I remember getting my first social media account around the time my second child was born. As I reflect back on some of the differences between my first child and second child experiences, I consider the role social media may have played in the comparisons I made to others. I seemed to gain a lot of different perspectives about babies and mothers from what kinds of foods to feed, yoga for mother and baby, all the products available to mothers and children, as well as the dreaded Ferber sleeping strategies.
In a moment’s notice, I had access to what my peers were doing with their children and had a reference to just how
quickly or slowly my child was developing. I attribute this largely to the role that social media began to play in my life. As my son reached new milestones or I experienced some challenges as a parent, I would often be looking at others with those same issues, whether intentionally or not. While I have may made these comparisons without social
media, the impulse to give in to my urge provided immediate results. I began to consider the impact this may have on my confidence or my ability to feel connected to my own child. I became increasingly aware and mindful of this and have developed some tools to make a conscious choice about giving into the urges of social media.
In his book Irresistible, Adam Alter provides an overview of some of the dangers of this access we have to immediate gratification. Alter contends that ‘Likes’ became the first digital drug. He discerns between passions,
obsessions and addictions. In the case of addictions, addicts will want the object of their addiction but many of them don’t like it. The mind learns to associate any substance of behavior with relief from psychological pain. Either the drug or the behavioral cue can trigger dopamine release. When applied to social media feeds, one may want the update and the brain remembers how it used this to soothe the psychological need in the past. Often times one prefers to do something rather than nothing even if that something is negative. Checking email, for instance, can become a constant state of high alert. If you stop checking email for a period of time, the burden of pain intensifies as one sorts through the history of emails that seem to ‘grow more angry’ the more one tries to ignore it.
Alder suggests that goals are also something to be wary about when you consider the ways technology encourages the attainment of goals. Goals come in the form of social comparisons and round numbers. When one focuses on numbers, he/she becomes ‘divorced’ from being in tune from his/her body. When applied to social media, one may outsource the
decision making to the device. He indicates that with repeated success with goals, that could be in the form of streaks, steps, or followers, new ambitions are developed. Due to the immediate feedback however, there is the danger that one spends more time pursuing the goal than enjoying the fruits of the success. There is also the role of variable reinforcement. This concept suggests that the experience of coming off of a recent first is deeply motivating rather than winning all the time. The contrary is a stream of low-grade highs and small doses of positive feedback.
I have considered how ‘addicted to distraction’ I can become as I casually browse through the endless scrolls of social media. Alter suggests that part of the science behind the development of social media or the gaming industry is for endless rewards. He indicates that stopping cues are necessary to assist individual’s breakaway from technology. Alter also points to various creators of social media sites or video games that exhibit caution from ever interacting with their own products.
Alter makes some suggestions to the consumers to avoid the pitfalls of social media. For one, develop stopping cues to limit the interaction with technology. Consider empowering language such as, “I don’t use social media during mealtimes.” He also shares about the concepts of behavioral architecture to aid in minimizing the temptations of technology, He suggests keeping devices farther away or leaving them all together for periods of times.
This book provided great information and made some interesting points about the rise of technology. Alter only touches on the ideas and potential impact of virtual reality that is likely to advance quickly in the coming years and continue to have an impact on our daily lives. It is important to be intentional as well as understand the risks with the benefits.
Alter, A. (2017). Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Jody Johnson, LICSW, LIMHP, began working at Wholeness Healing Center as a therapist in 2007. Jody graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with her Masters in Social Work. She received her bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
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