Confessions of a (closet) Social Media Addict

(Pic from Internet)

Let me start with a confession.

Yes, I am an addict.

A Social Media addict.

The world cyber-junkies can be broadly divided into two classes of people — those who are hooked to Facebook and others on Twitter. While the first lot are more hedonistic, the second are sapiosexual. I belong to the latter (and if I may say so, more evolved) set.

Like many, I too had heard and read casual references about obsessive Internet and Social Media dependence. But, didn’t realise it could be a clinical condition — as serious as Depression, Bipolar Disorder, OCD, ADD or ADHD.

Dr Mary Aiken’s book — The Cyber Effect was an eye-opener for me.

Reading just one chapter in her book — “Designed to Addict” is at once both fascinating and frightening. At one level it was like visiting a shrink, at another it was akin to having the brain dissected as a frog in the Biology lab.

Whether the internet and smart phones are the cause or result of Attention related disorders like ADD/ADHD and or OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is one of those typical “chicken and egg” conundrum.

At an innocuous level Social Media feeds the narcissistic instincts and provides a sense of belonging to lonely and depressed individuals, enhancing self-esteem. But, real addiction sets in when one gets hooked to the pleasure seeking syndrome (linked to Dopamine or the pleasure hormone release). This usually happens with Games and also e-Shopping — which are “Designed to addict”.

Aiken starts the chapter with the disturbing story of the 22 year old Florida mother (Alexandra Tobias) who killed her 3 month old son in a fit of rage while playing FarmVille on Facebook. We now have the new terror of the Blue Whale.

This opens up a whole new territory of Cyber-psychology that is still quite alien alien to our country. The simplest prescription (not very different to the kind of advice offered by friends and family in case of other forms of addiction like alcohol or drugs) is abstinence, which is easier said than done.

Internet and phone detox are also fashionable terms. But, Aiken suggests “adaptation” may be a better strategy — as the Internet is not going to go away in a hurry nor can we totally eliminate it from our lives.

The intelligent way, therefore, would be to stay ahead of the evolving environment — by observing, studying and becoming aware of the dangers and pitfalls.

That brings us back to our favourite topic of “Mindfulness” — a virtual panacea for many modern maladies of the mind. But, for those who like to cure an ailment by a dose of the same poison — nowadays there are several Apps (such as BreakFree, Calm, Space) available on Apple or Google Play Store to get a hold on OOCD — Obsessive Online Compulsive Disorder.

Then, one still runs the risk of becoming slaves these Therapy Apps too ::))

More articles on Coaching and Self-development by Sandip Ghose are available on his blog: Right Angle