This article was written for and printed in Grain Valley News (Link)
If you’re a part of the social media community, you probably have a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram—or all of the above. These social media outlets are a great way to stay connected to family and friends. And the best part is, they’re free. Well, kind of. They do come with an enormous price tag. I’ll get there in minute.
For example, you may have noticed that if you search Google for a new refrigerator, you begin seeing ads pop up in your social media feeds for special deals on a new fridge. You may have been a little freaked out and said, “hey, that’s weird!”
It’s not weird and it’s not a coincidence. This is a complicated, integrated system that collects, evaluates, organizes, and then sells your information to advertisers who, in turn, target you with their product. Ingenious. But, hey, it’s not all bad. Who knows, you might get a pretty good deal on a fridge!
These social media giants even offer handy dandy apps for your mobile device. The nice thing about these social media sites is that you can open them when and where you want to. You are in total control. At, least you like to think so.
The truth be told, for many people, their mobile device, and affinity to social media, is an addiction. A virtual ball and chain. Like a free buffet table, we just keep going back for more. We can’t seem to stop.
We shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. We’ve been deceived. It’s a mixture of science and chemistry. Scientists and researchers who are employed by these sites know that we get positive feelings when we get notifications. It makes us feel good. They just give us what we want. Like a cyberspace drug dealer, the first one is free. They know, we’ll be back for more.
If you’re average, one of the first things you do in the morning is to check your phone to see “what’s happening” in your social circles. And, stuff is happening. Your device is all aglow with notifications that demand your attention. “Hey, I got 8 likes on my Facebook post about the singing cat!” You say. This gives you a happy feeling.
There is a science behind this happy feeling. Our friends in the social media world know this very well and we need to learn the lesson. Numerous studies have proven that notifications and social media interactions trigger the release of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter associated with reward-seeking behaviors and addiction. We get a “high” from these interactions and notifications.
To keep us coming back, they send us notifications alerting us that we have “new” information and we need to stop everything we’re doing to check it out! And, what incredible power those little icons have! We look at our phone and see that we have notifications. For whatever reason, we feel the need to clear that notification immediately. We can’t stand to see it. It drives us crazy and we just can’t rest until it’s taken care of. How many times have you been on your phone just “clearing notifications?”
This is a constant cycle throughout the day. Like Eve taking the forbidden fruit, we find ourselves constantly checking our mobile devices for the latest hit of dopamine. For example, while writing this article, I clicked over to Facebook and saw that I had 11 notifications. I chuckled and said, “nice try Facebook.” I scanned through to see if anything was urgent. Interesting, yes. Urgent, no.
While I was there, I figured I would quickly glance at my Facebook feed to see what was going on and before you know it, I was sucked in and began scrolling. In frustration I clicked out of the program. I was a dope on dopamine.
How many times have we gone to our computers or mobile devices to check that “one thing” and then 45 minutes later realize that we have been scrolling through social media and didn’t do the one thing we meant to do? I don’t blame it on me getting old, I blame the dopamine.
We’re all in the same boat. The average person receives anywhere from 65 to 80 notifications on their mobile device per day. If you’re phone is ringing, dinging, and buzzing each time, you’re being distracted from something else. That’s an unbelievable number of interruptions. A nauseating nuisance of notifications.
This constant interruption affects us in other ways, too. It affects our ability to focus and our productivity. According to research from Microsoft, it takes an average of 25 minutes to get back on task when being interrupted by a notification.
These interruptions can be dangerous. I’m sure you’ve seen that person weaving on the interstate and thinking they were intoxicated, but in reality, were on their mobile device. Each day in the U.S., 1000 people are in crashes that involve distracted driving. Did you know, if you are driving at 55 mph and take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, that’s long enough to cover the length a football field?
Is it possible that these distracted drivers were involved in “buzzed driving?” What I mean is, they got a buzz that someone texted them or liked their post and they had to check it out? That’s literally buzzed driving.
I can’t say for sure, but I do know that a little buzz from our phone will create a little buzz of dopamine. The little ding can make us a little dingy. That’s the danger of dopamine misappropriated.
I say it’s time we take the power back. We need to use social media responsibly and be the victor rather than the victim. Here’s a quick way to solve the problem. Turn off all your notifications and turn off all “badges” that aren’t critical (if unsure how, Google it or find a teenager). Second, set social media windows and only check your sites several times a day. I promise, it will reduce the amount of stress in your life and, very likely, you won’t miss a thing. It’s time that we just say no to buzzed social media interactions.
Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Speech, and freelance writer. He sends out an email Bible devotion at Waynegeiger.com.