Social Media, Stalking And Willpower
What was life like before the arrival of Social Media?
Growing up in my part of the world, we used the rotary telephone to stay in touch with people (remember that device with round holes and corresponding numbers that you wheeled through with a finger). We didn’t know what other people were up to unless they told us or we saw them do things. We had family albums with pictures that could be paged through which formed part of the entertainment for visitors. We hung almanacs on walls. People visited each other a lot ‘unannounced’. We had Walkman for music (you were cool if you had one in those days). I played vinyl records on my father’s huge turntable. I wrote letters to family and friends and took these to the Post Office to buy postal stamps and have these posted (the sheets of paper in an envelope situation). We relied solely on newspapers, TV and radio to get news. Alarm clocks were manually tuned. Libraries were popular. We had to walk into stores to purchase things- there was no online shopping option. Children played outside all the time. There was no need to take pictures of our meals before we ate. Floppy disks reigned. Huge computers that resembled storage boxes existed and Betamax or VHS were your go-to for watching videos. Before social media arrived, our lives were relatively private and we were not so nosey.
Fast forward to now, after the arrival of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc. no one talks to each other on the buses or trains, you can watch whatever you want wherever you are, you have a news app (no need for a newspaper), you can study off your phone/tablet, children spend more time indoors amusing themselves on apps and you no longer need a Walkman to listen to music. Before your next-door neighbour tells you what they are up to, you already got the scoop on Instagram or Facebook. Now, you are tempted to think that you and your favourite celebrities are best friends because you follow them on Snapchat and know what they are up to every single hour. You can peek into the lives of the rich and famous, you can stalk your ex, you even know what brand of tissue paper your colleague uses, how? Because he or she posted it on Social Media.
I’m not talking about how good or bad social media is today, if there’s anything nearly all of us agree on, it is that social media is helpful, disruptive, pervasive, relevant, necessary, that it is here to stay and good for businesses. You can’t escape it if you tried. Even my parents who are in their 70s are inviting people on Facebook.
Stalking and Social Media addiction
Lately though, there’s been a lot of talk about’ social media addiction’, the fact that it is possible to suffer withdrawal symptoms from not engaging on social media. It is a real thing and most of us suffer from it to some degree- low, medium or high. It’s a case of ‘scroll at your own risk’. Add to that, the ability of social media to bring to life, the dormant stalker abilities in us that we didn’t know we had- that tendency to track, shadow and lurk around people’s profiles for their next posts or status updates.
My favourite social media and instant messaging apps are Pinterest and WhatsApp and these apps are continually updated to maintain a competitive edge and increase user experience. But it was one of these recent app updates to Whatsapp, where you are notified of every status change and a circle turns blue that made me wonder amusingly, ‘is social media turning me into a stalker’? That compulsion to check people’s status updates when the circle turns blue, not necessarily because I am interested, but because that blue circle makes me feel like I have alerts- like I have unread emails in an inbox.
So what do I do? You guessed right- I click and view the highlights of someone else’s day in a few reels, and it even gets amusingly weird when I’m looking at the Whatsapp highlights of someone I last spoke to 2 years ago, but whose number I have.
Whatsapp remains my preferred medium of communicating but it’s now making me look like a stalker. I asked my husband if there was a way I could get the new Whatsapp blue update thing deleted on my phone as it was distracting me, but he told me there is no way to make it disappear and that I just need to ignore it. Easier said than done.
My Willpower and Social Media
So I thought of willpower. How strong is my willpower going to be in curbing my social media urges? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, willpower is defined as ‘energetic determination, restraint, self-mastery, self-government and self-discipline’. It implies a behaviour that is deliberate, planned and controlled. It’s a tall order especially when you unconsciously resort to scrolling your phone for amusement because you are bored, for filling the time when you are commuting on the train/bus etc. or when you like me, live some important aspects of your life off your phone? I’m talking about sending messages, banking, reading daily devotions etc.
Back to my Whatsapp challenges, I later found out that I can mute these status updates I am not interested in and so far, my distraction levels have reduced considerably. My willpower and I have been co-operating nicely and I haven’t relapsed. Hopefully, it develops into a habit BUT if I relapse, a drastic and more permanent measure might be to take an inventory of my Contact list and delete the details of people I rarely speak to anymore. This way, I am seeing updates of people I am in regular contact with than someone whose last name I don’t even know. I’ll see how that plays out in the coming months.
I’m curious to know how you untangle yourself from the excesses, compulsions and addictions of social media? Do you stalk unintentionally or deliberately? Is your willpower helping you, or have you forever conceded to defeat when it comes to self-control as far as social media is concerned? Are you able to control yourself? Has Social Media captured us eternally? Do you think we will get to the point where we’ll have to lie on the couch of a Psychologist whose expertise is in Social Media, to seek emotional and psychological assistance for our social media woes?
What practical and helpful ways do you employ daily to curb your social media addictions?
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Till we chat again, stop stalking, keep shining, share this blog with your awesome tribe and take care of yourself XOXOXO