I am guilty! I love the internet and possibly cannot imagine my life without it. Everything is at our fingertips –people, food, clothes, make-up, medicines, entertainment, knowledge and information about anything under and beyond the sun. I strive to maintain a healthy balance in my head and don’t let the lack of likes or abundance of it govern my life. I admit – it’s fun and I ENJOY IT. Do I care what people think? – Yes, I do, I would be lying if I said I didn’t – but only to a certain extent.
Although lately, I feel like I am od’ing on internet invasion. There are things you like to do voluntarily for fun and based on your needs. And then there are things you do because you have been brain-washed due to repetitive marketing, to seek validation and acceptance, over exposure to new trends and because temptations are being shoved down your throat.10 WAYS THE INTERNET IS TAKING OVER OUR LIVES AND OUR MINDS!
Whoever came up with the idea of using search engines to sell their products to targeted audiences is a genius. We spend an awful lot of time on the internet – search engines know more about us than we ourselves. Our thoughts, fears, needs and our insecurities are all out there in the open. Don’t we all search for things on the internet which are really private?
Tristan Harris who was previously a Design Ethicist at Google and left to lead Time Well Spent, says – “Inadvertently, whether they want to or not, they are shaping the thoughts and feelings and actions of people. They are programming people. There’s always this narrative that technology’s neutral. And it’s up to us to choose how we use it. This is just not true. It’s not neutral. They want you to use it in particular ways and for long periods of time. Because that’s how they make their money”
How many of us reach out to our phones every few minutes? According to a survey conducted by Deloitte – “The time it takes for us to pick up our phones in the morning continues to shrink: More than 40 percent of consumers check their phones within five minutes of waking up. As a first thing, we check our IM or text messages (35 percent), followed by emails (22 percent). During the day, we look at our phones approximately 47 times and that number rises to 82 for 18- to 24-year-olds. Once the day is over, over 30 percent of consumers check their devices five minutes before going to sleep, and about 50 percent in the middle of the night.” Amidst all this, how is it possible to focus on spending meaningful and quality time with our loved ones or experiencing life in its entirety?
According to Larry Rosen who is a research psychologist at CSU – “What we find is the typical person checks their phone every 15 minutes or less and half of the time they check their phone there is no alert, no notification. It’s coming from inside their head telling them, “Gee, I haven’t checked on Facebook in a while. I haven’t checked on this Twitter feed for a while. I wonder if somebody commented on my Instagram post.” That then generates cortisol and it starts to make you anxious. And eventually, your goal is to get rid of that anxiety so you check in”
Social Media is a big source of stress. It creates dissatisfaction based on a ‘make-believe’ world which makes us strive for validation and acceptance we never needed in the first place. According to Ramsay Brown (A computer programmer & co founder the co-founder of Dopamine Labs) – There are codes which create the best moment to give you rewards, which have no actual value but trigger your brain to make you want more. For example, on Instagram, sometimes those likes come in a sudden rush. Ever wondered why? Ramsay Brown says “They’re holding some of them back for you to let you know later in a big burst. Like, hey, here’s the 30 likes we didn’t mention from a little while ago”
He goes on to say that we are part of a controlled set of experiments that are happening in real time across you and millions of other people. There are millions of computer calculations and algorithms being used every moment by his company and others to constantly tweak our online experience to make us come back for more.
We lose our sleep over comments, likes, followers and subscribers which make us feel validated and accepted on social media. They hamper our personalities, create issues like low self-esteem, anxiety, lack of confidence, ungratefulness, jealousy etc.
You can find out a lot about a person’s personal life without even knowing him/her very well. Social media profiles are a sneak peek into our life, psychology, preferences and beliefs. According to this article on Forbes, we all use our phones, social media, apps for numerous reasons. All these platforms request us for access to our data, public profiles, contacts, browsing history and we without digging into detail provide them with access. We are so habituated to these platforms that inspite of knowing the effects it has on our personal data we have to use them. How many of us can imagine a life without Facebook or Google? Even if we do opt for privacy settings our reach becomes limited and we are manipulated into providing access to avail the complete experience or be left with the feeling of missing out on something.
