Consuming Social Pop Rocks
Do you remember Pop Rocks? Those tangy, sizzling mouth parties were one of my favorite candies when I was a kid. Just pour ‘em into your mouth and instant joy + sugar rush ensues.
You might think that as an adult the need for ready-made, low quality excitement would have faded away, but no, it’s just morphed into the love of devouring social Pop Rocks – bits of tasty crack for our minds, giving us immediate gratification and a rush of feel good hormones.
These bite sized morsels of news clips, Facebook updates, Tweets, memes and cat pictures are easy to consume and trigger us to want more and more. But they are devoid of a cohesive narrative or long-term significance, which can leave us feeling empty.
The other day Peter and I were watching We’re the Millers, and there was a line that made me laugh out loud. Katherine Hahn, who plays Edie, monologues on being a synchronized swimmer and ends with, “And that’s how I found out I had a shallow vagina.”
Though most people don’t have anatomically shallow vaginas, or vaginas at all, in a world that is obsessed with superficial engagement we end up with shallow mental vaginas. Not able to receive much in the way of substance.
I actually love this world of online social connection, but recently I felt like I was being sucked into a vortex that consumed more time than I spent with my friends in person, more time with my screen than myself. That’s not my dream life, and yet I was compelled to continue.
This compulsion, it turns out, is not unique to me (shocking!). In fact there are hundreds of studies and articles out there about the addictiveness of social media. This is due, in part, to our desire for social acceptance and flattery, and perpetuated by the sporadic pattern of these rewards. Random positive reinforcement is far more addictive than consistent positive reinforcement, because our mind wants to be able to predict the next prize, and when it can’t it continues with the behavior in order to figure it out. This is the same reason slot machines can hypnotize people to throw away their paychecks to pull a lever.
So, even though I love having my dopamine pathways caressed, I decided that I needed to evaluate my relationship with social media and create a scenario that felt balanced and good to me. When Facebook started interrupting my flow and impeding my productivity, I knew that I needed to create better boundaries for myself.
I’m on a low-Facebook diet. And I feel ten pounds lighter.
Everyone has their social Pop Rocks of choice: Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat. Check in about whether your use feels good to your body, mind, and soul, and is moving you toward your dream life. I don’t mean to imply that they’re bad, per se, but I would guess that you’ll find that they’re not helping you dive deeper into your true desires, but rather filling up your time without providing much real psycho-emotional nourishment.
Of course, you can still use social media to make and maintain connections – and share some hilarious YouTube videos – it’s great to have this resource. But if you’re anything like me, decreasing the amount you participate in these activities will not only free up time to engage in more significant goals and projects, but will also stimulate more genuine creativity and connection.
I’d love to know what you think. Are you willing to decrease your social Pop Rocks intake? Leave a comment and tell me if you believe this would make a difference in your life and why.