Excessive use of social media. Dangers and Remedies

The following two tabs change content below.

Monika Marek

Certified Mindfulness Teacher - Life Coach - Personal Development and Spiritual Guide - Shaman in Inner Spark

Introduction

Without even realising, excessive use of the internet and social media has become a reality to many of us. It became part of our life and permeated all aspects of our existence. Information and technology were developed to make our lives easier and to open us to the world. The internet is a fantastic and helpful tool as long as we are conscious, follow our purpose and know when to start and stop using it.

Sadly, over the years, we have come to understand that our will is not strong enough. We spend an unnecessarily long time connected to the internet daily. Children, teenagers and young adults have been sucked into virtual reality, spending hours on social networking. It has become a habit to scroll and to check different pages, profiles and videos mindlessly. Often there is no clear purpose, only an unconscious way to spend time. Even for the older generation, this way of spending time has increased considerably over the past decade. 

There are many dangers associated with this new habit:

Too much information, not enough life 

Each day we are bombarded with a vast volume of information. We are overloaded with data about everything. But do we become wiser after reading all this? Not really. Unfortunately, our mind is unable to process all this new mental knowledge. We’re getting more than we need.

One of the problems is that we’re not able to verify most of the data. To verify something, we need to have experience and actual practical knowledge. What do we really know? Each person is limited to his own life experience and level of evolution. We grow and become wiser only through living, not by reading about other lives.

There is a significant difference between the way the mind and the spirit grow. Our mind evolves through gathering information, but our soul grows through internal and external experiences. To expand, we need to enjoy what we are doing and to meet our limitations and challenges. That’s what gives us personal power, increases our intuition, makes us stronger and more aware. Only then can we distinguish between valuable and useless, real and fake, in the world of information. We can only absorb as much information as our spirit allows.

Unfortunately, Western society puts a great value on a man’s intellectual knowledge, neglecting the importance of his life experiences, will, power and integrity. It results in a weak society drowning in a sea of mental data. Sadly, it won’t make us any more intelligent. On the contrary, it will lead to dizziness, confusion and vulnerability.

All our mental data determines the way we see the world 

The enormous mass of mental knowledge doesn’t bring us wisdom. It drains our energy as the mind makes a considerable effort trying to process and absorb it. Every new piece of information connects with older parts of information gathered throughout our lives. It constructs a mental picture of the world based on all we have heard or read in our life. With time, this picture becomes much more significant than our actual life experience.

What is the result? We become an easy target of manipulation and control. We agree or disagree; we express strong opinions on everything without actually knowing anything. Excessive use of the internet and social media weakens us and deprives us of our power. It makes us tired, easily anxious and overprotective of ourselves and our family. We do not see a difference between real and mental reality.

The overstimulation of the mind removes the ability of simple joy. 

There is also another aspect of the excessive use of social media: our brain is overstimulated. When we surf on the internet, we receive an overdose of pictures, videos, advertisements, colours and exciting content, all fighting for our attention. With time our brain becomes dependent on this high level of intensity. We need a stimulant to feel anything. When we don’t receive it, we become senseless, drained and numb. The simplicity of real life doesn’t give us joy. We cannot recognise the beauty and magic of the world all around us. It can lead to anxiety or depression.

We suffer from a short attention span and lack of focus.

Too much social media usage leads to a short period of attention. The ability to focus has tremendous power in our life. It determines where we direct our energy and time. In consequence, it creates our destiny and shapes our life. The more crystalised it is, the more potential we have. It energises our intention and our goals.

Our attention span supports our ability to concentrate and our willpower. It helps us to be decisive and to go deeper into our chosen area of life. It brings determination and persistence. This energy, when concentrated, is like a laser going directly to the essence of things. It allows us to understand the deeper meaning of life and gives us clarity. However, we have to use this quality consciously to benefit from it.

Unfortunately, when we spend hours online surfing, scrolling, reading and watching different videos, we become unconscious. It makes us less intelligent and sucks away our energy. Our attention is split between hundreds of constantly changing pictures in front of our eyes. Each of them leads us in a different direction. This way, we destroy and drain our energy. This habit leaves us distracted, tired and without the ability to focus for longer and longer periods of time.

