I was listening to a well-known doctor on a talk show recently who spoke about addictions. Some of the things he said made perfect sense, as I applied them to my own life. We think of addictions as drugs, food, or pornography but seldom think of addiction in terms of social networking.
I would like to share my thoughts on a different kind of addiction and one that may sneak up on us before we know it. There may be a professional term for it but I will call it….”The Looking Glass Syndrome.”
As a new writer, less than five years, I delved into the world of writing via the internet. Before I knew it, a lot of my time was spent on sites that were made for writers but also contained much social interaction. I had created two blogs, writing for a couple sites, taking up a lot of my spare time.
I have to admit, it felt so good to hear how much someone loved what I wrote. Most of the “pats on the back” came from the interaction of total strangers via the internet. It began to build up my confidence as a new writer and I felt validated that maybe I could indeed write. Little did I know with all the attention, I was also setting myself up for a self examination of my own thoughts and actions.
The doctor explained that we have a pleasure center in the brain and each time we draw from that pleasure center too much, we become addicted to what is drawing from this area.
Before I knew it, I had spent the last two years allowing myself to take withdrawals from this part of my brain. I loved it when someone commented on my work. I began to expect comments and when they did not make the response I expected, I felt sad and maybe I did not do a good job. Withdrawing from the pleasure center had run its course, I was now needing more validation.
I spent much of my time on the internet, writing, answering comments, reading others work and commenting. The last two or three years were actually a blur and if asked about what was going on in the outside world, I probably did not have a clue unless I was forced to take my hands off the beloved keyboard.
It took my mom getting sick and suddenly not having the time to write. I was suddenly forced to spend time with family to realize what had been happening. It was like a thief in the night had come, stealing a part of me. I was suddenly a stranger to the outside world.
This is what happened when I decided to quit spending my whole time on these writing sites and concentrating on life around me. Unknowingly, I suddenly had an expectation that others should be paying attention to me the way I had online.The littlest of things might hurt my feelings or irritate me. I was really emotional. Everyone was busy, living their lives and they had moved on. I had been using the pleasure center for so long that when it was not being used, I felt a sense of loss.
I became a little depressed, not having any idea why I was feeling this way. I found that my friends and family were out and about enjoying life, while my nose was stuck on the computer. I had no idea that life had passed me by. I am sure I was asked many times to join them but I was always too busy writing.
The pleasure center of my brain had taken over, pushing others away, as I could not live without checking Facebook, my email, and my writing sites.
I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced this. If I am not mistaken this sounds very much like addiction to me. I became an island to myself, withdrawing from the pleasure center of my brain and in the long run, feeding a strange addiction.
My name for this is called “The Looking Glass Syndrome,” as when we concentrate on ourselves so much, looking into a mirror, the mirror being social media, if you will. We want that affirmation that we are talented, handsome, pretty, smart, or a good athlete. It feels good for others to tell us these things but when we hear them too much, we may base our lives on the voice of others and then we expect it. When it does not happen then our world is shaken.
Remember the story of the evil Queen in Snow White and how she would look into the mirror and say…”Mirror mirror on the wall that is fairest of them all?”
One day the mirror did not answer back the way she was accustomed. She was devastated. She was addicted to looking at herself in the mirror, loving the attention she got from the mirror. The magical mirror told her constantly that she was the fairest in all the land.
Young girls are plastering their faces on YouTube, wanting that attention, yearning for validation from others. God forbid someone does not push the “LIKE” button on face book or comment on someone else page and not ours. It is almost like being in high school all over again….needing to be popular and part of the “in crowd.” We may spend so much time and effort on one article only to find we did not get the views we had expected. All theses things are examples of needing acceptance from social media, wanting that validation.
If we find ourselves running to the computer to be validated day in and day out, then we may honestly say we might have an addiction.
We are so much more than social networks. While they are wonderful avenues and bring so much joy, we cannot let them rule our lives, creating an addiction that we cannot live without. There must be a balance.
There is only one way to break such an addiction and that is to wake up every day and look outside our own walls. We must learn to give of ourselves to others that are not found behind the computer screen.
I have purposed in my own life that I will wake up and not run to the computer right away. I will say when and how. I will not let the computer dictate my life any longer. I will still enjoy my writing sites and savor the relationships I have formed online through my writing but I will no longer be ruled by them.The pleasure center of my brain is in for a rude awakening and I am sure it will not be happy but no ones needs to be ruled by an addiction.
While “The Looking Glass Syndrome” is not a common coined term, it is one that may fit the bill when it comes to being addicted to social networking.