Jonesin’ for Likes: Staying Sane on the Internet
Cell phones are not exactly allowed in our bedroom anymore. Since The Problem came to a head in late November, I’ve earned my probation for good behavior. Yet everyday, I’m tiptoeing on very thin ice, and I haven’t quite gotten my footing. The Problem, you may guess, is that I have a wild, lustful, and boundary-less relationship with my iPhone. The device that enhanced my life suddenly became my entertainment, my network, my line of business, my world. Like any obsession, the love affair wasn’t heading for a happy ending. It was a one-way ticket to Crazytown.
Incredible products are most often conceived out of a need, a purpose. But these products really take hold when our basic human instincts are brought into the equation. Today, behind almost any social start-up, there’s a PhD in Behavioral Psychology, building in functionalities that play into the way we’re wired. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter– they all tap into our most non-cognitive behaviors, each “like” delivering a shot of serotonin straight to our pleasure sensors. It’s not our fault it feels good. It’s the reason we continue to search for love, and why we really enjoy having sex- it’s a chemical essential to survival. Everyone loves to feel liked. The feeling is real, because the chemical reaction in your brain is very real.
For someone who’s trying to discover who they truly are (hello, my teens and 20s), downing a cocktail of serotonin mixed with affirmation can, like most things that feel good, be a good and a bad thing. It can lead to new relationships with like-minded people, and opportunities to grow your business. But it also becomes very easy to lean heavily on this sense of affirmation from strangers, especially when things go wrong with your boyfriend, spouse, or work. It’s an escape from reality that feels very, very real.
After talking to friends about my experience, I found I wasn’t alone. It doesn’t matter if your following is 50 or 10 million, having a solid understanding of your values, a network of people who you can trust, and a life outside the digital world is essential in finding happiness and peace within yourself. Smart people do not bite the hand that feeds them. They figure out how to gain the upper hand.
So, in short, here are a couple tips I’ve learned to keep myself sane on the Internet:
1. Lower your expectations for others, and raise them for yourself.
2. No phones in the bedroom. Don’t start or end your day looking at what other people are doing.
3. Finish your morning routine before checking your feeds.
4. Put your phone away when you’re with friends. Focus on being in the moment, with them.
5. If you’re feeling discouraged, share something valuable and authentic. You’ll begin to make meaningful relationships online.
6. Remove toxic people from your feeds. It’s good practice in the real world, and good sense online.
7. Stop comparing your life to others. I promise you, their life is not what their Instagram feed portrays.
8. You’re more transparent than you think. Self-promotion is pretty easy to spot these days.
9. Practice kindness. If you don’t have something nice to say, keep it to yourself.
10. Your following doesn’t define you.