments and successes, by your growth and ability to overcome obstacles, by working hard and being a good friend, sister or daughter. This is where the true validation, confidence, and respect comes from. And I promise you, there isn’t and never will be an app for that.
About Sherry: I am Sherry Levine. A 26-year-old woman committed to supporting and inspiring woman in any way I can. With my contributions to I AM THAT GIRL and my life-coaching program Generation Teen, designed to provide guidance to everyday teen girls, it is my mission to encourage and empower all woman to create the happiest and most fulfilling life possible.