We Are Going Dark
When it was first created, the idea behind social media was to bring us together more closely. It was designed to give our friends and family a look into our lives, share information and, broadly speaking, enrich our lives thought this increased access. Remember when you first created a profile on your favorite platform and how cool it seemed?
Suddenly you could see things from all around the world. You got to even see your quirky Aunt Mille constantly overshare her daily activities. As you got older, potentially see your “baby cousin” or even oldest children show just a little too much their first week of freshman year of college or their first weeks in the barracks.
Has all of this come with a cost?
Fifteen years or so since Myspace and Friendster burst onto the scene, the science is in: Social Media platforms are enabling the opposite of their original intent. For as “connected” as we are globally, many of us are feeling increasingly lonely. We live in the safest and most prosperous time in human history, yet a few minutes on twitter could lead anyone to believe the entire world is on the verge of collapse. A study done by the University of Pennsylvania published in November of 2018 found that social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat increase depression and loneliness.
Worse for our everyday life and brains- more and more data is coming in to suggest that the way we interact with these platforms is similar to a compulsive gambler playing slot machines.
Simply put, every time we see that little “like” heart on Instagram or a number next to the Facebook bell, showing something happened on our profile, our brain releases the feel-good chemical dopamine. Dopamine is also released when we eat a good meal, get in a workout and even when we orgasm during sex. It’s a powerful powerful chemical in our brains. So powerful the human brain, according to the Harvard study, literally rewires itself to get more. Much like a compulsive gambler or drug addict our brains begin searching for the next fix.
Further, everything we have liked, shared or aligned with on profiles has given these platforms a mountain of data. As this data has become better and more actionable, it became a gold mine, literally. Our preferences have been sold to advertisers to use online ads and programs that often play on the same addiction mechanisms and our desires for likes and shares- all to buy their products.
Now, as many as 10% of the Social Media population are compulsive addicts to these platforms, and many more of us are exhibiting the symptoms.
The way social media was supposed to be used has gotten lost, and we here at OSD think it’s time to hit the reset button.
Our values and mission to the veteran community challenge us to constantly look at evolving cultural norms, technology, and communication. We believe one of the most important solutions for a veteran’s mental health and wellness is connectedness to a strong community. That this must be diversified and include shared experiences away from the filter of social media.
As we approach the holiday season, our partners at Onnit have committed organizationally and individually to go on a Social Media fast for one week.
OSD will be proudly joining them.
From December 23rd through December 29th we are going dark on our social media. Instead of living our lives through our screens, we are going to be present this holiday season.
We’ll focus on what the platforms were initially designed to do – bring people we love together and taking the effort to see their needs and selflessly strive to meet them. It might mean we have to listen to Aunt Millie after dinner, rather than clicking through BuzzFeed’s “worst holiday gifts of the year,” slideshow on Instagram. We will allow our brains to take a break, to rest, and re-wire the addictive tendency these platforms seem to promote for the better.
We call on you to join us in this quest to give our brains a rest, Join us as we enable personal joy through active engagement with our loved ones. Let’s heal our minds while building deeper connections with the important people in our lives.
We hope after the fast you will strive to maintain social media usage under half an hour a day, as recommended by the University of Pennsylvania’s study. Invest the newly discovered availability and attention on those nearby. Rather than enabling the artificially induced hit of dopamine, use these innovative platforms as intended- for community connectivity. Find the next event where you can share an amazing experience with your friends and family, build your tribe and truly thrive while living a life worth living.