Preventing Social Media Overload | It’s not enough to recognise that an addiction to social media can cause us personal and relationship problems. It’s not enough to realise that it can stand in the way of us getting on with life. We have to do something about it. If we start to put on weight, and it becomes harder to climb stairs without losing our breath, then we might say to ourselves, I need to do something! Our mental well-being, and the health of our relationships, can be at just as much risk as our physical health. We need to do something!
Social Media Overload | Addiction
Over-indulgence in almost anything causes us problems, and leads to addiction, that sense that we can’t do without whatever it is that we are addicted to. But almost always we are actually trying to fix a deeper problem within ourselves. If we eat too much it is not usually because we are hungry. It is more likely we are trying to cope with difficult feelings. If we turn to alcohol, or drugs, binge watching TV, or social media in all its forms, then it is because we are hoping it will relieve some deeper need which is hidden below the surface of our hearts and minds.
But such addictive behaviours make our real problems worse, even if they seem to deal with the symptoms for a while. Thinking especially of social media and the problems already described in the first part of this series, if we want to find freedom and balance in our lives and relationships then we must prevent ourselves becoming overloaded, or must find a way to break out from this social media overload.
What is social media overload?
It is a term which describes what it is like when we find ourselves unable to turn away from social media, and find ourselves drained and worn out, by the constant attention we have to give to it. Studies have shown that social media overload especially happens when people are bored. Online activity appears as though it will deal with our boredom but in fact it leads to us being more distracted. The same studies have significantly found that social media overload leads to a loss of self-control, and to a reduction in academic achievement through an increasing inability to make choices about social media use.
Social Media Overload | Pathway
There is a pathway here. Boredom leading to increased social media use, looking for something, for anything, that will provide some sense of interest. But instead it leads to lower levels of energy, less ability to make good choices with our time, and even more boredom, in a vicious circle leading to more and more searching on social media, and less and less energy and alertness.
This isn’t a social media problem! It is a problem with the way our lives are ordered in our modern, technologically rich society. If we don’t have a variety of interests and activities in our lives then we will become bored. If we are bored we will turn to what seems the easiest means of gaining an interest in life, and social media is always pretending to provide just such an interest in life. But there is so much content in social media, so many messages, posts, comments, photos and videos, that our senses, thoughts and attention become overloaded. Far from finding any sort of satisfaction for the lack of interest in our lives, social media presents a world of counterfeit interests that leave us more tired and feeling emptier than before.
Overcoming social media overload?
How do we overcome this? Of course, we need to reduce our use of social media. We need to start to organise our connection with the online world more positively and healthily. But that is easier said than done. If we are bored, and if we have nothing to fill our life, then simply avoiding social media will not make things better, because even social media overload can deal with some of the symptoms of our real problems.
We need to have something in the real world that provides something substantial, that provides interest, satisfaction, and fulfilment of our deeper human needs. This is the case for all of us. If we have nothing much in our lives then we will be and become bored and will be very easily attracted by all sorts of harmful behaviours that seem as though they will fix our problem. But they will not. They will make it worse.
Social Media Overload | The choice
What sort of interests and activities can we turn to? The choice is as varied and various as the millions of us who find ourselves lacking something meaningful in our lives. For some of us it means picking up a hobby or interest that we used to enjoy and have allowed to wither. For others it might mean looking at something new. Learning a language, learning to play a musical instrument, caring for the garden, cooking more adventurous meals. It might mean choosing to be more involved in supporting others in need, instead of being locked in our own problems. It could mean reading more, becoming creative, or simply giving ourselves to our studies or our family with more attention so that they themselves become a source of satisfaction rather than of disinterest.
Just the simple action of introducing and reintroducing a real interest into our lives, something that can really satisfy, has the potential to begin to break the cycle of social media overload.
But the Orthodox spiritual tradition has something to say about this too. We cannot find a real balance in our lives, a real sense of being alive, unless we are growing into a closer union with God in a relationship of love. Before and beyond everything else, it is knowing God, living life with God, which gives a lasting and eternal satisfaction and sense of purpose and interest. Deliberately turning to prayer as the encounter with God, to the Bible as his word to us, and to the service of others as service to God, making time in each day to experience the presence of God. It is this which will bring about the interior change that we need above all else.
It is as we become the person that God has uniquely created us to be, in union with him, that we are able to escape the power of boredom and the deadly slide into social media overload which it so often leads to.
By: Father Peter Farrington | A priest of St Mary and Saint Cyril Coptic Orthodox Church in Liverpool. United Kingdom ~ Diocese of the Midlands.
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2020-08-25 from Liverpool, England
Columnists: COPTICNN™ award-winning columnists are a fundamental pillar of our coverage. They range in their interests from orthodoxy, faith, politics, to world affairs, to business, to the arts, to the way we live. No matter the issue, they are always in the middle of our Christian discourse. They are trusted by our readers and followed by many Coptic Orthodox Christians worldwide. Influential, provocative, and engaging, our columnists provide insights and analysis that can’t be found elsewhere, making them a prime destination for WORLD readers.