It seems like every day we look around and it seems more and more like the future. Whatever we want, whenever we want it, however we want it. The entire world is seemingly on-demand, so if you want it, you have it right away. What else could you ever want? And that’s the key to happiness, right? Whatever it is you want, you can have it, so naturally you have all of your happiness needs fulfilled, right?
I don’t think it’s a massive plot twist for me to reveal that isn’t true. But recently, I was reading the “World Happiness Report” that is produced yearly, and I was stunned to learn that the United States ranks 19th in happiness in the world. Nineteenth. This is the home of the American Dream where anything’s possible and a mansion with a pool with three smiling kids jumping in is just some hard work away. All over the world the U.S. is seen as the place to be where happiness grows on trees, but in reality, we take home the mauve ribbon for 19th. (I don’t know if 19th actually gets a mauve ribbon. It just seems like a drab color for a drab ranking.)
However, it seems that our culture has “on-demanded” itself into a place of unhealthiness.
According to the World Happiness Report, the United States is unhappy due to our propensity to addiction.
We have some of the highest addiction rates to drugs and alcohol in the world, but what’s true killing our happiness is our addiction to media. In particular, our addiction to social media. I think addiction can sometimes be a word that we hear, and if we haven’t had a real encounter with true addiction, it can just be a word. So let’s do this. Imagine you change your password to Instagram to a bunch of random letters and numbers, then delete the app. Instagram is gone. You’ll never be able to scroll that lovely timeline again. You’ll never be able to stalk your ex to make sure you’re doing better than he or she is. (Yeah, I struck a chord with some of you on that one.) You’ll never be able to see pictures of Iceland again. (When did Iceland become THE Instagram spot by the way? It’s literally a land of ice.) You’ll be last to know about whatever Taylor Swift is dropping on April 26. You’re done with Instagram forever. Are you having a panic attack? Because I a little bit am. By the time you’re reading this, we’ll all know what T Swift dropped on April 26, but I’m writing this on April 21 and I. AM. DYING. To know.
Anyways, back to the point. Regardless of how averse your reaction to that last paragraph was, I think we can all be honest with each other that there’s something in our life that we have a hard time letting go of. We’re addicted to things that are designed to make us want more, and that’s social media. That’s social media for me at least. I am addicted to the latest memes that make me chuckle and the photos of beautiful places and how dang cute my friends’ kids are. Those all bring me an instant shot of dopamine, and according to the World Happiness Report, our brain rewards that dopamine. Our brain can know that something is going to make us feel lacking in the long-term but the short-term dopamine we receive overrides that long-term consequence.
So what are we to do? I don’t claim to be the expert on this topic, but I’ve always been honest about what I’m working through here, so here are the things that I try to do to combat the long-term negatives for the short-term positives.
1. Know what’s true.
I think it’s super important to start here. We’ve probably all heard some version of the idea, “Don’t compare your worst day to someone else’s highlight reel.” We all need the reality check that 99 times out of 100, the content we consume online is someone else’s highlight. That’s a big reminder that I need when it comes to knowing what’s true. But paired with that, I need to remember what God says about me. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve been learning more and more the importance of reading Scripture to learn what God says about me. In the day-to-day consumption of media, I consistently hear stories of how great everyone else is while telling myself how not great I am. But that’s not how God sees me, and knowing the truths that the Bible says about me are so important to not let the media consumption overwhelm my sense of who I am as a child of God.
2. Stop. For your own sake, just stop.
I know this isn’t super helpful, and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves when people state things in such black and white terms because things are rarely so easy. However, I’ve had to make a conscious decision to stop sometimes. Sometimes I fall down a deep dark hole of suggested videos, and next thing I know an hour has passed, I’m slumped down in the couch cushions, eyes dry from not blinking, and feeling bad about how I don’t travel enough or have the latest gadget or don’t have as many followers. You name it, and I get to a spot where I start to feel bad about myself. I’ve been able to learn when I start to get to that point, and I’m able to remind myself that I’m not in a good place, and I need to stop. If I’m able to do that and put the phone down, I can break a bit of the cycle. It’s not going to change everything cold turkey, but it’s at least a start to not letting my phone control me but allowing me to control how I use my phone.
3. Get outside.
This one might come out of left field, but for me, it’s incredibly important. Every once in a while, I’ll have a Saturday with nothing planned, and if I don’t stop to get out of the house for a bit, I’m super down at the end of the day. However, if I step away from the screens and even just sit on the deck and read for a bit, my whole outlook has changed. A little bit of fresh air can do wonders for me in how I’m feeling about myself and the world around me, and I bet it can do that for you.
These are just a couple of things that have helped me to feel less addicted to the constant access to media that I have, but I’m also curious. What are ways you combat media addiction and find happiness in other more healthy outlets?