Digital Hoarding and Happiness

As a fully immersed and loyal subject of the social media kingdom I look forward to the hours (yes, hours) I spend on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and various blogs and websites. I feel an innate hunter gatherer tendency to accumulate as much information I can.  If I see something I like I have to pin it, save it to my favorites and share it on facebook and twitter. Am I a digital information hoarder?

I began following various yogis and food/wellness experts on these platforms to gain inspiration and knowledge to further enhance my own crusade to be as happy and healthy as I can. Alas, what began as a well intentioned sunday stroll has now become an all out sprint to the front lines with a serious case of a-need-to-be-in-the-know. I am starting to notice that every free second I have, my brain is craving constant input. At any given moment I’ll have 10 tabs open in my browser. Even when I’m not in front of the computer, my iphone is practically glued to my hand at all times. I spend hours “window shopping” the internet without actually investing in much quality content. When was the last time I read a whole article anywhere? Probably never. So I came to a conclusion: Pinterest has ruined my brain. Well I can’t blame pinterest in general, but it got me thinking; The ways in which we communicate and connect these days are boiled down to a single picture, status update or 140 characters. When we spend 1-3 seconds looking at something do our brains begin to only respond to small quick bits of input? I find this kind of scary, and I’m sure I’m not alone.  Are we unknowingly deprogramming our brains from attending to something for longer than a minute? And in turn, are we craving bits of things without actually getting to something real and substantial? No wonder I’m never satisfied. It’s like popcorn; little pieces of nothing that you crave but doesn’t fill you up, only leaves you wanting more.

I also wonder what it’s doing to our happiness. We are constantly evaluating our lives in comparison to others because we are so connected with each other. Every time I see a cool yoga posture on instagram I think “I wish I could do that.” Or when a blog shows someone’s gorgeously decorated living room I think “I want my living room to look like that.” And food is the worst! Food pictures evoke thoughts such as “I should be eating more of that superfood” or “yeah right pinterest, my reindeer cookies will never look like that!” Whether we realize it or not we are constantly bombarded with opportunities to compare our lives with others. And let’s face it, nobody wants to follow someone who complains about the crap in their lives. We choose who we follow because they have great pictures, or are aspirational to us in some way. The problem with that is our lives will never measure up to those on our social networks.

I guess my observation is two-fold: 1) With our addiction to social media our brains are constantly craving short bits of satisfaction without achieving any real satisfaction. 2) We are beginning to lose sense of our own happiness by always seeing the great things others are doing, and comparing ourselves to them.

Is there a lesson in all of this? I don’t know. Maybe just by being aware of it we can become better at realizing when we are mindlessly cruising the internet, or feeling inadequate because  Susie-yoga-instructor is doing an inverted body back bend handstand.

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