We judge and compare ourselves with others 

In the sea of the virtual world, there is always someone who looks better and is more successful than us. Online reality doesn’t give us an accurate picture of actual reality. Our mind doesn’t distinguish between genuine and superficial, so we receive a distorted perception of existence from this confusion. It makes us believe that an easy and perfect life exists and is possible. Whereas, in truth, many pictures of someone’s perfect life on social media are just well-done snapshots, altering their reality.

We may conclude that by getting the same experience as others, we will be happy. This way of thinking disconnects us from our potential, purpose and uniqueness. We start to judge and compare ourselves with the achievements, skills and lifestyles of other people. In consequence, we may feel frustrated and dissatisfied. We begin to have expectations and demands toward life instead of being grateful for what we already have. In this way, we build a sense of lacking inside us, which can only lead to more scarcity and loss.

REMEDIES for the excessive use of the internet and social media:

Finding balance between mind and spirit, knowledge and experience

We need to find a balance between our spirit and mind, between being and knowing. Both are important, but only in harmony can they grow and serve our life. If we cut knowledge from being, it becomes theoretical and abstract, not applicable to life. Instead of helping us, it complicates and brings new difficulties. The mind always shows everything as complex and sophisticated. It makes us think that the more information we receive, the more real knowledge we get. It’s an illusion. If the knowledge outweighs a man’s spirit, the man then knows but has no power to do and cannot use the information he receives practically. He knows but does not understand many things.

On the other hand, if a man has a strong spirit but no knowledge, he has the power to act, but he doesn’t know exactly what to do. He has no clarity nor a precise goal. We need both mind and spirit for a balanced life.

At this moment, most of us have a surplus of information. What we need is to live more and to have more experiences. Observe yourself. How long do you spend sitting in front of the screen, of either your computer, phone or another device? Is it in balance with the rest of your time? How much information do you receive, and how much do you use practically? Maybe you read about diets, but you’ve never tried one, or you read about physical exercises, but you do not move much. Perhaps you know many things, but you never apply them. Start to act. Get new experiences. Do not try to get more unexploited knowledge instead.

Clarifying the purpose of life and allowing the technology to serve it

When you use social media, you tend to do it unconsciously. You don’t even know how much time goes by as you read and scroll through various information. It is crucial to understand why you are doing what you are doing. It’s not about not using the internet at all, but about learning why and how to use it wisely. Observe if social media benefits your life or takes away your energy? What matters to you the most? Doing this will help you become a mindful and active internet user.

You are active when you use the internet to search for information vital to you or contribute to the online content. Yet, you are passive when you read everything that catches your attention. It happens when we come to social media to consume content instead of actively contributing to it. It’s called “passive networking.”

Active and conscious use of social media requires awareness, purpose and willpower. The clarity about what is meaningful for you and how much persistence and determination you have.

Understanding and unlocking the habit of excessive use of the social media 

The excessive use of the internet is a habit, and you can break it if you observe and understand it. Each pattern has the same structure and consists of four main elements: trigger, craving, routine and reward. When you want to break your digital habit, you need to distinguish and comprehend the stimulus and reward while also realising the cause of the urge behind it. The remedy here is to be conscious of the mechanism of your behaviour. This understanding will stop the automatic mode of the pattern and motivate the change.

The trigger is a situation that activates the mechanism of the habit; in this case, the habit is using social media and digital information. This trigger switches your brain to automatic and unconscious mode. Sometimes, you do not even know when you grab your phone and start to check it. It happens unthinkingly.

What triggers the habit?

When you realise what situation or state provokes this habit, it’s easier to cut it. However, it needs observation as this part is often very unconscious.

Below you can see different kinds of triggers and the remedies that you can apply to them:When you are excessively using social media at a specific moment of the day

You are using social media in the morning or the evening before going to sleep

– Leave your phone, tablet and computer out of your bedroom

– Buy an alarm clock and stop using the alarm on your phone

– Read a paper book or a book on the Kindle, do not read on your phone

You are using social media during the day at work, school or meals  

– Turn off your phone during work, in school and during meals

– Make adjustments in the settings on each social media app so you can turn off specific notifications

You are using social media during the day when you have free time:

– Try to find an activity that is not related to technology. It can be a sport, yoga, horse riding, cooking, art class or many more. However, even if you have to take this course online, do it from your computer, not mobile.

– Delete your social media apps from your smartphone. If you need to use it for your work, then you can keep them accessible from your personal computer. It will decrease the amount of time spent on your phone. You can try to do it for a short time to cut the intensity of the habit.

