Tag Archives: communication

Is Social Media Damaging our Relationships?

The excitement you feel when your social media post is “liked,” or otherwise validated, is due to the release of dopamine in your brain, which is also released during sex or a delicious meal. Increasingly, our brains are becoming conditioned and rewired to associate this boost of happiness with our online behaviors like social media, online games, email or aimless surfing.

Unsurprisingly, this leads to a host of emotional and social problems. But how serious is our dependency on mobile internet and social media, and what can we do to live with it in peace?

How Pervasive is Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction affects nearly 6 percent of the global population. Symptoms of online addiction include anxiety, depression, euphoric feelings around devices, lost sense of time, weight gain and the avoidance of work. It also has serious ramifications for those in romantic relationships. Excessive usage of Twitter and Facebook has been linked to cheating, breakups and divorce, often rooted in conflicts over time spent on these platforms.

How Do We Get Hooked?

Healthy self-soothing behaviors such as  exercising, reading, or meditating help us build effective coping strategies in the long run . Avoidance behaviors are automatic behaviors that  we do in order to try to get rid of distressing emotions such as boredom, insecurity, loneliness, shame, hurt, or uncertainty. internet addiction and social media - Oakland therapistThese behaviors usually make us feel better in the moment, but lead to more pain in the long run. Avoidance behaviors are short term solutions to long term problems and end up exacerbating our pain in the long run. These behaviors may include include drinking,  drug use, isolating, internet addiction, yelling, overeating, gossiping, and many others. Since similar chemicals are released when you get a “like” on Facebook and when you take drugs, many are turning to using the internet and social media as a way to escape negative feelings, like boredom or loneliness.

However, when we don’t cope with those feelings, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to better our lives. People who are able to tolerate uncomfortable emotions have more behavioral flexibility, they are better creative problem solvers, and are more likely to engage in adaptive coping responses such as reaching out to friends or make new acquaintances.

Online Identity Confusion

Beyond this addictive chemical reaction, another key issue with heavy internet use is in users identifying more with online identities than real life. Online, you my find it easy to frame your life as one of total fulfillment, and it’s likely many in your network are doing the same. Because of this, it’s often easier to interact online, as it is simple to avoid awkward or vulnerable moments that reveal our insecurities and problems.

And there’s evidence that this is leading to an increasing preference to online interactions over those in real life. According to one study, one in four spend more time on social media than in real-life social situations, and as many as 11 percent of adults prefer to spend a weekend communicating online than socializing.

When Social Media Makes us Feel Bad About Ourselves

Beyond their addictive properties, there are many occasions where social media, in particular makes us feel bad. My clients frequently tell me that Facebook makes them sad, and research bares this out. According to a sturdy from the University of Michigan, the more participants used Facebook, the worse they felt. This, researchers said, is likely due to social comparisons. You most likely have experienced social comparisons when looking your social network’s glamorous photos, happy messages and feel your own life pales in comparison. Repeated exposure to these comparisons can lead to unhealthy beliefs about our self worth.

 How to Use the Internet Mindfully

  • Though there are serious concerns, there’s no need to cancel your social media accounts or throw your cell phone in a lake. There are ways to live mindfully with the internet. We can enjoy its benefits without it draining us of our self-esteem and free time. Try these tips today to live with the internet in peace:
  • Track the amount of time you spend on social media and in real-life interactions.
  • Call a friend. Even if you haven’t spoken to this person in months, ask to spend some time together.
  • Make a point of silencing your mobile device when around your friends.
  • Pay attention to how often you pull out your mobile device out of necessity, and how often out of impulse, or urge. Note the emotions you experience.
  • Note the overall purpose of your social/mobile usage. What are you trying to accomplish with each post, text or interaction? Ask yourself if the message feels genuine.
  • What do you value in your relationships?
  • Are you behaving authentically—like you would in-person—or are you trying to put on a good face?
  • Limit how frequently you check your email and phone.

 

After you recognize which parts of your connected life make you feel good, and which make you feel bad, you’ll feel more confident in cutting out the latter. You’ll begin to feel more power over your device, rather than the other way around.

Adults Need Time-Outs Too

take a time-out - It's OK. Bay Area CBTI’m frequently asked whether it’s ever OK to walk away from a fight.

The short answer is yes. You should take a break from a heated argument because the type of creative and objective problem solving that makes you a whiz at work shuts down when you feel the strong negative emotions associated with fights.

However, you can’t leave the conflict unresolved. Instead, have a time out, allowing you both the space and perspective to calmly assess the conflict.

 When is a Time Out Necessary

A time out is necessary when one or both partners are so triggered that they are no longer able to have a productive conversation. When we are triggered at 90% or 95% our skills go downhill and we are incapable of exploring a conflict with the same level of openness. If feelings of jealousy, insecurity, anger or hopelessness are at high intensity, then our capacity for effective problem solving is diminished. Learning to use time outs to calm ourselves down and clarify our feelings and needs can help us return to the conversation at a later time, when we are less triggered, and resolve the conflict effectively.

How to Make Time Outs Clear and Fair

To make a time out fair, you need clear-cut rules that give the both parties assurances that their space is respected and the conflict will be addressed. It is better to identify and agree on the rules of a time out in a moment when neither partner is in a triggered state. Try these tips:

      • Agree on a word or phrase that signals a time out is necessary.
      • Convey to your partner that resolving the issue is important to you.
      • Don’t use accusatory language. Say, “I feel triggered,” not, “you made me angry.”
      • Agree on a time to talk again, soon. It generally takes around 30 minutes to calm down.

 

How to Have an Effective Time Out

A time out is not merely a break, but an opportunity to feel our negative emotions and gain perspective. To do so, perform an inventory of the emotions and thoughts you’re experiencing. Write down your thoughts and feelings to the following questions:

        • What sensations am I experiencing in my body right now?
        • Where in my body does this experience feel most intense?
        • On a scale of 0-10, how intense is this physical experience?

 

Next. imagine your feelings have a physical form and describe their attributes:

    • Color
    • Shape
    • Size
    • Level of intensity
    • Movement

 

After, turn your attention to your immediate concerns about the time out:

      • What are my fears about this time out?
      • What are my thoughts or beliefs about this?
      • What do I predict will happen?

 

Make note of your prediction. Notice what you predicted, and the future story your brain imagined. Finally, identify what triggered you. Now, check in on your values and the kind of partner that you want to be and use the following steps from Nonviolent Communication to identify and express your needs effectively:

      • When x happened, I felt _____
      • I need _____
      • Would you be willing to _____

 

After a brief period of calm introspection, you should feel closer to the heart of the problem and further away from its intensity. Use this as a tool as often as you and your partner feel triggered in arguments, and you’ll find you’re both better able to listen and be aware of differing needs. If you’re concerned about how to handle yourself when discussing the issue again, consult the University of Texas at Austin’s comprehensive post on building healthy relationships.