When the ethos of Planet Haley started forming in the primordial neurons of my brain, one thing I wanted to write about is how the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Augmented Reality, “The Internet of Things”) and the constant presence of what my Sociology teacher calls “tiny phones” is changing how our society functions and how we form personal relationships, for better or worse. There’s plenty of tech blogs where you can learn about the latest apps, but I wanted to talk about something different: our dependence on the “tiny phones” for our happiness and livelihood. Let’s be honest here: What’s the first thing you do after opening your eyes and turning off your alarm? Do you instantly go to Crackbook, your email account, or another social site to check up on messages and posts you missed when you are sleeping? According to Tech Times, 46% of us are guilty. ( http://www.techtimes.com/articles/199967/20170302/survey-finds-people-check-smartphones-before-getting-out-bed.htm ) It probably doesn’t help things when our alarm is on our phone, too, instead of a traditional alarm clock.
I want you to think about how many posts you see on social media a day from friends about anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, from memes to the occasional long-winded suicidal posts. This brings me to an interesting question: Were people struggling this hard with life before the Interwebs, or since we, as a society, have tried to end the idea of suffering in silence or drowning your problems with addiction people are more likely to discuss their struggles in a public forum where, 40 years ago, the same behavior would have been deemed an unacceptable moral failing or perceived as weakness? I don’t think there’s anything inherently “wrong” with discussing your problems; reaching out and discovering many other members of your peer group are struggling with the same thing can be comforting and provide a base to design a support network for each other, the same way Alcoholics Anonymous can provide a “safe place” for discussion without judgement in the tangible world. As I’ve tried to become more cognizant of things that trigger my own problems with anxiety, I’ve noticed those negative feelings often become stronger when scrolling my Crackbook feed as opposed to Instagram. Most notably, posts about world events, inequality in our society, and, yes, those sad posts from friends struggling to make sense of their lives and find some sort of purpose besides paying bills and the steady creep of entropy.
What do you know about the neurotransmitter dopamine? It’s released in the brain as a “reward” to re-enforce behavior. To quote another blogger I follow who posted about this topic as well and explained it better than I could, “Dopamine is the chemical in our brain associate with stimulus and reward/ the pleasure center of our brain. Dopamine is not only about pleasure and reward, but about learning and memory. The reward of having our image or post “liked,” shared, or commented on is something that our brain soon learns. It is validating. When we see the little red dots on our phone, or open up Facebook and see the notifications lit up, it does the same thing to our brain we begin to have a conditioned stimulus. We have set the expectation of a reward by posting, and once we see the notifications and likes we are rewarded. Dopamine is released because we seek out the reward. Recent research shows that more activity happens in the brain when we are anticipating a reward. ” ( https://www.newhopephotography.com/blog/2017/6/9/dopamine-social-media-and-the-addiction-of-likes )
Low levels of dopamine are absa-fucking-lutely linked to anxiety and depression (https://bebrainfit.com/dopamine-deficiency/ , https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/scicurious-brain/the-dopamine-sides-of-depression/ ) and now I’m starting to see a potential link between our online behavior, our mental health issues, and self-medicating. Hey guys, I think we need to start paying attention to how dependent we are on the black mirrors in our pockets, since it’s starting to become clear it’s effecting how our brains function. Big Tech people who are actively involved in creating this technology have noticed as well ( https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/23/screen-time-v-play-time-what-tech-leaders-wont-let-their-own-kids-do ) . These people have created some of the most addictive things in our world and won’t let their own kids be exposed to it at the levels most of us Normals are. Say it louder for the people in the back who’s toddler is watching something on YouTube right now on an iPad. (I know, Momma, you’re stressed and want some quiet time, but for heaven’s sake give them a picture book instead! Ask my mom, books kept my annoying ass quiet for HOURS.) The youngest generation on Earth at this moment is growing up with the idea it is normal to be glued to screens for most of their day, and if the Tech Gods are afraid of exposing their own spawn to it, we should take notice as well.
I was going to wait until Sunday to post this article and start a new weekly feature called #sacredsundays , where we all do something every week to become more cognizant of the negative effects of the omnipresent Black Mirrors; we take time to become more present and aware of our own realities; you don’t have to go to church or meditate, but I like the idea of taking one day a week to reflect on our existence and be more mindful, and actively creative instead of passively starting at a screen. My first challenge was to go a day without Crackbook, but while doing research for this article I came across a list of ways to boost dopamine levels in our brains ( https://www.braintropic.com/how-to-increase-dopamine/ ) . Also, the other day my family and I were sitting in the living room, all on our own devices, with the TV blaring in the background, passive and apathetic, so I have a better idea for our first #sacredsundaychallenge
This week’s #sacredsundaychallenge is to discover a project you can do together as a family, do it, and don’t post it on social media. Rediscover the feelings of accomplishment from actually doing something, not from posting about it on social media. I know, it’s going to be tempting to Instagram that perfect string art or whatever, but the idea here is to start re-training your brain to feel a reward from actually doing something as opposed to bragging about it on the Interwebs, and to connect with the people closest to you in your lives. Time spent sitting in the same room staring at screens together is not quality family time. If you need some project ideas, check out my Pintrest ( https://www.pinterest.com/ladyxfox/ ).
Discuss in the comments section your best tips for dealing with anxiety and depression from your personal experiences.
PLANET HALEY is an independent editorial publication directed towards Millenials with the goal of promoting serious conversations about finance, business, technology, and politics in a 24 hour, digital world with the eventual goal of all our mutual successes. We strongly support a free and open Internet, knowing that it is essential to transmit knowledge, collaborate with like-minded individuals, and spread unique, valuable ideas around the globe to educate and empower the citizens of the world. This article is free to share, just please post a link back to the site so my readership can grow, and maybe donate to my college fund? :3
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