– You can also put the frequently used applications on the last page of your phone. This way you will need more time to enter them. It will give you time to realise what you are doing when holding the phone in your hand. At this moment, you can ask yourself why do you need this application now? This method has worked a lot in my case.     

When your psychological or emotional state triggers the excessive use of social media

The difficulty with social media and technology is that most of the time, we use them unconsciously. The trigger is within us. It’s our mental or psychological state which disturbs us, which we want to avoid. So unconsciously, we are looking for a distraction to escape the discomfort within ourselves.

Our deep and unrealised wounds mainly cause this internal stress. We all have them; since childhood, we have developed strategies to avoid the pain. Over the years, this program of escape has become mechanical. As soon as discomfort appears, we find a distraction. Technology has given us another easily accessible tool.

What kinds of discomfort are we avoiding? It can be boredom, inner tension, dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation. Sometimes it’s fear of intensive emotions or confrontation with problems, low self-esteem and feelings of being lost and unloved. 

Dealing with this kind of trigger requires awareness and mindfulness. We need to observe ourselves and catch the moment when the discomfort appears. It is not easy as we often can’t admit what we are feeling, and the coping mechanism is activated immediately by default.

Once we catch this trigger and stay with the pain, accepting it fully, we can begin to heal it and prevent the distraction mechanism.

Which reward are we seeking online? 

The reward, after the trigger, is an essential element of the social media habit that requires analysing. The reward satisfies our cravings and drives the pattern of our behaviour. It answers the question of what are we searching for on the internet and social media. Reward; it’s the inner state we want to achieve through our behaviour.

Every time we feel uneasy, we want to change that feeling, avoid it and become unconscious to relieve the pain. We’re trying to get a different internal experience. We have developed a habit mechanism that claims to provide us with what we need. We hope to get it when we connect to social media.

They are different states and rewards we are craving:

We are craving relief 

Often, we are searching just for relief. We want to escape the suffering within us and look for a virtual remedy. Once we turn on the internet, we become unconscious and project ourselves away from our essence. This process softens our pain and helps us to forget about it.

Unfortunately, the relief does not heal the pain. It’s just a temporary coping mechanism, but our inner discomfort remains unchanged. The solution here is to be honest and sincere with ourselves. To catch the moment when the inner struggling arises and to stay with it. We cannot heal our emotions without confronting and fully experiencing them.  

We are craving connection and aliveness.

We want to feel connected with others and with the world around us. To sense this connection, we spend hours online. We watch videos, chat, read, and we feel that we are taking part in life. We receive external stimulation and intense emotions that make us feel alive. But this is just an illusion. In reality, our life doesn’t become richer, or we are not taking part in it. We only temporarily fill the void in us, the sense of loneliness and isolation.

What we really need is to connect with ourselves, cultivate our energy and be more involved in life. Navigating social media will give us precisely the opposite. Following our purpose and overcoming the inner obstacles will bring us meaning, the energy we lack, and life’s intensity.

We can do this by joining groups such as a book, film or sports club. If there is not one nearby, then you could start one in your community; this will also help others get away from the internet for a few hours a week.

We are craving acceptance and attention.

Many of us suffer from low self-esteem and a lack of self-worth. Not believing in our own value forces us to look for it in the outer world. We are searching for acceptance, attention and external validation. Our confidence starts depending on it, and we want to be seen, recognised and loved by others through simple likes and hearts given to us online. 

What we are looking for outside is what we should give to ourselves. Self-acceptance and self-love are the main remedies here. Without them, we will always rely on external approval and are never really happy.

Conclusion

Excessive use of social media has a tremendous influence on our life. We are transformed and changed by the object of our attention. Giving our time and consideration to digital data and social networking shapes our perception of the world. We construct pictures of reality, basing life on mental information and exchanged opinions of others. It disturbs our vision of life and totally neglects our own insights. We begin to limit our life to the benefit of mental information and digital images. Our existence becomes poor, flat and insensitive to the simple joys. We became distracted, dissatisfied and anxious.

The remedies are lying within ourselves. We need to find balance, purpose and meaning in our life. 

To become aware of our unconscious patterns of behaviours. We must realise that escaping our inner discomfort is not a solution. What we need is to turn towards ourselves with acceptance and love.  

LATEST POSTS