Addiction, Connection, and Social Media

Johann Hari’s assertion in his TED talk (watch below) is that sobriety isn’t the opposite of addiction–connection is.

I think we need to get real here. We’re all addicted. Social media has equalized us. While I may not be enslaved to alcohol, drug, food, shopping, or sex addiction (and I don’t mean to make light of those things, not at all), I’m very much like everyone else, hooked on the hit that my phone delivers.

I’ve deleted the Facebook app off my phone countless times, and I deleted it once again last weekend. I enjoy Facebook, the articles, the puppy videos!!, and a few handfuls of friends’ and celebrities’ posts. I don’t think Facebook is inherently bad, far from it. I do think having the app on my phone turns a harmless pleasure into an alienating compulsion.  I don’t like myself when I am checking social media when my kids are talking to me, when I’ve woken up or crawled in bed, when I’m reading, watching tv, staring out the window. I am aware of how it takes my focus and scatters it–or destroys the possibility for imaginative daydreaming.

As my yoga teacher says, “Where attention goes, prana flows.” How much of my prana (life force, energy) is slowly ebbing away in the act of clicking on an app?

If Johann Hari is right, addiction is about not being able to bear being present in your life. And the social connections we have on Facebook, for example, are what he calls a “parody of human connection.” As “connected” as we all are online, we are living in an age of profound isolation from each other.

I really want to be as present as possible, from moment to moment, whether I’m with others or by myself. I’d like to not only be intentional about my use of social media, but also aware of my need for connection when I feel the compulsion for it. I think, in my own life, I try to lessen the sting of loneliness with social media, which is not a remedy.

When I feel the pull to check my phone today, I have a strategy.

One: Do not reinstall the app. Check FB on laptop, which stays in my office.

Two: Name and sit with the feelings. Am I restless? Lonely? Distracted? Bored? Sad?

Three: Maybe I need to make a human connection.

Four: Maybe I need to recognize I’m feeling something uncomfortable and just allow the discomfort. It passes, as all things do.

Johann Hari talks about how we are built for bonding, and if the human connections are not present or insufficient, we’ll bond to something else. I can’t suddenly manifest a boyfriend, nor are my girlfriends available on command. So it’s up to me to strengthen the bond I have with myself–in yoga practice, reading, walking the dog, or staring out the window.

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