Socially Awkward New Year’s Greeting

Happy New Year my friends. I’ve seen so many posts recapping people’s 2017 (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and I promise not to do that. I do promise to share with you my experience, and offer you a tool to help you cope with the trials and tribulations that bubble up in 2018.  Today marked the first day of my daily mindfulness practice. I woke up feeling incredibly vulnerable and anxious, my chest felt as though it’s fibers had shrunk overnight. I haven’t felt this tense, and distraught in a very long time. Suddenly, all that I felt was true, could no longer be trusted. I’ve an idea of what caused this turbulence, one of the main culprits: Social Media. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Bumble, Tinder, LinkedIn. They’re all major players in anxiety and depression these days. We feel compelled to notify the world of where, when, how, what, and who we are. We stare at our phones the minute we wake up to catch up on other people’s lives. We’re all little voyeurs, peeping in on other’s lives.

I don’t say this to evoke shame, guilt, or even defensiveness. I say this because I am just as guilty and don’t want these apps to have control over me anymore. These electronic devices and apps quite literally interrupt our brain pathways and create a dependence on checking likes, comments, and email messages. We ARE connected-it seems without us even knowing the half of it. This compulsion to check and respond disrupts our ability to engage in deep work and stay engaged in whatever it is we are doing. It has also been linked to depression and anxiety. This mechanism keeps us hooked by the release of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) every time we get likes, views, or comments.

Ever go through the cashier line and the attendant is checking their phone? What about having a meaningful conversation with a friend and they get a message and say, “hang on”, totally disrupting the moment you were having, when you return to the conversation it just isn’t the same. What about when you’re trying to be productive at work, but you keep getting texts and emails, and it ends up taking you twice as long as it would’ve if you’d not been disturbed. People get annoyed when we aren’t at their beck and call (I’ve known plenty of people whose bosses rely on them to check their email at home), or we see that our message has been read, but not responded to; we look to see what our ex did over the holidays. We use social media to hide behind our political affiliations and avoid real conversation about issues. We complain about our neighbors, coworkers, exes, spouses, and person in front of us at Starbucks.

Raise your hand if you’ve done any of these things? I’m right there with you. Social media has consumed our thoughts, lives, and has destroyed plenty of relationships. The average person spends about an hour each day on social media. AN HOUR A DAY!!! That’s an hour you could be connecting with people around you, spending time with your kids, talking instead of stalking, and being in the moment instead of being anxious or depressed.

Did you know that one of the developers of Facebook doesn’t even let his own family use social media? #Truth. On CNBC, Chamath Palihapitiya, said, “It’s easy to confuse truth and popularity, you can use money to amplify whatever you want people to believe, that what is popular is truthful and what is not popular may not be truthful.”

In his TedTalk on unwavering focus, Dandapani, a Hindu priest, calls this the distraction plague. He raises the idea that we are so practiced at distraction, that we are no longer in control or productive. He b believes that we can teach ourselves to more focused in our everyday life, by doing one thing at a time, we can be better at concentration and focus. He argues that technology isn’t distracting, only if we allow it to train us to distract us. If you engage with your phone, each time it chimes, you are allowing it to train you. In the five-hour work week, Tim Ferris offers the advice to only check email once a day, so you can focus your efforts on one task at a time.

How can we be more reliant on ourselves to control our state of mind and less dependent on social media? Mindfulness. Next time you’re talking to a friend, put your phone down. Turn it off. Silence. Leave it in your car. I promise, you won’t miss it after the initial urge’s fall away.


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