I used to feel so much shame in not being on the latest social platform or app, so I’d join out of peer pressure. There were feelings of missing out. There were feelings of guilt. There were feelings of this new thing solving the very human problems of loneliness & depression. None of these new things solved any of these problems for me. I felt I was missing out on even more when seeing friends post pictures of their latest vacations. I felt more alone than ever when seeing people announce their engagements. I felt even mislead by the lives people were posting about and then hearing from them later that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
This shame continues to this day, except it’s in different ways instead. I feel shame in not posting pictures of my kids regularly so their grandparents & family can see them. But that’s to say that there is no shame in not participating. There is no shame in needing to buy the latest smartphone. There is no shame of passing on the next Facebook. There is no shame when putting yourself first.
As a teenager and young adult, it felt almost impossible to not include myself in the latest thing. I would feel constantly in awe of learning and embracing the newest of new and getting the highest of highs from the novelty. But after time, it never actually made me feel better about my life. In fact, it made me feel the exact opposite.
Although I was more connected with the world, I was more alone than ever. The likes and comments always felt insincere. The followers and replies always felt as if I had to play a game. It took many years just to realize that the very game I was playing was manipulating my emotions for the platform to ultimately gain at my expense.
This isn’t to say that I’m against big tech or the latest advancements in connecting humankind online, but rather it’s a cautionary tale of how long it took for me to wake up from a miserable dream that kept me attached. At times, I would feel almost addicted. The first time I used Facebook or Twitter felt as if I’m interacting in a whole different world. It was so easy to connect with somebody and make something for the world to see.
Overtime though, I started to see the persuasive technology for what it is. My behaviors matched the millions of dollars of research going into simple concepts like notifications straight to your device and the dreaded “like” button. These things kept me coming back for more each day as if my brain couldn’t actually produce the happy hormone we call dopamine by itself. Instead, it felt as if I would line up awaiting my daily fix like the millions of others ahead of me.
Fast forward to today. Tech is still a large part of my life. I work in tech, I play in tech, and I live in tech. Many of the behaviors I learned as a teen and young adult have haunted my adult life. The tendencies to check my smartphone had become a nervous tick. My brain sometimes will tell me to change context completely and get distracted through some random app or website. It’s become an extension of how I interact with technology.
These behaviors have made me feel as if I’m addicted to the internet. It’s not that I actually need to know about the latest update from my friends or colleagues, but instead it is an extension of the habits I instilled when younger. I was conditioned by these platforms and now I have to decondition myself from them. This is easier said than done.
So I’ve spent that last 5 years to understand my behaviors. I’ve read every habit book I could find. I’d read about addiction and coping mechanisms. I would even go as far as understanding modern therapy options like cognitive behavior therapy and the power of journaling. I started to find real solutions to the problems I have because of this overuse.
I found many tools to cope with my newfound addiction to the internet. I have software I use to block the outside world when I need it. I have hardware to block myself from the very devices allowing me to do that. Most importantly, I have new tools inside my head I can take anywhere I go. Mindfulness. Journaling. Meditation. Awareness. These tools have grounded me when I’m mindlessly acting. Now my addiction has become nothing more than a nominal amount.
I have started to find myself again. I’m more excited for the future. I read more books about the workings of the world. I write more articles about how I believe the world works. Here’s what I don’t do anymore. I don’t doomscroll the fears of the unknown. I don’t cower when seeing others change. Rather, I embrace the uncertainty. I don’t need to know everything that is going on in the world each day.