I just sent a message. I get up, go and make myself a cup of tea, and sit back down. Approximately five minutes. The green notification light on my phone is not flashing. However, I pick up my phone anyway and hit the side button to light the screen. I don’t see the Whatsapp notification symbol on the top left corner of the screen but I tap into Whatsapp anyway. I don’t see an indication of any new message but I click into the conversation anyway and I see the person is online. I wait, expecting a response. Then the “online” indication disappears. Wait! You haven’t responded! You haven’t given my dopamine level a boast. OH! How the green “typing…” indication makes my blood flow and gives me a ….high!
A “hello” gives me elation. Someone thought of me and if the right person thinks of you, a simple word like hello makes you feel like you won a million dollars.
Hours have passed though and there is no acknowledgment of my message. I am VEX, perplexed even. The next day, “Sorry, I thought I responded. Yesterday was so busy at work. When I went home I fell asleep. How are you doing?” I dare not tell them how upset until that very point I was at them. How I cursed them in my head a hundred times over. However, their response (the response from the right person) brightens your day. There goes my dopamine levels! They have sky rocketed and for the moment, all is well with the world: Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō
In the last several months, my anxiety has shot through the roof. I have been going through bouts of loneliness largely due to the fact that I was raised in the Big City, moved back the Caribbean several years ago where the culture was significantly different and there was not as much to do. On top of that, I moved from a bigger island to a much smaller island that consist of approximately 4500 people. If that doesn’t spell big change, I don’t know what does. Whilst living in New York, on a trip to Manhattan, I was in a crowd of that many people at one particular time, so you catch the drift. I’ll explain these life-changing decisions in another post.
Anywho, back to Whatsapp and social media in general. Whether you live in a community that has hundreds of thousands of people or just a few thousand like I do, social media and the ability to instantly connect with someone is a crux a growing amount of society is using on a daily basis. It provides us with a level of gratification and to be totally honest, it is the drug of choice for the adolescent to the aged.
^That’s my green stuff!^
I would call myself a minor drug user because on the scale of things Whatsapp is on the bottom spectrum of social media addictions. At least I think. Correct me if I’m wrong. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook are the crack cocaine of the industry. I can honestly say that though I dabble here and there in Facebook, I don’t have issues with the other three. I just don’t have the attention span or willingness to invest to care about the others. However, I can tell you that at the end of the day the HIGH and the crash is the same. The anxiety and the feeling for acknowledgment, whether via a like or a response is no different.
Picking up your phone when you get up in the middle of the night to see if you have any notifications and the satisfaction at the affirmative is no different. The emotional ups and downs of selling out to your dealer, in this case, social media, leaves all of us with the same shame when we really see what this compulsion has done to our live and to us who wear glasses (or contacts) our vision!
Keeping it real, the need for validation via our virtual contacts/followers (most of them we have never even been in close approximation with to smell their breath or even glanced in real life), has caused severe mental health problems to many people and lets not speak of internet bullying that has caused young people and adults alike to take their life. It is not a joke.
On doing my research for this article I came across Essena O’Neill, who I knew nothing about since I am not on Instagram. I created an account at one point but only posted like once and I am not even sure if I deleted it. Essena quit social media because she said: “it is not real life”. What struck me is that in a Youtube video she specified a particular photo that she took approximately one hundred times before she got a shot in which her stomach looked flat enough. I was like d*mn. That is serious. However, it is the same validation she sought from her over 600,000 followers I sought from those two to three people I frequently communicated with on Whatsapp.
Wherever you put the emphasis, its all the same thing. Speaking of Essena O’Neill, you will find that women are disproportionately affected by social media addiction and validation seeking. Don’t get me wrong, I know of many men who change their dp pics and update on Facebook incessantly. I know there are many Instagram famous men out there. However, the truth of the matter is women spend more time on their phones than men. Research shows this but to be honest, we don’t need research, just take a couple days and observe your surroundings. That is research enough. It affects our self-esteem and our addiction to posting filtered selfies skews what we attribute as beautiful.
So back to me… I honestly did not realize that I had an unhealthy relationship with social media, Whatsapp specifically. However, after I analyzed and identified when I would feel at my lowest points it was my desire for the instant gratification Whatsapp gave. When did it come to this that we pursued sustaining virtual relationships rather than real, face to face contact with people? When did saying “hello” via instant messaging become more significant than picking up the phone?
I HAD to walk away, because I was literally losing it and to be honest, I really wanted to stop losing it and become ‘healthy’. I uninstalled Whatsapp from my phone and deactivated my Facebook account. If I did not deactivate my Facebook account then my unhealthy relationship with the former would have transferred to the latter. Funny thing, I share my blog posts on my Facebook to increase traffic, however, taking care of me is more important than the traffic to my blog.
Oh, before I forget. Here is one of the major things with instant messaging as a whole. The fact that we can send a message directly to an individual increases the urge to say whats on our mind. We often do this without thinking about what we say, BEFORE we say it. We either regret it immediately or we regret upon reflection after a few days. Whatsapp now gives you the option of deleting a message on both ends after it is delivered. However, in your emotionalism you would not have realized that you should have kept the information to yourself, given it more thought, or wait till you see the person face to face. In addition, though you may not get a response right away, the person would have already message before you would have come to your senses. This is a sure fire way of leading to lost friendships.
Do you see where I’m going with this: addiction, anxiety, depression, suicide, loss of person to person relationships, loss of friendships, instant gratification????
Is worth it? Really, is it? That is for you to decide. I have decided NO. Social media is actually designed to be addictive, with the constant updates and conveniences among other things.
There are some people who are social(ly) responsible. They know how to use social media and not make it use them. To those people, endless kudos! For the rest of us, I advise you to slowly walk away from the pusher (social media) and once you reach a safe distance, RUN FOREST RUN!
Freedom is on the other side. Self-control is on the other side. Peace is on the other side.
Don’t you want that???? I do, and I want that for you.
Right now, I am in a space where my self-development and happiness is more important than anything else. I don’t want any unhealthy relationships, with humans or devices. I want to be the best person I can be so that my misery doesn’t become a burden to those around me.
I will eventually reactivate Facebook. Maybe in a month or two, Whatsapp on the other hand… hmmm, I am not too sure about that. For now, emailing (and waiting for a response whenever it comes) and phone calls will have to do.