I KNEW I had a problem when I accidentally brought my iPhone into the shower with me.
"Hi, I’m L’Oréal. I’m a social media addict. I just tweeted I was coming here, I checked in my location on Facebook and I took a ‘selfie’ for my Instagram feed as I walked through the door."
I also knew I had a problem when I didn’t witness an old woman being flung to the back of a speeding tram because I was too busy watching a Youtube video on how to draw your eyebrows on properly.
Thankfully no hips were broken, but I knew it was time to really address my social media habit.
Addict is probably the correct word in my case. If there was a smartphone anonymous meeting I could attend, my introduction would most likely go like this,
“Hi, I’m L’Oréal. I’m a social media addict.
“I just tweeted I was coming here, I checked in my location on Facebook and I took a ‘selfie’ for my Instagram feed as I walked through the door”.
My life, as it currently stands, involves a hell of a lot of sharing.
L'Oreal shares. And shares. And shares.
Some of you will know what I mean. Some of you will think I'm mad.
A poll by the UK Marketing Network identified 56 per cent of people believed they were addicted to tweeting and ‘more than a quarter of respondents stated that they would rather give up time spent watching TV or smoking than stay away from social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.'
We’re also a nation of incessant picture takers, as according to photo sharing site, Smug Mug, the UK is ‘taking over 600 million photos on their phone every week.’
In fact, this is a worldwide affliction and Japan's considering creating ‘internet fasting’ camps to help wean people from their phones.
It has become so much a part of our every day existence that it is hard to think of time before mobile internet, a time when we were less connected, where acquaintances were just acquaintances and not ‘online friends’ and where we didn’t crave validation from likes and re-tweets.
A much simpler time.
As I’m under 30, I fall into the bracket of those most gripped by a social media addiction and scarily the most likely to suffer from low self esteem due to my daily habits.
New research by the University of California shows our social media dependency can result with latent feelings of inadequacy and a ‘fear of missing out’ or the now coined FOMO.
The research concluded those continually on social networks ‘may become so involved in seeing what their friends are doing and they are not, they often ignore what they are actually enjoying themselves.’
To examine the effects of FOMO researchers launched questionnaire: www.ratemyfomo.com to reveal the extent of our insecurities. I took the test and as expected, results showed my FOMO was high.
Yet again, I’m not alone. FOMO is such a widespread problem, that this week it was revealed FOMO has arrived in the Oxford English Dictionary.
So, am I the Lindsey Lohan of social media addictions? Can I really be reformed?
When I decided to go without my phone for 24 hours this week, my mother literally rejoiced but wasn’t entirely convinced I could manage it.
Apparently me and my younger brother’s eyes had lost their “youthful sparkle and have become dry” due to constantly staring at a screen.
Yet regardless, I logged out of my accounts and went completely without. The result was me continually and subconsciously picking up my phone and struggling with an intense compulsion to scroll.
I hold my hands up, I did ‘accidentally’ cheat and went on Instagram and Facebook twice without thinking.
What I learnt from my break was that I actually enjoy my social media activities. Life really isn’t the same when watching a popular show without chiming in with ‘live tweets’. I also ate a really nice meal and it’s unfortunate Instagram won’t get to marvel at it. Plus what’s the point of going to the gym without bragging about it with a post workout ab shot?
Yes, it does sound pretty pathetic when I read it back.
Above all, the worst feeling from banning myself from social media is feeling completely disconnected from what’s going on in general. FOMO is very real, guys. For the entire day I felt as though I were in a social media no-man’s land – and the fact that I’m obsessed with being up-to-date is, for me, a very sad realisation. Hashtag: sad.
Thankfully, I did gain some retrospective insight as the benefits of the past 24 hours were very clear.
The world keeps on turning without a recent snap of my face. Or Kim Kardashian's for that matter.
I am far more present when I don’t have a phone in my hand. There’s also a sense of peace and pause not having to constantly reply to messages. Conversations flow more easily without having to search for a Google reference/image and I’ve realised I can function without knowing what everyone is up to and the world keeps on turning without a recent snap of my face.
Post 24 hours I was immediately back on my phone, and, I mean, it’s not a real addiction, is it? This isn’t crack cocaine. I can stop when I want.
Indeed, spoken like a true addict.
In fact, I did learn that the consequences of too much social media are pretty substantial. The research revealed by Science Daily was pretty clear. Social media addictions can weaken your real life relationships and cause an inability to socialise in the ‘real world’.
Selfies and ‘show-offy’ status updates have been linked to narcissism and increased instances in people with low self esteem. It’s also affecting our morality as if we are truly honest, a part of our social media obsession is watching celebrities meltdown and bicker with each other. Twitter provides real time updates of people’s lives buckling around them.
Just ask Amanda Bynes.
Amanda Bynes - a social media nightmare
With that bleak picture, I sincerely want to change but it will take a considerable amount of time to cut down my habit, as like many addictions it began gradually; from rushing home to check my MSN account back in 2005, to the MySpace years when the narcissistic ‘selfies’ really began, to Facebook’s launch in 2007, to the arrival of Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube and so on. That’s a decade of scrolling and uploading.
Nonetheless, I will make the step to cut down.
It has to be questioned why my ‘FOMO’ isn’t extended to the fear of missing out on real life connections, chance encounters with beautiful strangers passed by because I was transfixed with my phone, my eyes blinkered to the world going on around me and God forbid not saving old ladies from falling down?
I do sincerely want something tangible and real, so I will on occasion, like Neo, take the red pill and log out of the Matrix for the fear of becoming a square-eyed, insecure social recluse.
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