Have you ever poked your head up from your phone and noticed that each of your family members are glued to their respective devices? I most certainly have. While you are physically together, you are actually disconnected, absorbed in your own little digital worlds… We have conditioned ourselves (and actually rewired our brains) to crave the hit of dopamine our phones provide. Specifically, we are addicted to our social media feeds and the endless stream of fresh content we can mindlessly thumb through.
People now experience “nomophobia,” or the fear of being disconnected when they accidentally lose their phone or just forget it at home. Let’s sit with this for a moment. Not being able to check our Instagram feed actually induces anxiety! We are giving our devices so. much. power.
This urge to see what’s new is straining our relationships and severing our real connection to others. In addition to hurting our friendships and familial bonds, constantly scrolling through our social media feeds negatively impacts our self-esteem and leaves us feeling ungrateful. So much so that we can feel defeated, frustrated, and even unhappy. Wow. That’s a lot of negative energy emanating from a small device… But this isn’t even the worst part…
Our social media and smartphone addictions weaken our connection to our higher selves.
In addition to these destabilizing effects, I am personally fascinated by how these constant digital interruptions are sabotaging our ability to focus. How they are affecting our brains. This phenomenon intrigued me so much that I even did my own dissertation on the subject. I chose to study how fixed focus and floating focus affect the speed and performance of our mental cognition. Essentially, I wanted to know if floating focus delivered the same quality of cognition as fixed focus.
Fixed focus is marked by the relative absence of distraction while performing a task. Floating focus, on the other hand, is characterized by frequent “breaks” in our attention to the task at hand. When we check our social media while completing a report for work, this is floating focus. Even the simple “ping” of a notification can break our focus… These constant interruptions and the never-ending phone scrolling make floating focus the norm for many.
“In an era of always-on connectivity, students, knowledge workers, and others with digital access have to balance the necessity of working fixedly on tasks with the constant temptation of checking on, and interacting with, social media.” – Dr. Joy Martina (excerpt from dissertation)
The purpose of my experiment was to study social media’s relation to distraction and cognitive load, as well as the addictive nature of social media. I hypothesized that people who are given access to social media during the execution of a cognitive task will not do as well on that task, in terms of performance and speed, as peers with no access to social media.
While prior research alluded to the distracting nature of social media, there were no scientific experiments illuminating exactly to what extent social media distractions affect our cognitive abilities.
I won’t bore you with all of the nitty-gritty details 🙂 (You can find those here if you really want to know!) …
But, what I found confirmed my hunch: social media distractions negatively impact our cognition.
Further research is needed to understand the magnitude of this impact… But participants in the floating focus group received lower scores and took longer to complete the administered test than the fixed focus group.
What does this mean for us as social media users?
We must be very careful with how we integrate social media into our days. Our floating focus holds us back from a deeper connection to our higher selves and that wiser, more loving and compassionate part of ourselves. It interrupts our determination to live out our heart’s desires. When used unintentionally, social media is a potential obstacle between us and the greatest, grandest version of ourselves.
Rather than letting the “pings” and the urge to scroll constantly interrupt our focus, we should use social media purposefully at certain points in our day. I believe we need to find ways of using it to strengthen our focus on what we want and to train our brains in a positive way. A way that trains our brain and heart to raise our vibration instead of dulling it. This is why my husband, Roy Martina MD, and I have created a whole range of products and easy to apply tools that make Brain Training a fun habit to incorporate into our busy lives.
We also need to be very conscious of how social media affects our emotions. Overall, research shows that social media negatively impacts our cognition and our mental state… If you notice that you are comparing yourself to others, feeling jealous or unfulfilled and becoming ungrateful for all that you have – it is time to put your phone down, close your eyes and take a breath. Try scheduling regular, daily (!) “screen free” time where you reconnect to yourself by walking in nature, practicing yoga, reading, or meditating.
OK, I admit this might sound pretty depressing. But, there is hope…
You can break free from the negative pattern of social media and phone use!
You can use social media in a way that strengthens your connection to your higher self.
Roy and I created our private online Coaching Community and our entire social media community with a focus on connection and, well, focus. Our online communities are designed to make sure that we DON’T fall into the comparison and separation trap – and that we uplift each other instead! We want our digital space to cultivate a richer, deeper connection to the higher self and be a safe place for you to be your vulnerable, beautiful self … and receive that nudge you need.
Furthermore, our online communities are a place where you can engage with social media with intention and in a heart-centered way. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through feeds, and receiving pre-fabricated content… you will be empowered to seek advice, find the support you need, and train your brain to open your heart and feed your soul. As the universe experiences a potentially rocky energy shift, plant your roots in a community of like-minded people who will keep you grounded through the turbulence.
Ready for tailored-to-you support and channeled guidance?
For those interested in learning more about “the brain on social media,” here is a link to my full dissertation. Enjoy 🙂 And please reach out to me in our Joy Tribe Facebook group once you have read through it so we can continue our conversation on how to use social media for good!