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Social Media Addiction; What 6 months social media free (during a global pandemic) taught me.

The addictive nature of vanity metrics (likes, hearts, thumbs up, comments, shares) can not be underestimated. Social media addiction is one of the fastest growing addictions on the planet (particularly among 18-35yo) and yet so few of us can admit we do it.

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Social media addiction may soon take its rightful place in the ‘spectrum of addictive disorders’ characterised within the ‘bible’ of psychology the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual).

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Psychology has given us an amazing taxonomy of symptoms. Psychologists have in fact become so good at identifying the issues (disorders), they are often spectacularly awful at helping with practical solutions!

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I believe there is no greater teacher than a good story, so I thought I’d provide an anecdotal account. A social experiment with myself as the guinea pig. As someone who identifies as an addict (of many and varied forms), I was the perfect candidate. I was able to notice the subtle neurochemical high my ‘likes’ were giving me. But also abundantly aware that social media aint real life. The people that like my posts are a mix of friends and admirers at best... stalkers, at worst. I know this language is harsh but we need to get real about what this is and call a thing a thing.

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I knew all of this intellectually, I am an educated woman with 37 years on this planet, but the feeling was irrefutable, there it was there. The addictive payoff for my latest selfie. My thesis was simple, I removed myself from all social media for 6 months.

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The results surprised me. I had several people contact me to ask if I was okay? Others who were bothered that I had ‘deleted’ them or that I was ‘ignoring’ them. My virtual self had become both a victim and a villain and all because I’d decided to conduct my relationships outside of the abstract echo chamber we call social media.

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I was able to be more present. When I was with people I was fully with them. There in body and mind. Not constantly checking my phone or thinking about how awesome our girls trip to Scotland in the summer would look as an insta post (you all know you’ve done it!!). Now I’m not saying I’m never going to post those photos, but what I am saying is that there is a healthy way of relating to myself and to others online - and then there’s not. This is where the work is. It is up to me (as it is up to each of us) to define what this ‘digitally healthy’ is for ourselves.

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And if you want my unsolicited advice, whatever you decide for yourself turn of f*ckin notifications. Game changer!

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This got me thinking about the human tendency to approach connection and avoid rejection. Is human connection being diminished to the shallow ‘liking’ of one another’s post’s? The occasional comment, direct message, ‘sliding into one another's DM’s’? Or heaven forbid all the cyberstalking??!?!?!

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In all of this bullsh*t, are we losing the ability for true intimacy? I don’t have the answers here, I suspect we are.

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What I have learned is to put my phone down more, to make time to be fully present with people. Fully present with myself and in my work. Even if right now a lot of our connections are virtual by necessity, I am making more phone calls and Zoom calls. It’s important to really hear people right now, hear their stories, rather than mindlessly scrolling Insta (my personal drug of choice).

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My unanswered questions don’t end there. How do we conduct more meaningful relationships in an unprecedented time in human history where we are required to see one another as pathogens, where our relationships are digital by necessity? How important is the avatar of myself I create online? Does she (my online avatar) have a responsibility? If so, what is it? Can we use technology to cultivate true intimacy over the shallow idolatry it currently promotes?

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One thing I do know is that my 6 month social media hiatus showed me how essential ‘big talk’ really is. The importance of real conversations and relationships that do more than just skim the surface.

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During this time I was able to dive deep with the people I chose to surround myself with and they were able to do the same with me. It has changed how I relate to technology and helped me to laugh at the role I play in this absurd dance and helped me define how I choose to play it from here.

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May your life be your masterpiece in progress as ever we are becoming, Lauran xo.

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#digitaldetox #socialmediaaddiction #recovery #emotionalsobriety #thesocialdilema #addiction #sobriety #community #anxiety #depression #mentalhealth #emotionalwellness #healer #medicinewoman #sherecovers

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