Weekend Links: How Tech Addiction is Changing Our Brains and Making Us Sad

Well, I did it. I deleted Instagram off my phone and deleted the private account I’ve been halfheartedly maintaining since I deleted my public account in November. 

And I’m feeling good. I feel like I’m getting a big picture perspective back. I feel like I’m getting myself back. 

Because of this recent lifestyle change – that admittedly still feels fragile – I’ve been consuming studies, podcasts, and articles about social media and tech addition that steady me in my decision and (hopefully) will keep me removed from a platform that was exacerbating mental health issues for at least the past year.

And just a note on the potential “privilege” of leaving: as someone very interested in restorative justice and the necessary, hard conversations that entails, I do not believe that we can comprehensively do the work on these platforms without eventually taking these conversations and relationships offline. And the below links indicate that we simply aren’t psychologically capable of tackling high stakes issues through media that preys upon the primal parts of our brains. (I would also note that it’s a privilege to own the technology that supports Instagram, from a relatively new smartphone to a longterm cell phone plan.)

That’s not to discount the work that regularly is done through social media, or the profound way global access to social justice communities has positively changed people’s lives. 

But we need to continually assess our relationships to the devices and platforms that exist primarily as data mining and advertising tools. They aren’t here to help us, so we must remain vigilant.

Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain

It’s an unnerving sensation, being alone with your thoughts in the year 2019. Catherine had warned me that I might feel existential malaise when I wasn’t distracting myself with my phone. She also said paying more attention to my surroundings would make me realize how many other people used their phones to cope with boredom and anxiety.

The Machine Stops

Everything is public now, potentially: one’s thoughts, one’s photos, one’s movements, one’s purchases. There is no privacy and apparently little desire for it in a world devoted to non-stop use of social media. Every minute, every second, has to be spent with one’s device clutched in one’s hand. Those trapped in this virtual world are never alone, never able to concentrate and appreciate in their own way, silently. They have given up, to a great extent, the amenities and achievements of civilization: solitude and leisure, the sanction to be oneself, truly absorbed, whether in contemplating a work of art, a scientific theory, a sunset, or the face of one’s beloved.

Cal Newport Has An Answer for Digital Burnout, Ezra Klein Show Podcast

When I was a blogger, it never read as social rejection to me. Now I’ll tweet something and people attack it on social networks – 2,000 likes on how I’m an idiot – and I feel it much more as social rejection, like being bullied in elementary school…when this is moving into a context of approval and rejection, there’s a lot more danger in it.

Depression in girls linked to higher use of social media

Girls’ much-higher rate of depression than boys is closely linked to the greater time they spend on social media, and online bullying and poor sleep are the main culprits for their low mood, new research reveals.

Is Social Media Addiction A Disorder? Researchers Think The Problem Needs To Be Taken More Seriously

What was most interesting to researchers was that this link only revealed itself during the last 20 times people completed the IGT. At this point in the game, risk became much higher. The findings therefore demonstrated that excessive social media use was associated with an inability to make good decisions in high-risk situations. Those who are addicted to drugs also show signs of this kind of behaviour.

Some Online ‘Mobs’ Are Vicious. Others Are Perfectly Rational.

Like a pitchfork, Twitter is an imperfect tool. Its brevity suppresses nuance; its virtuality opens the door for insincerity; it incentivizes people with no true investment in a controversy to weigh in anyway. And the internet has primed us to demand instantaneous results: When everything we want to know or buy can be accessed with a few clicks, perhaps we expect that justice be served just as swiftly. Members of some crowds acknowledge that these conditions are less than ideal. But for disingenuous outrage trolls, the blunt instrument of outrage is an end in itself: The crude result of getting someone fired is the entire point.

My post from last year:

Why I Wish I Could Quit Instagram

The film is, above all, a critique of the way social media compels all of us – stalkers and glamorous influencers alike – to pretend we’re something we’re not for the sake of digital fame, or at least being liked.

Have you said goodbye to social media or your smartphone? What helped you stay away?

Leah Wise

Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.

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