I’ve long been aware that the socials are designed to be addictive, and I’ve become pretty careful about how much time I spend scrolling these days. I quit TikTok pretty much altogether and only head over there when one of my kids sends me something they want me to watch, but I only do that when I feel strong and capable of watching ONLY what they’ve sent without getting sucked in, and that’s not often.
What I wasn’t aware of, though, until *today* is that the socials have cleverly leveraged our humanity and turned it into something akin to cocaine, and you know what happens when a cocaine addict doesn’t get their bump?
I have a lot of friends on the socials because, let’s face it, the Internet is my home town. I have people in my life that I’ve known on line since 1997 – people I have *never met* “in meatspace”, but I do consider these “real friends”. Because what goes on in these boxes of light, when we use them in healthy ways to foster connection and creativity, is *real*.
I’ve come to realize, though, that for some of the people I’m connected to via the socials or other screens of light, I am a source of dopamine. Not a human being with a whole life that happens in the flesh, in the world away from the screen. No. A hit. A bump. Cocaine.
And when I am not available or when I don’t provide the bump, you know what happens?
I know I’m not the only one who has had the experience of being treated very poorly or rudely for not answering an email or a message in what the sender considers a “timely fashion”. My peers in the realm of mixed media art e-courses and other content creation have posted now and then about how, when they fall short in the eyes of those who consume their content, it’s as though the consumer has forgotten their humanity.
I’ve wondered about this for a long time now. Like, why do people do this? What makes people believe they are entitled to that kind of instant access to the human beings behind the content they consume? What makes people rage quit over stuff like this? Why, when I am not exactly what someone needs me to be in any given moment, is that so often met with rage?
Because I am not human to those people. I am a service. I am a product. I am a resource.
I am dopamine.
Me being who I am, I now feel compelled to ask myself “who do I use as my dopamine?” so that I ensure that I am consuming their content consciously, intentionally and with a heart for *their humanity*. Enjoy the dopamine, yes, but remember that the dopamine is not *all they are* and that I am *not entitled to the dopamine they provide*.
Because I know what it’s like to think someone is your friend or ally only to discover that they were *consuming you*, and I *never* want to make anyone feel that way. Ever.
I know what it’s like to have someone mistake the content you create for the sum total of who you are as a being. I know what it’s like to have people treat you like your front facing self on the socials or in your programs or via text is your life. I know what it’s like to feel like I’m expected to be responsive no matter what day it is, what time it is, what moment I’m living in and what’s happening to me or around me. I know what it’s like to have someone rage quit me because I didn’t respond to an email in a timely enough fashion to suit them.
And I never want anyone else to feel that way, ever.
The same goes for my friendships. Do I expect this friend to entertain me? To be there for me no matter what is going on in their lives? Do I check in with them? Do I care as much about what’s happening with them as I expect them to care about what’s happening to me? Do I give them the benefit of the doubt if they’re not showing up the way I’d like? Do I *care* about them?
Because friendship is not a service. It’s not a transaction. It’s not guaranteed. It’s not convenient. It’s not something anyone owes me and it’s not something I owe to anyone either.
Codependency has always been a thing. Being addicted to people and how they make you feel has always been a thing. But I think the socials have made it exponentially worse. I think the socials have made it easier and easier for that to become the thing. I think the socials are making us junkies for attention, for instant access, for the parasocial, for the all night drive through of whatever I need right now or else, and whoa.
I’m over it.
I see your humanity. You are not my dopamine. I am not your dopamine.
We’re nobody’s dopamine.
(My dogs, though. They’re my dopamine.)