It’s good that you are reading this blog. Because reading blogs – as opposed to consuming social media such as facebook and instagram – does not appear to cause depression. Several studies now show that teens and adults consuming social media have higher rates of depression and insomnia (see last week’s edition of The Economist also).
When I met this instagram girl last year in September in a surfcamp in Ericeira, Portugal, I started to use instagram for real (not because of her posts, rest assured), Now I am slightly addicted. My social media consumption has increased, because now I use BOTH insta and facebook.
Not sure about you, but I catch myself taking out the phone and browsing these apps despite the fact that I have done so only a few minutes before. Looking for that next dopamine kick. (For some background info on how to create products that have addictive features check out NYU Prof Alter, for example here) . Nathan Hill, in his book The Nix, compares the habitual pulling out of a smartphone to check for something the equivalent of having a smoke in the pre-smartphone ages. Why do I know this? I am currently reading the book (and highly recommend it).
Quick detour: Did you know that 4 of the Top 5 mobile apps in the world belong to one company? Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram are all part of Facebook Inc. Facebook has more than 2 billion active accounts. As Scott Galloway would tell you, that’s more than any religion in the world. End of detour.
So checking in with my own reality, I have to agree that there is an addictiveness to how these products were created. Do they also make me depressed? I don’t know. I think we all are – or should be – aware of the fact that what our friends and acquaintances post on facebook and instagram are the highlights of their lives, the very peak of the fricking ice berg.
All these people in far away places, on their sabbaticals on some tropical island posting amazing sunset pictures – do they tell us about their paranoia of dengue fever? Do they show how us how they need to use DEET-infused sprays every day to keep away the mosquitoes? Do they mention whether they can flush their toilets with toilet paper inside or not?
No. They do not!
The point is: where does a social media-induced depression come from? From comparing your own life to the alleged life of the people you follow on the gram or fb. While I think we should be happy about the possibility to be able to share great moments with those friends and be happy for them, it is important to understand that reality has additional facets than only the one shown on the shiny instagram picture.
I guess that’s just only tough sometimes. We are reminded of all the possibilities we may have or may have had in life. All the options out there (-> this will be another post in the coming days). We are asking ourselves how the f*** there can be so many people on the surf forums literally living half their lives surfing the world. Are these all trust fund kids or digital nomads coding 4 hours a week?
In a pre-internet world, we would have never found out about all these people and all these possibilities. IGNORANCE IS BLISS. But now it is hard to avoid. Now what to do? Don’t look at me for answers, but here is a suggestion. Let’s try to be grateful for being able to find out about all these different paths that one could potentially take, be inspired by them and then maybe pick-and-choose parts of those paths that can work for us and make them happen. Other than that, practice mindfulness. Did you wake up healthy this morning? That (and so many other things we spoiled Western civilization kids have) is pretty amazing in my book. Also, please like this post, so I can get a dopamine kick when I come back on wordpress. .)