Posted by Rebecca Snyder
Social Media is more than just a distraction to some. The reading this week made me really step back and evaluate myself with regard to my own level of distraction caused by my response to the notifications from social media and e-mail. I spent and entire day being acutely aware of my habits in a way that I had not previously, and here is what I discovered: I am a social media addict with unchecked OCD!
Each morning, my alarm sounds (on my phone) 15 minutes before I have to get out of bed. This is purposeful because it allows me to silence the alarm and spend those 15 minutes waking up while scrolling through my e-mail, text messages, missed calls, and of course my Facebook business page/messages. I have been known to stay in bed doing this for 30-45 minutes, often missing my opportunity to shower and beginning my day with a coating of dry shampoo and body spray. On days when I do have time for my shower, I take the phone into the bathroom with me and will often prop it against the wall at the top of the shower so that I can be sure to not miss any important messages or phone calls.
When I am out of the shower, I check my phone again for the temperature and the daily weather so that I can get dressed accordingly. By then, it is usually time for me to wake up my youngest son to begin his day (we home school). I often Face Time him as his wake up call, you know, to save those 10 steps I would make to his bedroom.
I spend the remainder of the afternoon as a slave to the pings and bings of notifications. If I am waiting on an important call or email, I find my (actually diagnosed) OCD pattern of checking every few minutes rears its ugly head. I will admit that, often, this pattern does not change when I am in the car driving. In his book, “Net Smart,” author Howard Rheingold notes that, “Texting while driving kills…(and) the fact that anyone would risk life and limb for an LOL is a clue that something about texting hooks into the human propensity to repeat pleasurable behaviors to the point of compulsion” (p. 45). ACK! He is right! Try as I may over the years of driving with my son’s in the car and teaching the boys to drive, I still can’t say that I am 100% cell phone free while driving.
My brain knows I need to be, but something almost uncontrollable begs me to check that phone at every ping. And, turning the volume off doesn’t change that desire to check. In fact, it almost sends it into hyper-drive as I worry that I have missed something imperative!
Most evenings I work my business by doing online Facebook parties to open oysters and sell jewelry. During this time I am totally plugged in – working while checking a barrage of private messages, keeping up my online presence, and reading/responding to live comments as they come through my feed.
To finish my day, I lay in bed and scroll through Facebook or read articles online that interest me until I get tired enough to fall asleep. I can’t even speak to how many times I will be reading through an article or a friend’s Facebook timeline only to find myself in the circle of links and clicks that lead me to chase a white rabbit down the social media rabbit hole. If you aren’t sure what I mean about the rabbit hole, here is a great article I read recently after a night of chasing that rabbit for about 3 hours: Following the White Rabbit Down the Social Media Rabbit Hole
Fine Tuning my CRAP Detector
In Chapter 2, Rhinegold points out that, in order to be smart in our use of the internet, we must learn to filter out what is true and what is false. Rhinegold says, “Don’t refuse to believe; refuse to start out believing. Continue to pursue your investigation after you find an answer. Chase the story rather than just accepting the first evidence you encounter” (p. 78). I am going to take a second here and get really personal in an attempt to give an example of a broken “CRAP detector” (p. 89) and the toll it took on my quality of life for over a year. I mentioned above that I battle OCD. My OCD doesn’t come in the form of counting or repeating steps for fear that something bad will happen. My OCD presents itself with health anxiety – I am a hypochondriac when I allow my mind to take off in whatever direction it chooses. Rheingold assures us by saying, “What person doesn’t search online about their disease after they are diagnosed?” After my youngest son was born (15 years ago), I went through a severe bout with my OCD/hypochondria where I determined from Dr. Google that I was dying from a brain tumor. I lost a good year of my life with worry and anxiety, but I was too afraid to see a doctor or mention these concerns because I just knew I could not handle a horrible diagnosis in my fragile mental state. According to the internet, I had every symptom. I was dizzy, I felt my speech was stumbling and slurred at times (even though friends and relatives had no idea what I meant and had not seen/heard any issues when speaking to me), occasionally my vision was blurry and I was experiencing flashes and floaters. I was feeling like I was in a memory fog and often felt clumsy and off balance. I often would run to a mirror and stick my tongue out to see if it went straight down or off to the side -Google told me to try that. Unfortunately, Dr. Internet failed to tell me that brain tumors generally affect one area of the brain at a time. So, if I had blurry vision caused by a tumor in my brain, it would be located behind my eyes (most likely) and symptoms would all be related to that one tumor in that one place. A tumor behind my eye would not cause me to have slurred speech, a foggy memory, or to lose my balance unless, of course, it was metastatic. It took me a year and a Lexapro prescription to tune my crap detector enough to realize that I had been feeding my unfounded fears by seeking worst case scenario CRAP on the internet. I am happy to report that I continued with that Lexapro prescription and I no longer live my life in fear of dying from whatever Google diagnosed illness I may have.
Working to “Hit It Big”
In Chapter 3, Rheingold begins to discuss meaningful ways that we can participate in social media. Because social media is such a great tool in my business as a network marketer, I can’t just decide to unplug completely. Instead, I can make small changes to the way I operate on social media (perhaps beginning with locking my phone in the glove box when I drive). My inital interest in this graduate course came from my desire to learn how to better present myself online and how to be intentional in my participation on social media. Reingold reminds us that, “The good news is that learning to participate effectively online (like learning attention and crap detecting skills) is a matter of mindset and practice – and the payoff can be big. Knowledgeable online participation can help you land a job, find a mate, organize a movement, or sell a product or service. As citizens, professionals, and consumers, we hit it big, manage to get by, or fail utterly in large part because of our ability to connect and converse with others by way of digital networks…” (p. 114). I am ready to do what it takes to “hit it big!”