Window Shopper

How you movin’ out here on these social media streetz?

This week, I’m taking a closer look at the dangers and debauchery of social media. From relationship gurus getting exposed to celebrity affairs to contradictory rhetoric around covid stats. It’s utter insanity. In the midst of all of this, internet addiction is slowly reserving its own spot in the DSM-V. What’s really going on?

It’s an epidemic of false prophets, smoke and mirrors, and misleading facts. People appear to be losing themselves in a contrived world. Social media is creating double agents; the real version vs the avatar. I haven’t done enough research to fully understand the data around the long-term effects of social media, but from what I’ve found, issues we see today are somewhat due to the rise in social media activity/abuse. Researchers recently discovered a phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” which occurs when teens spend a lot of time on social media then start displaying signs of depression. One reason social networking sites (SNS) may cause depression is because people tend to alter their perceptions about what they see or make inaccurate assumptions. Often, what is depicted on social media is not reality.

Similar to the movie Donnie Darko, the PU (Primary Universe) gets corrupted and a TU (Tangent Universe) or alternate reality is created. This TU is highly unstable and set to collapse because it poses a threat to the PU. The movie suggests that characters in the TU are being shifted around and manipulated like chess pieces. Towards the end of the movie, Donnie wakes up in his bed laughing after dreaming up the events within the TU. To me, the movie is about waking up out of an illusion, or a reality that was set to fail. Much of the social engineering of the media and culture is unreal and artificial, which could actually steer a whole world off course.

Social media has caused loopholes for bad behavior. We all witnessed this firsthand with Donald Trump and Twitter. Trump, by the way, is unveiling his own social media platform which he claims will attract “tens of millions of followers.” We don’t want to know what that online madness entails, if it’s anything like how he used traditional social media sites like IG and Twitter. But, I digress...

Despite the concerns, people are running a muck on these social media streets, using it inappropriately or excessively. Internet addiction is not formally recognized as an addictive disorder, it may be difficult to get a diagnosis. However, several leading experts in the field of behavioral addiction have contributed to the current knowledge of symptoms of internet addiction including tolerance, withdrawal, and psychosocial effects. It’s also leading to increased romanticizing and fantasy rather than actual human interaction, causing intimacy disorders. Most, if not all of us, are window shoppers on social media. We’re not really here to buy, just stroll by, take a look at the merch. Does this virtual scavenger hunt actually lead to a prize? An Easter egg? Anything?

I’ve gone through phases of resisting being active on social media because it feels fake. I’d rather communicate with a real human in person or via an old fashioned phone call. I’m reluctant to put my energy towards this elusive vortex but it’s inevitable nowadays if you have a business. Still, I know when to back off if it’s causing more harm than good. If you are wondering if social media is impacting your life negatively, here’s the litmus test: Go off of social media entirely for 3 days. If you start to get anxious, agitated, or depressed, you are experiencing withdrawal! Common internet withdrawal symptoms include anger, moodiness, tension, and depression when online access is not available.

From a neuroscience perspective, your dopamine levels are dropping. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved with positive reinforcement pathways in the brain. When you remove the “drug” (internet use), a dopamine deficit occurs. The best remedy is to find natural dopamine replacements (yoga, mediation, exercise, etc.) so you are not dependent on an external source. Be wary of swapping vices like binge eating, substances, or other maladaptive behaviors.

Boundaries are crucial in this digital landscape. We can learn to practice social media ethics and etiquette for our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. So, however you are navigating those social streets, be mindful of the scenery; don’t get lost out there. Donnie Darko’s mission was to preserve the PU (Primary Universe)— truth. As cliche as it sounds, the truth shall set you free.

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