By Iskra Dinkova-Technology Bohemian
The room is cold; the air is damp, smelling like something rotting and cheap coffee. Everyone is sitting in a circle, faces pointing inwards. My turn is up, I must make a confession:
“Hello, I’m a social-media addict”.
This is what I imagine every time I get the sensation I have a problem, or more precisely – an addiction, in this case to social media.
It all started when I was a young girl at the age of 11, chatting was popular, I on the other hand was not, so like any other social outcast I sought refuge in my room behind the computer screen, reaching out to people on the other side of the world.
I know what you’re all thinking: young girl + internet = easy prey for all kinds of perverts and weirdoes. Yea, I’ve heard all those stories about abducted kids, girls raped by pedophiles they had met on some chatting website etc., oddly enough that never happened to me, mainly because there wasn’t such a big population of Internet scum back in the day, but regardless I did manage to find friends like that – people I had so many things in common with, unlike the ones that I was surrounded by in the reality that I had found myself in. I guess you can say that that was my first step towards the addiction that I am battling today.
The next step was a bit more complicated. As I got older and my tastes matured, I became part of the “underground elite”, or so I thought, and I was introduced to a site called VampireFreaks – the social network for all that is gothic/metal/punk or whatever non-mainstream. That site/chatting platform introduced me to so many incredible people and music, but above all – got me started on programming as it allowed HTML and CSS to cover the originally blank profile pages, so you can image that I spent a lot of hours on that site (especially because my parents finally got a decent Internet deal). This period, aged 14, still a social outcast in the “real world”, gaining a few flesh-and-blood fiends but still preferring the ones from Narnia, is marked as another step feeding my addiction.
I also remember a lot of MSN/ICQ/Skype involved in my youth, spending almost 24h during the summer vacations on-line, connecting to people for whatever reason, exchanging opinion and music, but it all leads to the addiction that I am well aware of today and yet can’t do anything about. However, I do remember a slight pause in my addiction development. My parents, bless them both for always having my best interest in mind, though it would be a terrific idea for me to study elsewhere – in a more prestige and intellectual sphere, so I was exhaled to German language high school, where for a year and more I did not have Internet access during the week. Now, imagine a smoker, trying to quite the cancer stick cold-turkey, with all the fidgeting, irritability and need, urge, desire for one more cig.; that was me, age 15 – trying to fight the addiction and sadly failing. You can bet your bottom dollar that on my weekend returns home I used and abused the family computer and Internet router to the High Heavens.
Today, at the age of 20, I have signed up for every and all (I do mean that quite literally) social media network possible: some exclusive ones, some mainstream ones, but the purpose of me doing that now has drastically shifted from what used to be back in the day, or so I think. If I have been using the Internet to make friends when I was younger, today I use it to make professional contacts and make a brand out of myself, so you can see – the game is the same, just that the rules are slightly bent.
Sure, the option to be connected to a wider range of people is supposed to be the main one, but I am honestly not sure for what reason I continue being registered in many social media. That is why most have precisely developed targeting, take LinkedIn for example – social media devoted to professionals, keeping track of their professional network and companies they are interested in. I admit, that is useful, and if you use some creativity and imagination you can implement any new buzz application/service into your business’ concept. Work aside, can you really benefit from having a LinkedIn if you are just a regular Joe, not dedicated to find a work placement – LinkedIn will appear empty as useless as an abandoned town in the Wild West.
Regardless, if you find good use for some social network, whatever that might be, you are bound to go through some addictive period – I had that, and I am continuing to have that, hence the point of this piece, but what can one do to conquer one’s social media addiction – absolutely nothing.
You might as well give in; totally submit to the mighty power of social networks. Unlike other addictions where you can exercise the “the sooner you admit that you have a problem, the better” credo, you can’t really do much to help this: you will be up till the wee hours in the morning, your right hand wrist will hurt and your scrolling finger will be sore. I have come to terms with this and so should you.
The main downfall/problem that I have, I consciously acknowledge and can’t do anything about is the whole damaged attention span issue. Even as I am writing this, after I finish a paragraph I click on the minimized Google Chrome icon and go through the many opened tabs – if I don’t find anything I’d like, I automatically go to Facebook and, as in most cases, I have no new notifications, so I close it right up and continue with what I was doing, that is if I can remember…
Another problem that I had been facing is the “social media thinking manner” i.e. whenever I find myself in real life and not connected to the Internet, I see things and place them in the appropriate network, but since I am a “technology bohemian” and don’t have a device to do that right off the bat, I make mental notes, such as “Oh that quote is quite deep – Tumblr” or “That picture is funny – Facebook” etc.
Is there any real harm in what I am experiencing? Perhaps, but much like an African tribes man with no awareness of the Internet, I too know not of any other way to live, so I simply submit to the niche I have planted myself in and press Re-Pin on my Pinterest.