This is your brain.
This is your brain on social media.
You’re brain isn’t getting fried by social media like it would by drugs! At least, not exactly. (Turns out there’s research that the parts of our brains that light up for drug addiction, also light up for a hit of social media…)
There is a lot of interesting information out there about the impact social media is having on us– speculation, studies, and surveys that strongly indicate social media does have an impact on our brains (for quick highlights check out this awesome video. Some information indicates social media has a very useful and connecting effect. Some people are concerned about the lost art of boredom, while others suggest that having the world at our fingertips is an invaluable gift that should be used at all times. Then there’s the concern our brains need rest, and might not be getting it. There’s an estimate floating around there that one hundred years ago, the stimulation we received in a year is equal to what we now get daily. Whoa. So, this is all pretty new. There’s a lot we don’t know.
But there are a couple of things WE does know:
Let’s start with the first idea. If you clicked on the video you got a little taste of the addictive quality of social media. Our brains are like “low energy investment! high feel-good return!!!” And your limbic brain is all “More! More! Is there something now?!? Did someone like this post!?!” Or, something like that. It can feel good and that’s not a bad thing. The part that can have a negative impact on us is when we are out of choice about it. When we click because we must. When we can’t (or rationalize we’d rather not) control it. It consumes our thoughts and becomes habit. Most of us have felt that “check it” tug, usually at the first hint of boredom. And typically, we give in rather quickly and check. In fact, we might not even have that moment where we consider whether or not to check. We just do it. We fill empty space with something. Anything. These thoughtless clicks pull us away from a real life interaction, from the task at hand, or (gulp) from boredom.
That leads us straight to the second point. There is so much flying at you, constantly. There is alarming information about (ironically) how much information is coming at your all the time. Every bit of data requires your brain to ask how important is this, should I do it right now, where does this fit in with what I already know, let me make a note to come back to this, etc… and you have bits of data coming at you constantly. It’s costly. And if you want access to your best brain, it’s best to spend some time getting zero data.
Yup, we said it. Zero data. Get bored! On purpose! Back in the day things like the sun going down, coming home from the office, or when the television stopped airing shows (yes, this happened every night), made that choice for us. And now, we never have to be alone. We never have to be bored. And we never have to space out, day dream, or (gulp again) feel what we’re feeling. We have an immediate escape. So now it’s on us to make the choice to pause. To unplug. To be still.
And yes, it can be terrifying. That’s why this is a challenge that will make your skin crawl. It’s uncomfortable because we’re not used to it. We may have anxiety because someone may need something from us (and?? Aside from an emergency what is the cost of a delayed response?). We tend to avoid space, silence and boredom. And in brain terms, we need those things.
So, here’s the 2-part challenge:
Challenge Runs 30 DAYS: starting Monday May 17th until Monday June 15th! Use the hashtag #WEunplugchallenge2015
Well, plus a tip. If a situation comes up where someone truly may need you for an emergency, note that there is a “Do Not Disturb” feature on most phones that allows you to shut off calls/texts/emails except from designated people. Check that feature out. If you’re otherwise just worried about being offline, let your inner circle know you’re doing it and when. Better yet, ask them to join!
Super ironically, check in on our Facebook page for how it’s going and participation prizes! WE will be doing the same! At scheduled times of course.
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