By Sumer Dene
When I was a model in New York and LA, being sized up by photographs on social media was a part of the business. I was asked how many followers I had at every casting and told by managers and agents to delete photos that didn’t portray an idealistic lifestyle. I developed chronic anxiety from the pressure to be picture perfect.
Finally I realized it wasn’t real, it was part of a game filtered and curated around a false reality. We simplify our highly complex lives into a small screen to be judged by our presence online. When you compare yourself to the highlights of others peoples lives, you live in a world of constant despair. Many young people battle with low self esteem and lack the education and coping mechanisms to manage stress. We are distracted and put filters on the real issues we face, creating an environment to think less, focus less and question less. The question is, why do we check our phones so often?
I took a break from social media and noticed a tremendous difference in the quality of my life. I used time efficiently and became more productive and confident. I spent time in nature, reflected on goals and developed new interests and meaningful relationships. I was happier, more cognizant and energized. Our lifestyle is encompassed through the use of our phones for communication, entertainment, shopping, games and news. When you scroll through pages of endless information, what do you really see? Are you perceiving reality clearly? If we are unable to experience life offline, we risk stunting our growth and development. It has become a habit, a reflex and a way of life. We are so connected to the digital world that it has become a part of us, leading to tangible effects on mental health and wellness.
The average person will spend more than five years of their lives on social media, according to a study by influencer marketing agency Mediakix. Phones are affecting our intellectual and emotional depth, sleep cycles, and connections to the world around us. We are sold quickly to the fast-paced content that constantly seeks social validation, it becomes easy to fall down the bottomless hole of entertainment that promises fulfillment. External obligations disrupt significant moments of our lives and drains energy, individuality, intelligence and creativity. It is not acceptable that people aren’t aware of this beforehand, especially young people who are easily influenced. Next time you scroll through the internet, ask yourself, how is this beneficial to my well-being and quality of life? The truth is, moments that truly matter don’t happen online. Time well spent is timeless and requires your conscious attention. Living in the moment is about enjoying the natural wonders of life through your own eyes. If you’re not looking at your phone, you get a chance to appreciate the simplicity around you.
There is no limit to what can be accomplished with the profound capabilities of technology. However, tech companies must be willing to take accountability and pursue active resolutions to innovate how apps are created and developed. Early Facebook investor and founding president Sean Parker states the influential social network is “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology” as these apps are designed to be addictive and grab your attention. Tech experts built a “feedback loop” to keep users coming back for more. This behavior is driven by chemicals in our brain.
Notifications are red to stimulate excitement and signal a dopamine rush to the brain. Incessant interruptions release adrenaline and cortisol, which alters the brain’s chemistry to make you feel systemically anxious and stressed. You are exposed to content that agrees with what you already believe and advertised products based on data gathered from browsing habits and preferences. Computer algorithms focus on stimuli that fuel immediate reactions. Algorithms search for instant responses and not personal engagement, therefore amplifying negativity. This leads to misinformation and hateful messages to spread across the internet for the sake of higher engagement levels.
We end up with intermittent attention spans, trust issues and an inability to overcome depression and anxiety. Consequently, relationships with family and friends are drastically affected. Children and pets suffer the most because they are hypersensitive to their surroundings. These innocent beings thrive on eye contact and authentic connection, they can feel your emotions unbeknownst to you. When they see caregivers too involved in their device it causes them to become stressed and act out in order to grab moments of your undivided attention.
We can change the business model of social media to establish a platform for social good. There is power in ‘logging off’ to rethink the relationship you have with your phone. We can’t ‘outsource’ our means of happiness. We have to create it ourselves. Who are we as human beings if we can’t sit still and reflect on our lives and inner thoughts? True character and identity is found within. Furthermore, find purpose in social media to share your vision and spread awareness on topics that interest you. Positive messages can reach a larger audience when a relationship and trust is built within a community. Life is defined by the moments we share, not the moments we post. Reclaim your life and pursuit of happiness.