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Sneakiness of Social Media

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What would you think if I told you that Silicon Valley not only cared about being at the forefront of the future of technology but they also want you to depend upon technology for everything? And they are using REAL psychology to make it happen.

Just like Pavlov’s dog, we have been conditioned to expect an instant reward (likes, retweets, comments) when we hear the bell (our phones.)

Let’s take a look at inside our lives.

Your phone pings and you see that someone commented on the picture you just posted on Facebook, you automatically pick it up. First, you see that you have a few new emails, so you check those, then open your Facebook app. You see that your daughter’s best friend’s mom commented, so you feel like you should reply. When you click back to your newsfeed, there’s a video on autoplay that grabs your attention. By the time you look up, you’ve wasted 15 minutes that you didn’t have.

And you do this multiple times a day.

At least once a week you think about how much valuable time you waste this way, you scold yourself for lack of will power to resist and you resolve to do better. Lather, rinse, repeat. This seemingly unconscious habit is taking away time from your family, your work and your SELF.

Yes, we have been conditioned to expect an instant reward when we hear the bell (our phones.)

Those rewards make us feel validated and connected while simultaneously taking us away from the real lives where we should be connected. Companies hire psychologists to ensure that the tiny case of glass, plastic, and metal in your pocket is meeting your deep-seated human needs.

Technology companies seemingly have two goals; to improve your life with their product and to improve their product so that you can’t live without it.

As a parent, I find this terrifying. If I, as an adult, can identify this manipulation but struggle to fight it, how will my kids resist reliance on technology for their human needs? We cannot deny that technology, specifically social media, is changing societal norms and stealing our kids’ adolescence.

The great news is that real psychology also tells us that WE still have the greatest influence on our children. That’s why it is so important that we learn to resist the siren call of our phones in every spare moment. We teach them by showing them.

While these psychological tactics are made to appeal to our subconscious, we can still fight those impulses with hard and fast systems to help us when our will power doesn’t always hold up.

Of course, it is important to take responsibility for our choices — we have to be present, especially with our children, so that our attention (rather than followers and likes) validates them. We must be aware of spending our time well and be intentional with the amount of time we spend on our phones and social media.

While we do need to hone our will power to fight the addiction to technology, there are hard and fast practices we can use to help limit the hold it has on us:

Turn off notifications. Apps are built to keep you engaged, and notifications trigger your need for instant gratification. Turn off notifications for nonessential apps such as social media to reduce the number of times you absentmindedly reach for your phone to get your “reward.”

Put only “functional” apps on your first page. Save the first page for apps that are practical (maps, Uber, camera) which don’t draw you into the rabbit hole. Even if you open your phone only meaning to check the weather, when those tiny red dots beckon with their new messages, it is hard to resist. Put social media — or any app that sucks your time — on other pages, or better yet, within folders on other pages. If you can only get to it intentionally, you are less likely to be triggered to check it when you meant to do something else.

Use a unique tone for texts. This will help you discern whether an actual person needs your attention or an automation from an app thinks you’ve been away too long.

We can overcome (some) of the influence of technology if we are diligent.

It’s not easy. I get it.

Each day I try to be intentional with my technology usage and present in my REAL life. And each day I cut myself some slack and say, “tomorrow I will do better”.

With so much of my work and personal life tied up inside that tiny case of glass, plastic and metal in my pocket I really do wish I had my very own tech psychologist on my side or at the very least Pavlov’s dog ringing the dinner bell!

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