I am a social media addict.
You probably are too – it’s hijacking your creativity and repackaging it into meaningless beige boxes.
Social Media Addiction Litmus Test
If you have a social media addiction you may have been offended by my accusation that you have a problem. Since offense is a poor metric for objective reality, I offer you an infallible litmus test. Do the following and you’ll have a clear understanding of whether or not you are addicted. It will take less than 15 minutes of active time to do:
- Gather up all of your devices that you use to access social media. Bonus test: if it’s this is all of your internet-connected devices, you can stop here, you are addicted.
- Log out of all social media on all devices (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Tumblr.)*
- Delete all social media applications from your phone, tablet, etc.
- Figure out the date 30 days from whenever you’re reading this and write it on a physical piece of paper that will remain near your work area for the next 30 days.
- Don’t access social media until 30 days have passed. Slip up and check it? There’s a good chance you’re addicted.
* You can still use YouTube, but make sure you’re logged out. This might be an issue because you’ll need to be logged into Google to use Drive and Gmail. The simplest solution is to just do your YouTube browsing in “Private Browsing” mode.
Why does it matter?
It took me a long time to admit it. It’s not an addiction that will ruin your life in some way that’s obvious to an outside observer. Nonetheless, it’s a nefarious slow creep. The issue with social media addiction is that it slowly steals your creativity. Just like a parasite.
A good parasite does not kill the host immediately. The well-adapted parasite slowly leeches nourishment from the host at a rate that is largely sustainable for the host. The poorly-evolved parasite eats greedily and kills the host quickly, which necessitates another resource-intensive search for another host. In modern times this parasite can be in the form of a visible attachment to the body, or the more intangible, and more slippery form of behavioral action-based attachment.
Creativity, when used thoughtfully, is infinite. Herein lies the problem with social media. Every time you post, upload a photo, etc. to the social media grid, it is a form of microexpression. This microexpression is the most minute form of creative expression. It mimics the same process that a composer would take writing a symphony but on a pitiful, micro scale. Brainstorming, Conceptualization, Testing, Expression into Artistic Medium, and Reception of the Public.
Your creativity muscle is atrophying through the maladaptive process. It’s decreasing your stress tolerance, and grit.
By the Numbers
Research on “optimum post frequency” over 5 popular social media platforms suggests that the optimum number of posts for each of these platforms varies. If we add up all of the optimum post numbers from these platforms we come up with the following number of posts: 32.
If we are to make an extremely conservative estimate that each of these posts takes a minute of your time – and this is conservative because appraising the reaction to your posts is part of the “creative process” – that’s 32 minutes or about a half hour of your day, every day.
What could you do if you had another half hour of time every day where you were functioning at a high enough energy level to do creative work? I carve out about an hour to work on my novel every day. I actually carve out a word goal (1000/day) and almost always hit this within the hour.
These are more fulfilling alternatives I’ve found that serve to develop you instead of catering to base instincts:
- Take up painting
- Write letters
- Call a friend, block off at least a half hour to talk
- Start a long-form podcast
- Create an album of electronic music
- Start a side business
- Design one-off posters
I still struggle. After a few successful months, I got back on Facebook and Twitter. I just re-deleted Facebook and plan to deactivate Twitter soon. It’s sad to log back on with fresh perspective after being away from it. Twitter is mostly bot-posting and auto-followers. As of this posting, I’ve only been able to find 4 particularly self-aware friends that use Twitter to post actual things, that they wrote, and honestly, I’d rather catch up with those 4 by phone so I can get the real scoop, sans “general public filter”. A one-on-one phone call just seems more meaningful to me than a heart on a post.
YouTube is easier for me to use in a sane manner. I simply post useful content there when I have an idea that’s better as a video than text. I don’t respond to negative troll comments on the videos, and will soon be experimenting with disabling them for all videos. In this
I’d love to hear your ideas about social media in the comments below.