Of Facebook and Firehoses

Part 2 in a series

My friend Kate Boyd and I were recently discussing smartphones and other addictions. Her weakness is checking email on her smartphone. And the little blinking light on my phone does hook me, but my real weakness is distracting myself with Facebook during my workday.

Say I log on to share something cool, like how I just saw some sandhill cranes flying low over my neighborhood.

Photo of sandhill cranes in flight by Jessica Lamirand, via Flickr Commons

Photo of sandhill cranes in flight by Jessica Lamirand, via Flickr Commons

If I’m not vigilant, I’ll spend a half hour reading other people’s posts before I even remember what I came there to say. Once I do post, I have to keep checking back every 10 minutes.

Did anyone comment? Did anyone even “like”? Shall I post an interesting article or quote I’ve come across, or repost someone else’s content, or “like” someone else’s, perhaps post a comment? Then: did anyone else comment on my comments?

Was I witty, was I urbane, did someone love what I said, does anyone out there love me? Am I loveable?

Yes, it pretty much comes down to that, as embarrassing as that is.

Kate reminded me that it’s brain chemistry, not a personal failing, that’s behind the constant reaching for external input. That hit of dopamine. It’s a recipe for addiction.

By John Karakatsanis, via Wikimedia Commons

By John Karakatsanis, via Wikimedia Commons

So, are we just wired to get hooked on Facebook, or whatever our personal weakness might be? Are we strong enough to override the habit, even once in a while?

Kate and I met years ago in a mindfulness class, so we share a common foundation. That training is useful in bringing awareness to habitual (mindless) behavior.

Lately I strive to notice when the itch arises. What am I thinking; what am I feeling? What precipitates the need to find a friendly word online? Often there’s some sense of lack, some uncomfortable feeling, or a wish to delay a task.

My hope is to bring more mindfulness into my relationship with online connectivity. To choose it, deliberately. I read a suggestion somewhere: Take three breaths before engaging in social media. (And I actually thought, Three breaths? I don’t have time for that!)

Wisdom 2.0 author Soren Gordhamer says the key to mindful engagement online is to first take a moment to remember that we are already connected. To really feel this truest connection, one that is not dependent on a touchscreen or a mouse click. Then log on.

Photo by Matthew Montgomery, via Flickr Commons

Photo by Matthew Montgomery, via Flickr Commons

Fair enough. If I remembered to breathe and/or connect to All That Is, it might shift the vibe significantly. (Perhaps the lovability question would be solved once and for all?)

I would still be confronted with major Information Overload once I’m there, however. Not to mention the complaints, tirades, and reports of all that’s wrong with the world.

Then again, the feed could show nothing but sweetness and light, and it would still pose a problem: The sheer volume of input is draining in itself. I find myself skimming everything, flitting from one shiny thing to the next.

We all drink from the firehose now. Facebook or no Facebook, modern life is a firehose. But for me, social media is the breaking point.

I’ve found that there’s no respite unless I carve one out.

Next up: Finding a respite

4 thoughts on “Of Facebook and Firehoses

  1. oh Shawndra, you are the most lovable soul EVER! I love ALL of your posts, thanks so much for sharing them – and just in case you’ve just now taken another ‘media peak’ …I too, just saw all those Sandhill Cranes…what a sight of springtime…I almost called you.

  2. I hit a breaking point a few weeks ago and deleted my account completely. But the smartphone addiction isn’t solved, just adapted to other mindless scrolling of Twitter, news, and WordPress. But it led me to your page so that’s a blessing. Really love what I have read today.

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