Is social media addictive? You betcha. But is the compulsion to cyber stalk making us unhappy or did our unhappiness make us susceptible to compulsive cyber stalking? And do we even still have a choice?
Salon reposted an article from Alternet breaking down seven indicators that social media might be ruining your self-esteem but the list reads more like seven ways to tell if you are addicted to something (and oddly doubles as a “you might be a comedian if” checklist):
- Social media disrupts your real-world thoughts and interactions.
- Social media affects your mood.
- Real-life interactions are difficult and being alone is uncomfortable.
- You find yourself envious about what others are promoting.
- You relish in others’ misfortune.
- You measure your success by others.
- You’re addicted to the attention and drama.
You could easily switch out the term “social media” and replace it with “alcohol” or any other drug and this list would still make sense. Which makes me wonder if it’s social media that’s the culprit or if the black hole of cyber voyeurism is just another dangerous vehicle for people who already suffer from low self-esteem. I certainly wouldn’t have classified myself as happy prior to MySpace or its successors but I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt, I am exponentially happier when I am not habitually checking my various social networking sites.
Social Times reprinted a graph that ran on The Fix which show how social media has become an addiction and they back their case with stats and visual aids, like the fact that the average online user spends 23 hours a week on social media. But text, email and other online communication are included and that doesn’t seem fair since these forms of e-correspondence have all but taken the place of talking on the phone. Even face-to-face live chat programs like Skype have infiltrated or replaced business meetings. Still, the numbers show that more people are using social media than not, which might account for the 400% rise in anti-depressant prescription since 1998 (#justsaying).
Now let me explain: I hate Facebook. Nope, let me rephrase: I loathe it. Sure, it was fun for the first year or so—connecting with old friends and looking up ex-lovers—but for me, it got ugly pretty quickly. It’s unquestionably toxic for me to know so much about so many people’s lives, mostly people whose lives I don’t really care about but am forced to know about because we are Facebook friends. Real talk? I have deleted my personal account twice already and at this very moment am considering doing it for a third time. But why do I keep coming back? Not because I want to but because I feel that I have to.
As a comedian, Facebook is how all of my local shows are booked and how I am expected to promote them. As a writer, it’s how I generate an audience for my work. When I first deleted my profile, I felt like a 45,000 weight had been lifted off my shoulders (the estimated combined weight of my high school graduating class, according to Facebook) but it became tiresome having to explain to all the confused people trying to tag me in show flyers and photos why I was not on Facebook. Then there was the damage control I had to do with the ones who couldn’t find me on the site and assumed I had un-friended or blocked them; deleting an account was so unheard of that they hadn’t even considered I’d done it.
This all came crashing down when, at an audition, the casting director actually asked me how many friends I had on Facebook. It was at that moment that I realized that social media presence and accessibility had become such a base rate expectation in business that it was no longer a choice, it was part of my job; a shitty part at that.
As the great Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” But in a court of law, I’m not sure that our entwinement with social media would be considered consenting.
Photo courtesy of ejiu111