Internet is like alcohol. Highly addictive and potentially deadly. It has been known to fan large scale sectarian/ethnic/religious/political violence.
Facebook algorithms encourage people to segregate themselves. It encourages us to believe that, what we think, is correct, and the best way to think. If you look at your newsfeed on Facebook, you would think that the whole world agrees with your views.
I see extreme cases of internet addiction (you may google ICD 10 criteria for addiction).
The most difficult addictions to treat are the culturally acceptable ones, like nicotine, alcohol, gaming, social media. Socially acceptable because everyone is doing it without getting in trouble with the police or becoming homeless, which happens very commonly in say heroin addiction.
What I wanted to talk about is not the treatment of internet addiction (which is too specialised and as yet poorly understood topic) but the prevention of the condition.
First, the people prone to this addiction are the socially isolated and low self esteem folks. We should build a healthy sense of self in our children if we want to prevent this outcome. We encourage self expression, we praise more, criticize less, we encourage gratitude more than envy. We expose their young minds to the wonders of the universe. We show them how diverse and beautiful our world is. We teach them how to think, not what to think.
Every adult has a child inside. That child is seeking acceptance and a sense belongingness. There are too many people with massive online followings who are seeking to ‘divide and conquer’. They spread relentless hatred, they incite violence, while carefully avoiding giving any answers except hatred and violence. I think online violence of speech and ideas is one of the most numbing experiences. We become immune to evil, because it is being mouthed by thousands, if not millions of people.
And yet, all we need to ask is, what is the answer to a problem without giving way to jungle law. We are a civilisation, after all.
Online predators are abundant. I wrote a post on how smart pilots and yacht owners queued up to befriend me on Instagram and Facebook. These dudebros think I would love a six pack and the suggestion of prosperity. Unfortunately, I seek grey matter, brains, ideas, knowledge and creativity. The children and young adults will however, frequently be susceptible to these frauds. Look for substance people, don’t buy air, don’t even look for it.
Endless scrolling through social media can be converted to reading of specific articles that can open your mind to new worlds. Follow pages on art, sciences and social sciences. Learn the basics of debate etiquettes, neither give nor seek personal information, learn to delink ideas from individuals.
If you find yourself getting embroiled in addiction, ask yourself “why am I running? What am I running from?”
Follow people and pages that talk about things beyond the last vacation, unfollow that friend who buys things only so they can be displayed on social media. Ask yourself ‘why am I looking at this? Does it help me grow as a human?’
Find out who you are and who you seek to become.
I found one good way to curtail screen time is to go on walks without the gadget. Go away with a book for half an hour, escape into the kitchen, hide in the garden. Touch things, feel the texture, the consistency, the colour, the smells; make your brain acknowledge every shape. You will replace more and more hours with educational, inspirational, compassionate and joyful activities.