October 10th is “World Mental Health Day.” Honestly, raising awareness of and supporting mental health issues should be a priority every day…to help others and to help ourselves.
As a testament to the importance of mental health, let’s talk about something that isn’t popular, how we spend time on social media and what it’s actually doing to us.
It isn’t just the kids who spend a great deal of time on their devices. It’s anyone and everyone with a smartphone and tablet and any social media app.
Medical professionals, therapists, academics, scientists, and experts are doing their very best to accelerate research and raise awareness. They’re more than willing to have this conversation.
But it’s a topic so sacrosanct that it’s often shut down before it starts.
To talk about our use of TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, BeReal, is like an unwelcome intervention or even a personal attack. Each app isn’t a separate entity that can be explored logically. Our identity is the app. Our friends, followers, and idols are the app. This.is.life.
Highlighting the incredibly damaging and now known effects of social media use on people, their relationships, mental health and health, and their performance, they are outright offended. They’re insulted. They become instantly defensive.
“This is how people [insert verb…watch, communicate, share, learn, et al.] today.”
This is much more than a conversation. There’s a real sense of urgency here. Social media is disrupting society by disrupting individuals from the inside-out, at a pandemic level speed and scale. Not only are these devices and networks affecting us, they’re also eroding our intellect, emotional depth, our physical presence in important moments, and our interpersonal skills in how we communicate and connect with one another.
The challenge in addition to personal defense mechanisms is that smart phones aren’t going anywhere. And even if they do, right behind them are new waves of personal devices that will only serve to augment every facet of our lives IRL and virtually. Some, we’ll hold in our hands, others we’ll wear, and the more advanced will simply be implanted.
Doing nothing is not an option. Every day, we uncover new ways in which social media is hurting us, all met with the same response of either ignorance or defensiveness.
Now, research shows that constantly posting content on social media can erode your privacy — and sense of self.
Being observed by so many people carries significant psychological effects. There is now substantial evidence connecting people’s mental health and their online habits. ????
Studies found that high levels of social media use are connected with an increased risk of symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It happened to me and many close to me.????
After two years of study, I shared a research-based process and journey toward a personal solution for retaking control, finding balance, and taking purposeful steps every day, here.
The problem is that people don’t know or seem to care about they psychological effects. Even though they are pervasive and not always obvious, subconsciously, people are affected. Ignorance is bill, until it isn’t.
“What we’re finding is people are spending way more time on screens than previously reported or than they believe they are,” said Larry Rosen, professor emeritus of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, to WIRED. “It’s become somewhat of an #epidemic.”
The problem is far more pervasive now since 2020 + newer apps like TikTok make #habitholes so much easier to fall into…and that’s by design of course.
It’s easy to spiral out of control without knowing it’s a problem.
“Even when you’re not on screens, screens are in your head,” Rosen said.
Not only do we always carry ever-expandingn cognitive loads 24/7, our interactions online rewire our brain for speed, multitasking, and more distractions. We continuously erode our focus, depth, and presence. Worse, we self-inflict stress and anxiety.
Fallon Goodman, an assistant professor of psychology at George Washington University, told Wired about the dangers of not knowing what kind of impression we’re making online.
“When you post a picture, the only real data you get are people’s likes and comments. That’s not necessarily a true indication of what the world feels about your picture or your post,” Goodman said. “Now you’ve put yourself out there — in a semi-permanent way — and you have limited information about how that was received, so you have limited information about the evaluations people are making about you.”
We literally wire ourselves toward a downward spiral.
With LifeSCALE, I wanted, needed, to take control of my digital life rather than living with my devices and habits controlling me. I was so convinced that I wasn’t the only one and the everyone was quietly screaming for help, for a solution, to wake up tomorrow with different intentions and routines.
The thing that I still haven’t figured out is how to help others recognize that their digital routines are hurting them and those who matter around them *before* the inevitable moment that changes everything aka the “uh oh” incident. And that moment can manifest itself with a multitude of faces and effects, attention deficits, burnout, breakdown, broken relationships, sleep deprivation, low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, depression, and so many more health issues. ????????????????
I still have to readLifeSCALE even though I wrote it to help me improve my routines, and elevate my creativity, vision, and journey. I chose not to embrace digital minimalism. But with every new device, app, or digital process, I continue the work that keeps my cognitive load, imagination, and center in balance. ????
So what do we do about it when most don’t believe or see the that this is a problem?
I’d love to hear your ideas and let’s make an impact every day in-between World Mental Health days.
Not all time spent online is destructive. It’s understanding the differences and being intentional about our relationship and time spent with our devices.
Many of us are the very people who need help. Maybe something feels off. Maybe there’s a constant tension or worry or chaos. All I know is that this social dilemma leaves no-one untouched, loved ones and significant others, students, your team members and customers, friends and family, everyone.
I don’t have the answer to helping others seek help or help themselves. I do know that in addition to LifeSCALE, there are solutions. Below are some ideas, some baked more than others, to get us started.
Where do you see yourself in life and are you making strides in your day-to-day efforts vs. what you share/consume in social media?
Visualize: Start with a vision for the “ideal you.” Make it approachable and attainble. This is never a one-time exercise, so don’t worry about growing and changing as you go. The point is to chart a journey between where you are today and where you want to be. You close the gap by doing the things that help you achieve your goal, in everyday steps, and also what keep you happy, healthy, and on up-to-date on everything as you go. Visualizing your future self will also change how you share the present you in social media.
Tasks/Routines: One way to approach this is to visualize your aspirations in different facets of your life, in your work, in your relationships, across your hobbies, and endeavors. In your daily/weekly task lists or journals, break-out activities and goals accordingly to make progress in important fronts.
Pro Tip:Use a timer to keep you focused and present in each effort. I use thePomodoro method, focusing in 25 minute bursts with no distractions.
Measure: This is extra work, but it’s important. The shock value alone will jolt you into focus and action. Track where you spend your time and how. Make sure to also track the time you spend doing things that may seem trivial such as watching Netflix, playing online games, scrolling TikTok, etc. Make sure to also track your screen time. Then, compare this to your vision for your future self. Think about the time you spend giving into distractions and the cost associated with doing so. What’s it holding your back from? What else could you be doing? Who else could you be spending your time with?
This exercise is meant to reflect upon who are you becoming today, either intentionally or unintentionally. The goal is to align today’s intentions with tomorrow’s aspirations. [Source]
What are the immediate areas that require attention now?
What are the skills or goals you need on the horizon?
The Evolving You: Who you are becoming today
The Aspirational You: Who you see yourself becoming
Who you are becoming today is a work in progress. There are areas for development and there are areas that require attention. There are also aspects that are ok to leave behind if they’re not in alignment with the evolving or aspirational version of the ideal you.
Now it’s time to carry forward those personal and professional attributes now and in the near-term. This is your foundation for the evolving you and a future you.