Social Media Sites and their Addictive Pull

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Social media websites are addictive. You might agree that part of the reason for this is the often upbeat mood of the messages that users post everyday.

I know I spend too much time on Facebook. I kid myself that that’s where my friends, my real friends, are hanging out. I want to know what’s up, what they’re thinking or doing. So I skim through a few postings and then discover some little gem of an uplifting saying that should raise my spirits and make my day.

Typeset, coloured and prepared, a little thought and post your message to enrich the world with stolen wisdom.

You probably know the problem of spending too much time on the internet. It’s too much time because it´s valuable time wasted. I read a lot of posts that tell me that all I need to do in life is believe in myself, get off my arse and start doing something. But I always seem to be searching for the post that will give me the key to all my problems. The main thing is, they tell me, is don’t waste your time, Use it wisely because it’s running out fast.

There are millions of posts that go up onto the internet everyday — surely one of them contains the answer to all problems. Wrapped up neatly, in a tight little package of words that will hit me between the eyes like a bolt of light from the heavens. So, I keep scrolling. My fear brain and my curiosity brain working together to keep me searching for the coolest sounding, hippest and most-high-roasting, thought provoking facebook wisdom on the planet.

I don’t find it, of course. Maybe later.

Before the internet appeared on the planet. There was a certain type of person who used to hang out in the pub, beer mug tilted in his hand, head cocked aside, he’d stare at you and say, “do you know what?” And you’d answer in the negative, and he’d slide adeptly into his lecture of the evening. He’d go on to fill your head with amazing facts and figures about curious happenings on the other side of the world. Only he knew about these things, and after a few minutes you’d understand why he was the only person who would waste his time reading about such trivial facts.

Most people avoided him. He was always a man, and he’d often be leaning on the bar at six O’clock in the evening — just after opening time. If you passed him on your way to the toilets, he’d nod good evening to you, if you acknowledged his gesture, he’d take it to mean you were now friends and he’d snare you with a , “Do you know what?” when you were coming back into the bar.

Social Media sites are similar to the dude in the bar — except much cleverer. They collect all the trivia that all those dudes in the bar have collected and then snare you with it. They don’t say, “do you know what?”, they have little shiny squares of space that you must focus on and become fascinated with by scrolling from one square to the next.

The stuff that happens in our brains when we are on the internet is so amazing I’m surprised that the guy in the bar never told you about it.

Unlike the boredom that would quickly set in when The Bar Dude snagged you, social media sites that offer simple quick response images that require no commitment or action on our behalf, help you to relax and forget what you should really be doing — how many times have you been on social media and forgotten that you had planned to go out at that moment? An hour or two later, you wake up.

The shiny object syndrome is prevalent in society now. And the only cure seems to be the cold-turkey way out. Weening yourself off the stuff just doesn’t work. We like to relax and when we are relaxed we can learn things more quickly. Social Media teaches us new ways of using our brain cells by showing us connections to things that we would normally not see as important. Subjects and themes that you would normally pass over as not relevant suddenly become relevant — somehow. Smooth connections happen through contexting things that algorithms have figured out for you, from the way in which you have been surfing the net. The whole net.

Our time is valuable. You and I both know that self-discipline with time is key to getting things done.

Social Media sites don’t care about that, your time is what they want. They want your full attention focused onto the little square space that contains a message that you will find important. That message will most likely be from a friend, and for that reason the chances that you give enough time to stop and read it will be very high.

Refusing to listen to the Guy at the bar who says, “Do you know what?” is socially acceptable.

Refusing to read a friend’s message that contains a wise and helpful anecdote isn’t socially acceptable and can make us feel uncomfortable when we try to skim over their posts.

We are, by nature, kind and polite. Always aware that somebody may need our help. Social Media is full of square boxes where people are asking for help.

There are also many shiny areas on the internet where people are offering their help.

Really, in all my life, I’ve never seen so many offers of Life Transforming promises to the world since the beginning of Social Media. All these Dudes at the Bar are now sitting at home in front of the computer, wearing only Jockey Shorts and a stained T-Shirt, telling anybody who will listen how to get your life together.

And the problem is, we fall for the trick. Dude at the Bar is now an internet Guru. How do I know he’s a Guru? Well, he told me he is, that’s how it works these days, you have to tell the world that you’re an expert Guru and that makes it so.

If we met half of these people in the street I think we’d see the cracks in their facade. The internet, the shiny thing, can make all things glow like gold.

Yet, so long as the messages that they send us are seen in tiny shiny boxes on social media we are in danger of quickly believing everything they say — and handing over our hard earned cash.

The brain is a fantastic piece of kit. We can use it to enhance life and enjoy our existence here on the planet. The problem is that other people can influence it, confuse it, plant doubts that cause us to think deeply about what they say and forget what we feel or believe is best for ourselves.

Social Media is the travelling salesmen of the planet. Always a smile on his face and always has an offer that is unbelievably cheap or one-time only. An expert in catching your attention and drawing you into the beliefs and ideas of his world.

As the captain in Hill Street Blues used to say, “Let’s be careful out there!” and remind ourselves that we didn’t invite the time waster into our homes and lives. The armour of self-discipline and discriminating between knowledge and trivia will help us to protect the preciousness of individualism and personal choice.

All the best, Sean P. Durham

Written by

Berlin Notes — Writing about the Creative Art of Living

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