If I asked you what the last thing your friend “Susie”, or “John”, posted on your choice of a social media platform could you tell me? I know I wouldn’t be able to. Unless, of course, it was a socially significant life event, like those seemingly exaggerated engagement photos, or the cliché jumping-in-the-fountain-and-hurling-water-in-the-air grad photos, and even the infamous celebrity selfies. But, even then, I find myself often expressionless, clicking the “like” button, taking a very brief moment to feel “happy” for the person, and moving on. Conversely, being the individual posting these pixelated moments of eminence is quite the endearing process…I know! Nonetheless, even this upper comes with an emotional price:
1. The depression associated with not receiving the anticipated number of ‘likes’/’comments’, leading to a false sense of unpopularity, and consequently, low self-esteem.
2. Delineating the low self-esteem with an over-flooding of positivity and narcissism within our profiles
3. False perceptions of our real selves create unnecessary jealousy, and prevent our incredible ability to feel empathy and connect.
Now, with those same friends in mind, could you better tell me the last time you saw them physically? What did you do? How did you feel? What was said? Our minds are meant to be interactive and exercised through the perception of our experiences. This need to constantly check the activity of others through a screen is an addiction, and with all addictions, the brain is being negatively impacted. Our ability to connect with the world is being excluded, which inherently causes social retreat and learning paralysis. In the book Maximum Brainpower, Schlomo Breznitz and Collins Hemingway elucidate that the route for maximizing our intelligence is initiated by “becoming more capable in our daily lives: being able to accurately assess and navigate the world,” and not just solving puzzles and standardized exam problems. We are the most reliable judges of our environment, and yet social norm has increasingly found refuge in unreliable data. Focusing more on doing an activity for the sake of posting it on the Internet actually disrupts our memory banks from recalling past experiences. Essentially, when you take the meaning out of an experience, you lose the memory. So, as you can imagine, whilst the ratio of “picture-taking” to “enjoying-the-moment” starts to escalate our memories inversely depreciate.
On the other hand, technology and social platforms have proven to be effective in establishing advancement in business, social reform, and medical research. However, the question is always balance. How can we utilize these resources to enhance aspects of our life, and not our life as a whole?
Everyone at the fundamental level is seeking to be healthy, happy, and loved. So, why do we feel more alone and less connected when our number of “friends” on Facebook, or “followers” on Twitter, can range in the several hundreds to several thousands? It is simply that our ability to relate to how others are feeling, on a deeper level, is being neglected. All cortices and sub-cortices in our brains have specific functions in our overall intelligence. All these systems are connected by white fiber tracts, which means that intelligence is an orchestration of our senses, motor reflexes, emotions, attention, and executive decision-making. Social media platforms deter the ability to exercise these systems, and more specifically the:
· Prefrontal cortex: Involved in empathy, integrating thought and action in accordance with internal control, willful concentration, and our moral compass. This part of the brain is especially important because new pathways of learning are built and made stronger through experiences and how we perceive and react to the world. Social media prevents our evolutionary gifts from being activated!
· Ventral tegmental area: Known as the “reward” center of the brain, this region is responsible for the release and balance of the neurotransmitter dopamine (also known as the “happy” chemical). When addicted, withdrawal symptoms can cause an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol, which inhibits dopamine release, causing depression and inhibition of attention. Consistent inhibition of these brain regions leaves the axons (in the pic above) lonely from lack of activity, potentially leading to cell death (atrophy).
· Immune system: Emotional balance is one of the essential states to leading a healthy lifestyle. So much so, that even your disease and cancer fighting cells (natural killer cells) increase in total numbers and effectiveness when you are more content and perceptive to others.
Being social = better immune system
A real social currency:
Read fewer reviews
Risk more on trusting strangers
Put more faith in evolving your talents
Love without insecurity
Be creative in the quest for happiness
Revel in uncomfortable situations
Treat your imperfections as an advantage
If more time is spent utilizing this list as a part of our daily habits, the brain will naturally create mechanisms to build a stronger, healthier mind. Therefore, the less time we spend self-criticizing, the greater the capacity for self-achievement.
“When we put off till tomorrow the quest for the essential, we may find life slipping through our fingers without ever having savored it.” –Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, Anticancer