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By Katie Marshall
They say that social media is addictive because of the consistent newness. The brain thrives on consumption, always seduced by the idea that more will be better. And like anything that’s given too much, it becomes entitled. “I retain and do so much! I deserve to sit back and feel repetitive rewards of stimulation with minimal effort!” Then the brain gets complacent.
Social media, especially quick, content-based sites – you know the ones – are really incredible with their potential of being destructive. Like junk food.
It’s hard to push through the left over To Do’s from yesterday’s list today when the internet provides so many new things every minute to look at, judge, admire, and picture yourself doing or being immersed in. I don’t want yesterday’s responsibilities when today’s things are easier to consume and feel fresh and exciting, like the first time hearing a great song, really great, verses the twenty-fourth time, not as great.
It’s easier to consume new than it is to build upon the existing. New is exciting and consumption is easy. It lets us adopt the narrative of “I’ll be ready later, I’ll be happy if and when and after.”
I rarely find the same satisfaction from days and days spent on the same thing. I’ll push it off – whatever it may be – until later because I’m a “live for the now” type of human which is to say I will and can always justify rewarding myself before a task is finished. I can always find a reason to spend money before I have it and for dropping a project for the sake of consuming new information.
For example, I have known for years that I act this way, and yet that fact is not nearly so exciting to me as the fact that sunflowers can be used to clean up radioactive waste, a fact I just learned while skimming the internet.
It is harder to re-focus on writing after scrolling for even thirty seconds. Taking a deep breath helps. There is a recommittal stage that has to happen after a nonsense internet break; the kind where you’re not really developing as a human being, just consuming new information. It’s harder to generate your own thoughts than it is to read the ones provided for you. This reads like common sense, but I’m not sure I treat it as such on a daily, hourly basis.
I procrastinate because I love the feeling when inspiration hits so much that I will wait for it, all dressed up at home and by the phone. I am the over-eager lover to inspiration’s bad boy with a dead iPhone. I know there is honor in working hard, then rewarding yourself, in accomplishing something big by doing many things small and mundane even when you didn’t want to. I know this is true. But it is not easy.
How do people work for hours straight when the Internet exists? How do you prioritize boring work projects and things you don’t want to do over the instant gratification a fresh newsfeed provides?
I’ve felt the emptiness of scrolling as my mind wanders through the screen and back into me. I’ve heard the internal questions – is this really enough for you? If you’re bored, is it because you’re being boring? Aren’t there other things to do than escape?
This is a wake-up call, but I’m old enough to know it is neither my first nor my last. I am not a failure for needing another one.
Your life, though often magical and beautiful, has quiet times, too. Times when work yes, real work, needs to be done. The world does not exist to entertain you. Find your joy or at least persist in the quest in front of you. At the very least, do not quit because you do not like it. There is more to life than stimulants and there is more to do than picture yourself somewhere else. Life is for the living. So live.