it’s not you, it’s the dopamine

It’s been several months since I went off Facebook. Do I miss it? Sometimes, yes. I wavered a few weeks ago, when my father excitedly shared photos of his home country, taken by an old school chum. (My dad doesn’t even have a cell phone.) Some of my friends are doing amazing work, and I’d love to share their projects with the wide social network I previously had. And of course, I’ve missed out on a ton of events in my community. (Not to mention, my birthday is coming up…who doesn’t love a Facebook birthday!?)

I recently watched the above Youtube in which Simon Sinek discusses the topic of millennials in the workplace. Sinek asserts that millennials, being born into a techno world where “everything has a filter,” find difficulty in creating and maintaining meaningful relationships. Virtual friendships have supplanted real ones, and self-esteem is largely based on social media popularity (or lack thereof).

The arrival of a text or a ‘like’ signals the production of dopamine, a ‘happy hormone’. In Sinek’s view, allowing young people unrestricted access to social media is akin to leaving the liquor cabinet wide open. The fixation on likes, follows, and comments – the addiction to dopamine hits – may numb whatever pain is held inside. Millennials are accused of a sense of entitlement, but deep down, many struggle to find true meaning in life. Their mobile device has become the measure of their self-worth.

I’m not a millennial; I lovingly remember growing up in a pre-cell phone ’80s world. But I can totally relate to this video. I deactivated my Facebook account last year because I didn’t like how I felt when using it. I was tired of the inauthenticity…but how could I judge others’ inauthenticity, when I myself was pretending?

Why could be so open on my blog, but so heavily filtered on Facebook? In my previous post, Infinity Beckons commented: “[A] blog is social media too, but anonymity seems not to feed the ego in the same way Facebook does…and often reveals the musings of the writers inner core rather than that of the external ‘I’”.

These words spoke to me. It’s wonderful to have a platform to express one’s true self. It’s not narcissistic; I believe it has to do with our soul’s natural inclination to expand, to self-express. Through writing, we share our unique essence with the world – how cool is that? For some of us, the blogosphere is the first place we’ve been able to do this. I’ve always seen bloggers as points of light connecting with their communities, all over the globe.

There are stories of great civilizations whose downfall was the rapid advance in technology. These highly evolved societies created revolutionary technology, but couldn’t sustain it because ego got in the way. Farfetched? I wonder.

Without this amazing Internet, I couldn’t write these particular words, and you couldn’t read them. Distance is no longer a factor in human connection, and that’s kinda miraculous. And yet, there’s a flip side. If technology is simultaneously used as a means of spreading fear and degradation, then…whoa. Look at our world today. It takes a conscious species to use this tool wisely.

I’m not anti-Facebook; I know miracles happen there too. But I have noticed that more and more people are questioning their usage of that particular medium.

I do think humans will pass this technology experiment. And I may reappear on Facebook as suddenly as I disappeared…but only if I’m confident I can be a compassionate, conscious presence.

For now, life still feels pretty good without it.

is life better without facebook?

Life feels much simpler since I went off Facebook a few months ago.

I didn’t plan it; one minute I was scrolling through my feed, the next I was searching for the ‘deactivate’ button. It wasn’t necessarily about ads or privacy or even the horrible trending stories. Something in me had finally had enough. Enough of the noise. Enough of my inauthenticity.

By inauthenticity, I mean feeling removed from my heart centre, my inner aliveness. I felt like a machine while using Facebook: addicted, robotic, consuming, judging, comparing. I’d stopped posting regularly some time ago, but I could still feel the desire to be seen, liked, and validated. These are human needs, and they’re understandable – but they got a little out of whack. Facebook made it hard for me to get one step ahead of my ego.

befunky-collage

Of course, none of that is Facebook’s fault. Social media obviously has positive aspects, and our experience is our own responsibility. In other words, you can’t blame Facebook for your misery! I’m sure some people have figured out how to have a balanced relationship with it.

But I personally struggle to feel the real connection to others, maybe because there are so many connections. A constant stream of photos, opinions, inspirational quotes…Where is the space to digest it all? What’s true and what’s contrived? In all this hyper-connectivity, how much of our real selves are we actually sharing?

Are humans ready to handle all this information about each other?

A while back, an acquaintance created a ‘Truth Day’ event. She proposed that for one day, people would post how they authentically felt, not how they wanted to be perceived. One woman immediately objected, stating that Facebook shouldn’t be a place of airing “dirty laundry”. It struck me that she equated authenticity with airing dirty laundry. Is that how we regard our real feelings and emotions – as something dirty, something to shield from others?

But then, I had to wonder how authentic I myself would be on Truth Day. As open as I am on this blog, I was not so real on Facebook. Occasionally I’d share my blog posts, but always to a limited audience, and never the more personal subjects. I wasn’t ready for all those people to see all of me.

Many of us crave true sharing and intimacy, and social media might give us a taste of that…without us having to be too vulnerable. The online world can distract us from pursuing relationships where we could experience real pain or rejection. ‘Social’ media ironically locks us into further isolation (under the guise of connection), and it becomes harder to leave our comfort zone.

For now, life does feel better without Facebook. I’m not getting sucked into a huge time-waster. I’m enjoying reading actual books, and savouring prolonged moments of silence. I’m tuning into my inner self more. I’m realizing the importance of my real-life relationships. I want to nurture these things as much as possible. Maybe then I’ll have a more enjoyable relationship with social media. I’m open to that.