The addiction I probably can't give up
My friend recently challenged me to give up social media for a week. My Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… all of it. He got rid of social media years ago, but he had just watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which focuses on the detrimental effects of social media on society and our addiction to it. He knew I needed to watch it. I got half way through it —I couldn’t commit to the whole thing, probably because deep down I feared it would show me how much truth there is in this argument and I’d be blind to ignore my "addiction."
Because I didn’t really want to get rid of the tools I use to connect with the world. Online writing is a way for me to share, vent, connect with people everywhere about anything. But I also live 1,800 miles away from my family and many of my friends, so seeing them in these online spaces is almost as good as having a glass of wine out with them. I can hear about neighborhood happenings, get snippets of news and celebs, and see what all the crazies in Florida are up to. I get a daily boost of motivation upon seeing any post from that fit mom blogger Sia— the one whose body rocks so hard and immediately makes me put my Nutella down. My whole world is out there at the end of that Facebook button and yes, I'm kinda addicted to it.
But my friend said try giving it up cold turkey. “For one week,” he said. Not many people can or will even try, he told me. “Can I least say goodbye?" I said. "I mean, it’s kind of rude to just disappear from my friends and family and not say a word, right?”
“People who know you, love you and need to talk to you, would call you, Andrea.”
Well that's primitive, I thought. Plus, I don’t answer phone calls, so yeah, that doesn’t really even work for me.
“I knew you couldn’t do it,” he laughed. And that’s when I chose to take the silly dare. To prove I would be fine without the social media apps. I deleted them all right there in front of him… and I gotta say, watching that little blue F icon sink away from my phone’s screen was like watching an old friend just fall off a cliff never to be seen again. “I can do this,” I said. "How dare he underestimate me. I got this."
No. I didn’t ‘got’ this. It was Day 2 when I started jonesing for that late night scroll, the never-ending finger scroll that experts say gives your brain a ‘dopamine high.’ There’s promise for something better, something greater, something more interesting buried in that never-ending scroll. I held strong, for a couple days though. I read a book and started another one. I baked muffins. I had time to make the kids scrambled eggs in the mornings rather than the normal bowl of cereal they are used to. I went swimming with them and pretended to be a shark, pushing them off the float. We laughed on the trampoline and played hide-and-seek in the dark, where afterward I watched the most gorgeous full moon rise above our yard. It was only in those couple days I caught myself sitting with them more, physically looking at them more, listening to them —even if it was only a few more minutes a day. “Mom, I like when you play with us,” my daughter said.
But by Day 3, I could feel an urging so bad for that click and scroll. It was a feeling so strong, of needing to log on just for a minute to see what was going on, what I had missed, to look at my notifications. What if somebody really important was messaging me, someone who could possibly be offering me a multi-million dollar book deal!? (I’m a dreamer y’all). I grabbed my phone. “He never said anything about Pinterest, ha!” I said scrolling through bathroom reno ideas then recipes for beef stroganoff then tips for great Halloween parties. “This is completely harmless,” I told myself an hour and a half later.
And that’s when I saw how desperately addicted I am to social media. To the endless scroll. Facebook and Instagram were my meth and only after a few days I was barely getting by with a swig of cough syrup via the f-ing Pinterest app. I’ve been addicted to it all for so long it’s become a part of my life’s routine. I would take multiple “hits” a day just to survive, but at the expense of sometimes ignoring or slighting my children, probably.
In that time, I did find out that an old high school friend tragically lost her son. He was the same age as my own son. I don’t do well with my own grief shit, let alone anyone else’s, but my heart does empathize more now when people are hurting from loss and I'm compelled to reach out. I remember the messages of love and hope I received from friends and strangers after Matthew died that lifted my spirits and kept me going. The words from people on social media I hadn’t seen in years or from Matthew's co-workers or even strangers. I survived on the love I felt in their stories of him, their admiration for who he was and for the encouragement they gave me to keep going for my kids. I really did need to hear their words, even trite, when I faced the tragedy of losing my husband. I think when you set aside all the crap on social media—the political animosity, the shaming, the pointless stories with even more pointless comments, the useless celeb updates —humans do want to feel connected. They want to feel loved and appreciated no matter if it comes from a physical hug (prohibited in 2020) or in a sweet Facebook message from 1,800 miles away. And I'm ok with that.
So I admit: “I’m Andrea and I am a social media addict.” But I'm ok hearing and reading positive shit on social media and doing my best to share it back. I’m all for making connections with people and having my eyes opened to new truths. There is still so much out there that isn’t pointless or hateful. My real 'world' isn't out there on a Facebook screen or buried in the endless scroll of Twitter. It's right in front of me. It’s in scrambled eggs on a Tuesday morning. It’s in laughter in a pool, it’s in late night hide-and-seek. It’s in everything right in front of us—sometimes you can only see it clearly in the dark— probably under a full moon.