You have 2000 friends on Facebook and 10,000 followers on Instagram? A million views and lakhs of subscribers? Does this give us a false sense of happiness and make us feel that we are not alone? Were all these people ever there for us when we sat alone in our room feeling miserable? Every like and comment maybe made us feel better temporarily but the feeling of melancholy came back, didn’t it? At the very very least, people have 500 friends across all their social media profiles as opposed to actual friends which may be one, two or three! They are not our real friends whom we can count on no matter what. The number of friends does not validate or make our life better. True friends are real people with whom we go through the ups and downs of life and they help us grow to become a better version of ourselves.
Worshipping and putting people on a high pedestal people gives a false sense of achievement or lack thereof. It is so easy to depict a super happy and attractive life on social media. I wonder how little it takes to win/lose followers? How many of them are really adding value to our lives and making us richer in life experiences? The same people who worship us today won’t shy away from publicly shaming us in minutes. It is okay to follow people based on what they offer online. One can feel good about having followers as well because it’s validation for the work we are doing. Although at no point do I feel we need to worship anyone. We can admire, appreciate and learn from their lives and what they offer but to consider them as GOD or a higher entity than ourselves is not a healthy practice to follow. Likes, comments, views and subscribers are the new judges of character. Higher the number – the more valuable you become – higher the pedestal.
Suddenly everyone gets the right to become the ‘moral police’. Maybe they cannot even utter a word or speak their filthy minds in the real world but from behind their phones and laptops, they have all the power. Internet trolls are cowards. It is so easy to put down someone because you are not facing that person in reality and have no consequences to your actions. It is virtual abuse- which makes or breaks a person. It’s unreal how nasty and ugly it gets. There are a million aspects that come into play which is totally disregarded and a lot of unforgettable things are put out there. It can seriously impact the mental health and well-being of a person.
Every time we see our news feed – we at least wish for one thing we had, looking at the lives of others -it could be anything – a vacation, a car or a partner. Posts and pictures never depict the true picture of a person’s life. It is a picture we want everyone to see. Maybe someone is traveling the world but behind the scenes, they are neck deep in credit card debt. Fear of missing out gets the better of us, it invokes in us a feeling of not having enough, instigates desires which were never a part of our plan and leaves us with an empty feeling. We forget to appreciate what we have and believe things just on the surface value which makes us ungrateful.
I got a rude awakening lately. I went to a beautiful place, on a mountain top overlooking the ocean, winding roads, small boats sailing at a distance, a gentle breeze, calm and quiet – a view to die for. As soon as I reached there all I did was take pictures. The moment I was done taking pictures I lost interest in the view- I was done and needed to move on to the next spot. A couple of days later my friend asked me how I felt being at such a heavenly location? The only memory my brain could jog back to was taking pictures and leaving. We only see and experience places through our camera lens these days, not through our eyes and all our senses. We can’t be doing things just to get likes, comments or to show off this shiny life from the outside. Do we experience things only to showcase it or do we showcase it because we fully experienced and internalized it?
One day I was shopping online for some clothes – clothes I did not need but was tempted to buy due to flashing ads with a great discount price. I went straight, jumping in like a swift monkey to that website. After a couple of hours, I saw more ads for clothes, the exact items I thought of buying but decided not to after seeing the total expense in my cart. They were flashing on the left, right, top and bottom bar of the page and testing my resilience. The first thought that crossed my mind “How did they know I am the weak-willed person who just bought clothes she didn’t need? Everything we search, shop, research, inquire about is used to psyche us into investing in things we don’t need. Advertisement overdose is the new way to get consumers.
“You don’t pay for Facebook. Advertisers pay for Facebook. You get to use it for free because your eyeballs are what’s being sold there.” Ramsay Brown. You may pat yourself on the back for exercising self-control but don’t you dare think it ends there! The battle is on – it’s going to keep seducing and following you wherever you click!
All being said, everything in moderation works wonders. The ‘Internet’ has unlimited benefits, I absolutely salute the fact that it has brought the world closer today. We can reach out to people in a matter of seconds unlike back in the day where we would have to wait for days. It has proved to be single handedly the biggest boon during crises like terrorist attacks and natural disasters. It is a great tool which makes life easy with everything at our fingertips if we utilize it judiciously.
Make a pact to take time off the internet at regular intervals and also enjoy life experiences to the fullest without your phone. I tried to be off the internet and my phone a couple of times and believe me no one cared and nothing changed.
Give it a go – You rule the internet – the internet doesn’t rule you!
Originally published at thehappinessvault.com