minimalism

More Thoughts on Social Media

In this post, I wrote about why I tried to quit social media, and why I ultimately came back. Except I didn’t do a very good job of it. I had a very hard time putting into words what it was that disturbs me so much about my relationship with social media.

I didn’t realize until today that I had such a hard time describing this, because I didn’t fully understand it myself. But then I read this: People like Facebook because it’s like gambling. The article is a semi-long read, but it was absolutely eye-opening to me, and I highly recommend reading it.

I started playing the drums in 4th grade. Just about any drummer, and probably most any other decent musician, can tell you about The Pocket. Or The Groove. It’s a state where you stop thinking about what you’re playing, or worrying about hitting the right note at the right time, or sticking the rhythm, and everything just sort of falls into place. Not only do you not have to think about it, you’re not really thinking at all. You’re more feeling the music or the rhythm more than anything else.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls this “flow,” and can apply it to just about anything. Anyone who is sufficiently good at something, anything, can experience “flow.” Ever driven home from work and not remembered the drive? You were in a state of flow. You were in The Pocket. I have not only experienced this playing the drums. I started juggling when I was 12, and I have absolutely been in the pocket while juggling. I’ve also experienced this while programming, and occasionally, if I’m really lucky, while writing.

These are examples of good flow. The article describes how Facebook and other social networks can very easily put you in a state of flow that isn’t as beneficial. Except in rare instances, being really good at browsing other people’s Facebook photos isn’t going to make your life better in any way. But because it is an experience of flow, your brain will tell you to seek it out again.

I interpreted this to mean that your brain seeks mastery, and social media will trick you into thinking you’ve achieved it, when really you’ve just killed a bunch of time.

Earlier this week, I saw this article blasting “life hacking,” because you end up spending more time learning to do things efficiently than you would have spent if you had just done something the hard way. Now, this article probably exists because life hacking is now a sufficiently big thing that it’s time someone shit all over it. Because that happens to anything and everything when it becomes too popular. But there is also undoubtedly some truth in it. Is life hacking another instance of reward centers in your brain being triggered falsely? It isn’t flow, specifically, but could it be something similar?

I’ve been trying to live a minimalist lifestyle for several years now. After reading this article, I can’t help but wonder if I was drawn to the idea of minimalism because I was somehow aware that buying and storing junk gave me a false sense of accomplishment or reward. Or maybe minimalism itself is a false reward?

I don’t know all the answers. But I do feel like I am closer than I was this morning.

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