Note From Keri Lyn ~ I just wanted to mention how thrilled I am to have Eileen guest posting this series on the blog! Eileen has been a dear friend for several years. She is an amazing mom and honestly THE very funnest person to visit Disneyland with. I love her passion for protecting our kids and families in social media and I am SO thrilled to have her sharing her expertise here weekly with all of us! Some of these topics are not the easiest, but they are definitely very timely and often eye-opening. I hope you will enjoy this series as much as I do!
This post is the elevnth post in this series. I hope that you are getting as much out of these articles as I have. So timely and such great reminders about keeping on top of this digitally social world that we live in! Make sure to read Eileen’s other posts: How to Talk to Your Kids About Social Media, Questions to Help Start Social Media Conversations with Your Kids and Eileen’s other Smart Parenting articles here.
As I drove down the street this morning I saw and heard an ambulance heading towards me, lights flashing, sirens sounding off. I turned on my hazards, pulled over to the side of the road, sent up positive thoughts for the people waving that ambulance into their space in the near future, AND thought about social media. (Doesn’t everyone think about social media when this happens?!? Maybe so, maybe no….)
Here’s how my brain jumped from ambulance to social media:
The ambulance demands certain behaviors:
- One must pull over to the side of the road to let the ambulance pass.
- You need to turn on the hazard lights on your own car.
- You must yield the right of way.
- You need to pay attention to that emergency vehicle.
Basically, the ambulance rules the road and the rest of us navigating on it need to get out of the way. Our priorities, no matter what’s going on for us, move to the back of the line for the ambulance and where it’s heading.
What else in our lives makes noise, flashes lights around us, and commands attention?
You’re right. Our cell phones. (I understand laws require us to behave certain ways around ambulances, but even without legislation, our phones are difficult to ignore.)
So how does this relate to social media?
(Here’s where I get a smile on my face and think, “I LOVE this!”)
As I said, the ambulance demands certain behaviors from us just as social media commands our brain and body to react in specific ways. When we log in to apps on our phone or post something from a computer, we produce dopamine, oxytocin and adrenaline. We feel a bit euphoric, or even nervous, depending on what we read and write on these sites.
It’s really hard to resist looking.
When I saw the ambulance I could feel my heart rate tick up a little bit -this is something that might happen when you see it, too. My eyes moved around anxiously as I made sure the cars around me were being safe and no one was going to cause an accident as we let the important vehicle pass. I knew the ambulance wasn’t part of a pleasurable experience and my brain and body reacted accordingly: an ambulance usually means a threat or problem surrounding health and well-being.
Threats produce adrenaline.
When adrenaline gets released into our bodies, this happens from our fight or flight reaction in response to that threat. Our bodies go into protection mode for us to survive.
But in our modern world, we rarely find ourselves in situations where our survival gets jeopardized. However, technology and social media create small bursts of adrenaline in our systems each time we use it, just as if we were being threatened. Our systems aren’t made to withstand all of this adrenaline.
Social media causes adrenaline release in our bodies. We process what we read and constantly work to perceive if the the information causes a “threat” to us. We get bursts of adrenaline from alerts, notifications, announcements -the lights and the sounds. Our brains constantly ask the questions, “What’s going on? Is it safe?” Our brains can’t discern what’s a real or perceived threat. It treats the information the same way no matter what. This constant state of small adrenaline spikes isn’t good for our bodies.
So now, thanks to our constant connectivity, we don’t need or use all of the adrenaline that gets produced by our everyday lives. What happens to it? It gets built up in our systems and causes us to lose sleep, feel nervous or anxious, and lowers our immunity to illnesses. Classroom learning can even become affected.
Uh oh. Again.
Also, and maybe most important to think about for our kids: adrenaline speeds up the process of addiction. Some folks could quit smoking easier than they could quit social media. That’s a serious addiction!
Okay. So, the ambulance goes down the road, I know I must pull over, I think about how I can feel adrenaline in my body when I see the ambulance, it makes me think of the adrenaline produced when we use social media, an over-abundance of adrenaline in our system isn’t good for us. But WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
You know I can’t just put all of this out here and not offer solutions. That would only do exactly what I’m telling you about! It would produce adrenaline because you’re nervous (threatened) by what all of this technology is doing to our minds and bodies!
So now you know about it. That’s a good thing!
Now go do something else.
That’s right. You read this. Hopefully it makes sense to you. Now unplug. Go outside. Go for a walk. Scratch your dog behind the ears and do this without capturing the moment and posting it on instagram.
And feel assured what you’re doing is extremely important for your brain and wellness.
You have more questions about this? I know I do! Google about it later. And when you do, set a timer for yourself so you’re only seeking out information for a specific amount of time. Then shut down the technology. Again.
Just be a human that’s unplugged.
Tell your kids about brain chemistry. (We know so much about this and it’s sooooooo cool!) Help them know WHY you’re telling your child everyone needs to put the phone to bed at night and have time away from it.
Keep being terrific, connected parents, maintain a healthy balance with technology, and keep pulling to the side of the road when an ambulance passes. (And send some positive thoughts to wherever that ambulance travels.)
Always let me know what else you want to know about, thanks for reading, and thank you Keri Lyn!
Connect with Eileen
Like what you’re reading here? Eileen writes how she talks and she teaches how she talks and writes. You can hire her to teach parenting classes and perform assemblies for your school and she would love to help your community. Be sure to check out her website for more information.