Skip to Content

Generation A: Unplugging the Social Media Addiction Epidemic

Generation A: Unplugging the Social Media Addiction Epidemic

Sharing is caring!

Social media addiction is real and it’s completely out of control.

On the train to Sydney a few weeks back, I couldn’t help but notice at least 95% of the people seated around me were head down, staring into their phones, and mindlessly scrolling through social feeds. Entering each station, nearly everyone on the platform had their faces buried in their phones and/or earphones in and completely tuned out of the world around them – take the smartphone addiction test on this site.

I sat in awe and wondered how “Generation A” (Generation Addicted), which includes people of all age groups, had become social media zombies hopelessly addicted to their screens.

Social media is a ticking time bomb hiding in plain sight, systematically undermining how our brains work and the way we function in society. And the kick in the gut is that social addiction is no accident – it’s an intentional design.

Social media addiction is not a bug, it’s a feature

Tech companies have legions of “attention engineers” whose sole purpose is to make these products as addictive as possible. They’ve tapped straight into Vegas-style gambling psychology to hook you and keep you coming back for more.

The science of addiction

At the root of this addiction lies a devious psychological phenomenon coined by Steven Kotler as the “magic of maybe.”

Whenever you check your phone, there’s that irresistible possibility of a new bright red notification waiting for you. And when it finally pops up, your brain gets a massive spike in dopamine – a neurochemical high comparable to cocaine. It’s a vicious cycle of intermittent rewards your brain simply can’t resist.

Addiction and fragmented attention

But this addiction comes at a steep price. Spending large portions of your day in a state of fragmented attention, constantly breaking your focus to check social feeds, can seriously impair your ability to concentrate.

Clearly a large portion of the adult population is addicted, but what about the younger generations being raised in a hyperconnected world? Their brains are not fully developed and they have no frame of reference to understand life before smart phones.

Excessive screen time in children is known to have detrimental effects on social and emotional growth, including a rise in the likelihood of obesity, sleep disorders, and mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.

The illusion of perfection

You probably know the world you see on social media isn’t real. It’s just a curated illusion, a highlight reel of people’s “best lives” or some influencer’s “business model.”

Photos are posed and then meticulously edited and airbrushed with filters to perfection while your unedited photos make you feel plain and boring by comparison.

The end result is envy, lowered self-esteem, depression, and anxiety as your brain subliminally compares you against these unattainable cartoon-like standards.

The vicious cycle of comparison

Even though you know better, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t escape the endless cycle of comparison.

It’s an innate human tendency, hardwired into our psyche. We assign value to things based on their perceived superiority or inferiority to something else.

But this constant comparison to others’ carefully curated online personas is a surefire path to feeling inadequate and unfulfilled.

The original vision vs slippery slope

Steve Jobs once said computers are like a “bicycle for the mind.” Technology was intended to be a tool to augment our human potential, empower us, expand our capabilities, and help us reach new heights.

In the beginning, I don’t think there were evil intentions to use technology to subjugate the masses. But corporate greed and the need to continually increase profits created the perfect incentive to produce technology that would hijack our attention spans which could be sold to the highest bidder.

As the “attention economy” became more competitive, companies gradually resorted to manipulative tactics to capture our attention. What we once remembered as innocent message boards and photo-sharing platforms have morphed into sophisticated machines designed to hold us captive through intermittent rewards and persuasive psychology.

Reclaiming your brain

At its simplest, you absolutely CANNOT continue on this path and expect a healthy long-term outcome. Online discourse is at a low point loaded with venom and vitriol, politics is fatally infected with misinformation and disinformation at the expense of truth and objective reality, and basic human interactions suffer from our collective inability to normally connect with one another.

The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are unraveling the very fabric of how society operates. If you continue feeding the beast, it will ultimately destroy you and your relationships. But if you push back and resist the call of addictive social platforms, then there’s still a chance you can regain control and rein in the destructive effects on your brain.

Ultimately, it comes down to basic neuroplasticity and the choice between training your brain to be healthy and working for you, or succumbing to technology and submitting your brain to its will. This is the “adult in the room” moment where we must collectively take a hard break from our reliance on smart phones and social platforms and reclaim our autonomy.

On a personal note, I felt I had no other choice than to drastically cut down my use of social platforms and devices in general. I’ve ignored my personal Facebook account for years and it only exists for the purpose of managing my Facebook business page. I seldom post on Instagram other than a disappearing story to advertise my live (music) gigs. By getting off the treadmill, I have noticed I’m more calm and relaxed, mentally freer, and more focused on real-life relationships with family and friends.

Rediscovering purpose and meaning

Perhaps the antidote to social addiction is rediscovering your sense of purpose and meaning in your life. When you’re stuck in an endless “scroll hole,” mindlessly chasing the next hit of validation, it’s easy to lose sight of what truly matters.

But what if you raised your slumped head and looked further over the horizon? What if you challenged yourself to live a life filled with meaningful in-real-life relationships, personal growth, and lasting impact?

If you could snap your fingers and bring this vision to life, does obsessive use of a smartphone and social platforms really have a place? What strategies can you implement to use technology responsibly, intelligently, and sparingly to help you reach your goals without getting swallowed whole?

Imagine a world where you’re no longer at the mercy of the bad actors currently manipulating you with ease. Wouldn’t it be nice to engage in civil discourse, peacefully cooperate with one another, and put an end to the lies and misinformation that currently divide us?

Bottom line: the choice is yours

In the end, you have a choice. You can continue to surrender your attention and personal data to tech companies, allowing them to package and sell you off like a commodity. Or you can take a stand, reclaim your autonomy, and become the master of your own destiny.

Breaking the addiction will not be easy. You will need courage, discipline, and an unwavering willingness to face the discomfort of breaking free from social addiction. On the other side of this lies a more peaceful and relaxed mind, more mental bandwidth and attention span, and a renewed sense of intention, purpose, and reconnection with yourself and others.

So what’s it going to be? Will you remain a cog in the machine, or will you rise above the programming and reclaim your humanity?

Sharing is caring!