By Brennen Lukas
Just Another Zombie
Have you ever found yourself staring at your phone, scrolling through endless pictures and videos on Instagram or Facebook or Youtube... or whatever... and then at a certain point, you realize that an indeterminate amount of time has passed, and your eyes are glazed over, your mouth fixed in a perpetual half-smile and you don't really know what you were so fixated by on your phone, or even why?
You feel like a zombie with a weird hangover. Meanwhile, a familiar fog of self-loathing and vague sadness settles over you as your brain attempts to re-adjust to the world of the living. You remember that you are alive, that people are depending on you, that you have things to do and a whole gorgeous life to live.
You turn off your phone determined to do something productive, gosh darn it, but soon the phone is in your hand again, almost as if by magic (ooh a notification!) and like a horror movie where the attractive but hapless protagonist never learns from their encounters with a predictable monster, it's all happening again.
And again. And again.
I know I have. And I know it has to stop.
It's Not Our Fault
App designers have deliberately created their apps to exploit how the human mind works, manipulating our dopamine responses and conditioning our behavior to keep us engaged and scrolling. There's a reason these companies refer to people as "users" in a sense not dissimilar to drug addicts (even if they would never put it like this). Our brains have been hacked, and it’s scary.
At this point in human history, if you're addicted to an app, you're pretty much just a normal person. There's no need to feel bad or guilty about phone addiction, but we do need to recognize there's a problem.
So What Can We Do About It?
For most of us, especially entrepreneurs and those of us in sales and marketing, it's not realistic to completely part ways with social media. Even if we can consider giving up Facebook's personal connections to family and friends, sites like Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter have become indispensable for personal branding and industry networking. These social networks provide the digital platforms through which we can spread our messages and reach the people who need to hear them.
What has worked for me is to approach social media mindfully. To be mindful means to be present and purposeful in what you’re doing. It's the polar opposite of mindless scrolling.
Using social media mindfully means setting boundaries and rules for how I engage on the networks.
Here are the guidelines that I try to apply to my social media usage. I am going to use Instagram as my example, but you could apply these to your social network of choice:
When I do not want to be distracted, I keep my phone at a distance from me. I’ve been known to purposefully leave my iPhone in the car outside, or lock it in the floor safe at Whipped Bakeshop. Seriously. Just the little bit of effort for me to remember the combo and turn the safe’s dial is usually enough to keep me distraction-free for me to get important work done.
Before I open Instagram, I have to be able to state to myself WHY I am doing it. If the reason turns out to be that I just want to entertain myself or fill time, then I do not open the app.
I prioritize contributing, connecting and sharing rather than aimlessly browsing the content that other people have posted. This means posting my own original content, writing meaningful (or at least positive) comments and supporting the people I care about. If I’m not contributing, connecting and sharing, then it’s just… you guessed it… scrolling.
I try to be mindful about who I am following. They should either be someone close to me, a brand or person I want to influence, or someone I want to be positively influenced by. If I have consistently have negative feelings after viewing posts from a certain person or brand, It’s a definite unfollow. I also try to keep my following list pretty compact. I suspect that following more than say 100 accounts is probably counter-productive.
I use Instagram strategically and actively engage with potential partners, podcast guests and collaborators. In other words, I try to use social networks to actually network. I’ll do a whole separate post about this, I promise!
I try to pay attention to how I’m feeling when I’m using social media. Are my eyes glazed over? Am I slipping into zombie mode? It’s time to STOP.
You’re In Charge
The final thought that I want to leave you with is that you run your own show. If you feel like the way you’re using social media is effective for you, then by all means carry on. But if you feel like it’s become a problem and you sometimes feel like the zombie I described at the beginning of this post, then maybe it’s time to put your foot down and set some boundaries of your own. Feel free to modify my suggested guidelines to meet your own needs. Any boundaries are better than no boundaries.
Remember: You can use social media to advance your goals and make the world a better place instead of just sedating and entertaining yourself. It’s up to you!