Happy September (Recovery Month)! School’s back in session and vacations are over for many. If you’re like most, you’ve been seeing everyone’s summer pics on facebook and Instagram. While you might expect this post, written by a Professional Counselor, to talk about the influence of social media on self-esteem or depression, I want to invite you into a more personal journey- one of compulsive behavior, learning, and communication.
The Back Story
My days started to become more efficient at work; I found creative ways to engage or disengage with people; I was less stressed over the high dose of negative news I was seeing; I let go of the pressure of having to keep up with posting or needing to respond; I focused on the core things that mattered as opposed to the (look, a SQUIRREL!) distractions.
I began to see how compulsive I had become, even a little dependent. I felt fear about missing out on something. I got a “hit” (or high) from that next new message or like or share in my notifications. I had worried if someone didn’t respond soon enough.
The Addiction Framework
Even though a year break taught me about my personal misuse of social media, don’t expect a crusade AGAINST social media from me today. As much as I benefited from my “vacation,” there were a few things I missed out on, too. I overlooked a few announcements (sorry for missing that birthday heads-up). I lost a bit of connection to the world around me. In essence, some communication was actually stunted for me. And I missed out on a little healthy distraction I find encouraging.
The Rest of the Story
The modality of communicating by tech IS effective and helpful for many. We can complain all day about children not learning to communicate well because they “can’t even” (and I do believe that is a concern to be aware of as a parent). However, social media can be helpful.
Social media is a communication platform. Whether we like it or not, things like social media are the new telegram or front porch conversation of years ago. And they don’t appear to be going away any time soon, only adapting and changing.
As with many things in this world, the actual vehicle of social media may be relatively neutral- what makes it egocentric, compulsive, and harmful OR helpful and relational, is likely thepurpose and motivation and heart behind its use. I want to be “linked in” to the latter so I can live free, not compulsively.
If your heart condition were so bad that you had to undergo expensive ($100,000) coronary bypass surgery to improve it, would you change your lifestyle after the surgery? Nope. Not likely, at least according to a surprising study by Dr. Edward Miller at Johns Hopkins. Miller found that 2 years after patients had a coronary bypass surgery, 90% did not change their lifestyle significantly (diet, exercise, stress, substance use). 90%! Wouldn’t such an adverse event motivate change for the better? Not necessarily so.
Being at the end of January as I send this out, many New Year’s resolutions have been made. Fewer have been kept. It is common sense that the resolutions we make mean very little without proper follow-through- whether at the gym, with eating habits, or in even more complicated areas, such as relationships.
When I’m humble enough to admit my own strengths and limitations (my human-ness), there are many things I cannot do on my own, many areas of life I CANNOT control. But for those things I CAN change and affect, I ask myself: Do I need additional support? Help? Growth? Acceptance? Is what I’m doing sufficient enough to bring the change I want? Do I have the “horsepower” to do what I need? In counseling, there are rarely quick fixes. My job is mostly helping clients identify the how of change, not simply the what (i.e., how do I eat healthier versus simply identifying a need to eat healthier). I regularly ask myself the following question that I also pose to clients: “Am I pursuing what is needed to bring about growth and health in my life?”
If you’re having trouble changing something, first of all, that’s okay. Deep breath. You will be less likely to change something if you get overwhelmed and caught up in helplessness. If you ask all of the above questions and determine you need a little bit more than “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” (which is self-contradictory, by the way), passivity will lead to the same result- not even a heart attack can change that. If it’s time for something different, only you can decide. And if you hire me, we’ll get down to business.