Today I was doing a hangout on Google+ with some of the smartest women I know and we talked a little bit about how on some days social media directly impacts our moods. “I hate when no one reads a post I worked hard on,” said one, and “I hate the lack of comments!” said another. I personally can get totally off the emotional rails when I get a Google alert that tell me a particular site has raked me over the coals yet again, and LORD KNOWS that Pinterest makes all of us feel like bad cooks living in ugly, disorganized houses lacking in mason jars (okay, just me?).
Newsweek asked earlier this month “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?”, and offered up the perspective of experts that say it is.
Peter Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, argues that “the computer is like electronic cocaine,” fueling cycles of mania followed by depressive stretches. The Internet “leads to behavior that people are conscious is not in their best interest and does leave them anxious and does make them act compulsively,” says Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows, about the Web’s effect on cognition, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It “fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions,” adds Larry Rosen, a California psychologist who has researched the Net’s effect for decades. It “encourages—and even promotes—insanity.”
I dunno. Having been addicted to cocaine personally, I’ll argue that the pull of social media – while often compulsive – is nothing like being addicted to coke at all.
But I don’t doubt that it’s easy when you spend a large amount of time online to pull away from those you know “IRL” and focus solely on your online relationships, and there is not doubt in my mind that WHAT people say about you online (or don’t say, when it comes to comments and blog posts) can both lift you up and tear you down.
The Newsweek article goes on to discuss motherhood and the internet and texting.
“Mothers are now breastfeeding and bottle-feeding their babies as they text,” [Rosen] told the American Psychological Association last summer. “A mother made tense by text messages is going to be experienced as tense by the child. And that child is vulnerable to interpreting that tension as coming from within the relationship with the mother. This is something that needs to be watched very closely.” She added, “Technology can make us forget important things we know about life.”
Sigh. And a mother arguing with her husband could exhibit tension to her child, or a mother opening the bills, or a mother getting a phone call from HER mother – tensions are part of motherhood and life (I mean, surely nursing Neatherdathals experienced tension about large animals, hunger, and hunting parties heading off into the unknown). I know when I was nursing my daughter and hanging out online I felt connected instead of alone, and entertained and informed rather than isolated.
The article highlights some truly alarming issues with internet usage; the way it actually rewires our brains, the fact that young kids today become fixated on ‘profiles’ rather than building their identity, and the fact that it can cause a disconnect or even a personality disorder. It ends with this:
And all of us, since the relationship with the Internet began, have tended to accept it as is, without much conscious thought about how we want it to be or what we want to avoid. Those days of complacency should end. The Internet is still ours to shape. Our minds are in the balance.
Balance, I believe, is the key to everything when it comes to the internet. I know when I see bloggers I usually chat online with in person, we put down the smart phones and look each other in the eye, laugh at each other’s jokes, and give each other real, in person, boob squishing hugs (as most of the bloggers I know are women, the boob squishing applies). As mom bloggers, we also turn away from our devices and engage with our children and spouses, our churches, and our local communities.
But we also have the benefit of being adults and learning how to add in the internet as a bonus to our already established relationships, rather than having it be the base of all our interactions with other people. I agree that somehow we have to teach this to young people, but I’m not sure the idea of addiction is the best model with which to address this – since in general, recovery is based on abstinence, and in the real world it will be a challenge for young people to have a career without using the internet in some way.
What do you think? Is reading this article online evidence of your addiction, or do you feel you have an appropriate balance to “real life” and online life?