In the Media

Publication Thrive Global
Date 2 December 2019

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Are You On a Social Media ‘Leash’?

Social media addiction can alter our reality, leading us down dark paths. Undoing this ‘leash’ starts with awareness

Author: Abhijita Kulshrestha, Author and Vedic astrologer

Publisher: Thrive Global


Desire is one of the most forceful drivers of decision-making in human beings. We all have a need-gratification impulse: to achieve something better, to reach that aspirational position, to have an amazing/exotic experience, to acquire material-world comforts, to find acceptability among and move with a certain set of people…the list is endless! 

The heart wants what it wants, and this is one department that does not heed reason. In today’s times, ‘need’ is also being generated rather shrewdly, in order to sell ideas and products without making it apparent. Various ills are today being attributed to pervasive technology, especially the nexus of smartphones and social media. It has become extremely easy to cut oneself off from reality and live in a world of make-believe: to own someone else’s reality and belief systems; mistake their wants and desires for one’s own; to embrace ideas thrown at you rather than think for yourself. The herd mentality then adds fuel to the fire—and thus stokes the epidemic!

For instance, one reads about youngsters who do not want to be tethered down by EMIs and have no desire to buy a house or the fancy trappings of luxury. Their only objective is to travel the world using their earnings. Is this pragmatic? I am no one to tell anyone what is right or wrong or what to do with their lives, but what I do know is this: what is pragmatic for these youngsters may not be the best choice for someone who has only themselves to fall back on in case of a health scare or any exigency; or who have (even though circumstantially) the obligation to care for a family quite early. These are individual calls. 

However, when these stories find way to social media, glorifying these individuals’ choices and making them appear adventurous, it is sometimes enough to derail even the 40-somethings. Even with significant achievements in their kitty, a good family and a smooth professional life, they may secretly begin to worry about whether they have lost out! This one comparison is enough to throw things out of gear. 

It is also easy to get affected by the comments of random people hiding behind a computer and engaging in keyboard battles. The brutality of trolls is enough to push people to shun individuality and hide in numbers. 

Such is the power of media in current times, that enough people talking about something can make it seem like the truth, the next big thing, a disaster, norm or deviance! What gets into the headspace will take root!

To explain desire as a driver in the context of social media here is another observation. Many people use social media to flaunt their friends (aka riding on others’ coat-tails), letting the world know not only about their amazing life, tastes and travels but also to show off their connections: whom they are friends with, the clout they wield, and their network. 

Individuals form ecosystems around them and these ecosystems are dependent on shared values. The life of an actor or a model or a sports person is demanding in different ways than, say, the life of a teacher or a medical professional or a chartered accountant! Each person’s ecosystem helps them thrive and sustain success. If any anomaly is introduced, it threatens to derail processes. 

For instance, in an actor’s world, late nights and glamour form an integral part of life. However, a tech sector professional brought up with traditional value system may be quick to judge or pooh-pooh it! So why would clashing ecosystems make the mistake of trying to converge?

Aspirations need logical context to be fulfilled in a satisfying way. And the way social media just throws desires at people fosters unfeasible needs that may contradict one’s reality, paving the way for frustration of all kinds. You may feel anxious to prove an identity alien to you or a projected definition of success and a lifestyle that can exist only in magazines, or end up buying into the rampant consumerism promoted on these platforms. 

Real families fight, folks sport sullen faces, have double chins and love handles, have bad-hair days, have doubts, have anxiety. Their homes don’t look picture-perfect but lived-in. They may not travel to exotic locations but will prioritise travel for a family wedding! But thanks to social media, things are changing; we have, it seems, come into times where what you ‘see’ should be taken with a pinch of salt. The ability to think for oneself has become a prized asset and this is where the focus should be.  

We sit in a hypnotic haze, led by unseen hands down a path where personal relevance and significance are determined by the number of ‘thumbs-ups’ or ‘hearts’ validating it. The mind is rightly called the ‘magic magnifying mirror’. What you look at through a magnifier naturally assumes larger proportions! Likewise, when you choose to look at a 6-inch screen to tell you about the world and guide you in life, instead of paying heed to what is actually happening around you, the outcome—no surprises—is mental health issues! 

The virtual world is a mechanism to project a reality that suits a few. It is best to disengage and make room for periodically reminding oneself of what is real. Awareness is key to remaining the master. Undo your leash.


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