I used to bring electronics in bed to help me stay awake. I was afraid to sleep. Wild dreams, the kind where you live them over and again, possessed me for days after.
And now, when the electronics come to bed with me, I turn them on and instantly fall asleep. Falling asleep is good, but the “instantly” can cause issues. In my subconscious I am awake and interacting with people. One night I woke up for a ritual bathroom break and looked at FB messenger to see I had an interaction with a friend that ended with a bunch of unconnected words from me. Her comment was “having some trouble sleeping tonight?” Another morning at 4 am I heard my Facebook messenger audio call ringing. Oh my goodness, I had called someone. I looked at the name and flipped out. This someone would not be calling me, and would not appreciate a call from me at this ungodly hour, if at all.
Do you remember when email was a big deal? How about instant messaging?
In 1996 the young internet welcomed a new communication tool developed in Israel. ICQ, short for I seek you, showed great promise in allowing individual and personal text messaging to zig zag around the globe. Within 10 years the company was sold for nearly $500 million dollars. Big time discovery!
Come forward to now.
Social media Facebook, Myspace, tic toc, You Tube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, have apparently taken over the need for face to face interaction.
A recently released Netflix docu-movie THE SOCIAL DILEMA suggests social media can be creepy and addictive. Some of us may already be aware of that. Others may be in shock over it. Devika Girish’s review “Unplug and Run” in The New York Times September 9th edition reveals to the unaware: the constant scrolling and push notifications engage the viewer in advertisements and propagandas that eventually take over and control behavior. Developers of several different social media platforms give interviews in the film. Most noted at first they thought they were doing great things. Yet later they admitted being lured by money. And now they are concerned about the breakdown in viewers’ mental health and the influences on democracy. One particular statement got to me” Russia didn’t hack Facebook. They just used the platform”. How easy was that?
The film highlights a family where no one interacts at the dinner table. The teenage girl worries about her online appearance and plays through many scenarios until what she finally posts bears little resemblance to her sweet face. The young brother is lured from his on screen activity into a demonstration in town where both he and his sister who follows him become innocent victims to police actions.
The developers come back near the end of the film to say “all is not lost”. Some comment they don’t allow their own children to use social media, that they keep use of electronics in their homes under strict control. There isn’t much else offered in the program in the way of suggestions to keep people out of danger, perceived or otherwise.
I thought about my own use of social media. It has been a connection for me with people around the world. Of the over 1000 Facebook followers, I suspect75% have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In this time of pandemic, we people with Parkinson’s are particularly lonely. Social isolation brings out symptoms as much as lack of exercise or undermedication. We can reach out to others on our phones, yes. But the connection via social media is often easier, reaches more people, gets us more feedback …. And I scroll and scroll.
What shall I do then?
I am not going to “Unplug and Run”. Personally, the seclusion would be hard on me.
Here is what I think will help, at least me, to continue using social media safely.
Assign a time and place to check my posts and stick to it. For example, 7-9 pm on the office computer. Or Sunday afternoons from 2-5.
Make pleasant posts that are accurate information.
Check out the facts before forwarding anything, better yet, don’t forward anything.
Don’t respond to inflammatory comments, scroll right past them.
Close out advertisements.
If purchasing on line, leave the social media site and purchase incognito.
This is a problem that deserves further conversation. What are your thoughts?