Junk Values (social media sabbatical day 20)
Over the past few weeks, I have opined in this blog space about my various observations on my social media sabbatical. In particular, I have shared reflections on what excessive social media consumption can do to our brains and how the tech companies that develop and manage these platforms use our data and our preferences to manipulate us to spend money. In addition, I touched on how we are essentially the "products" who are being sold by these social media companies to their clients. I also have mentioned the addictive nature of these sites, and how they often serve as colossal time sucks. In fact, I am pretty sure when I am on my deathbed, I am going to want all of the time back that I wasted on social media.
In this post I am examining social media's prominent role in furthering the foundation in which our modern culture sits, the culture of junk values. Sadly, depression and anxiety are at all time-highs in our society. In his outstanding book, Lost Connections, Johann Hari cites numerous landmark studies which back his notion that our minds have become dominated by junk values, and this is making our minds sick, just like junk food makes our bodies sick.
The premise of Lost Connections is that we have lost connection with ourselves and others due to the shift in our collective consciousness to put more value over extrinsic goals over intrinsic goals. In doing so, we have lost our drive to pursue meaningful experiences. Science tells us that people who reach their extrinsic goals do not experience more happiness. In fact, it is just the opposite. We derive more happiness when we have deep social connections with others and we seek meaningful experiences. So winning the lottery, getting a huge promotion at work, buying a fancy new car, purchasing a huge mansion, and obtaining the newest IPhone will not improve our happiness one bit.
Just like junk food fails to meet our nutritional needs, junk values fail to meet our psychological needs. Despite the research findings, our culture continues to encourage us to live extrinsically. Junk values, IE., extrinsic values, are essentially KFC for the soul. Part of the reason why we reach for happiness through extrinsic/material means is that we are bombarded with it though advertising every day. It is estimated that the average person sees about 5,000 ads per day!
On the flip side, Hari cites research that shows people who reached their intrinsic goals did become happier, and they were less anxious and depressed. Things like becoming a better friend, helping others, and doing things for the sheer joy of doing things increase happiness and lessen our anxieties and depression.
What does this have to do with social media, you ask? The next time you are having a bad day and scrolling through your timeline comparing your woes to everyone else's apparent glamorous life on Instagram, do yourself a favor, and remember this brilliant quote from Wesley Snipes, "Don't let the internet rush you. No one is posting their failures."
Social media wins we they get us to compare ourselves to others. Sadly, many of us judge our worth on how many likes or shares we get (or don't get) on a post. On a intellectual level, we know our worth is not based on these interactions. However, we often fall victim to this stupid game on an emotional level when we are mindlessly scrolling.
As I have previously stated, I do not think that social media in and of itself is inherently evil, as it offers us some positives. It all hinges on the ways in which we use it (instead of being "used by it"). When I return to my personal social media accounts in a few weeks, my plan is to be more intentional about my usage. Like most things in life, a little bit goes a long way.
I will have a few more reflections and observations in a few days. Stay tuned...
Greg Graber, the author of Slow Your Roll- Mindfulness for Fast Times, teaches mindfulness and Social & Emotional (SEL) skills to schools, top sports teams, and various organizations around the world. Graber, a frequent keynote speaker, currently serves as the Director of SEL at Lausanne Collegiate School. He may be contacted through his website: www.greggraber.com