Social media has us wrapped around the quick dopamine hits and pleasure rushes that, before we know it, we become addicted. Just a single scroll could lead to hours on the platform, affecting our day-to-day lives. Before we fall deep into this rabbit hole of digital pleasure rushes and forget living altogether, let us start taking a step back today. Anticipating the coming National Day of Unplugging, Whitney Lauritsen shares tips for managing your 2023 media diet, offering activities alternative to social media for those quick happiness fixes. She also shares her own journey of re-evaluating her relationship with TikTok, reflecting on the anxiety it used to bring her, and the social media addiction withdrawal that comes with navigating out of the platforms in today’s digital age. Join Whitney as she shows us how there is joy without social media, the benefits of unplugging, and increasing our attention spans.
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Attention, Please: Re-Evaluating My Relationship With TikTok
Navigating Pleasure Rushes In The Digital Age
I mentioned in the last episode that at the beginning of 2023 that I stopped using TikTok, at least the daily usage. I deleted it from my phone and only go on it occasionally for two purposes. 1) To check and see if my sister has sent me any videos. 2) If I’m doing something business related for one of my clients. That is through the web version. I have not opened it on mobile at all.
I’m recording this on January 11th, 2023, so it’s been eleven days. Eleven days feels like a long period and a short period at the same time. Relatively short time in general. Relative to me, eleven days off of TikTok, which I’ve been using every day since October 2019, is a lot of time. The only times that I had abstained have been when I’ve traveled.
If I went a couple of days without checking TikTok, I would feel like it’s been so long. When we have habits, especially those daily habits or we have addictions or things that are close to addictions, it skews our viewpoints a bit. It puts a heaviness or weight and importance on elements of our life. If we step away from them, we can re-examine them. I’m not someone who typically does things like social media detox. I have done the National Day of Unplugging, which happens every March. I got an email from them and I’m looking forward to that. I did that in 2022 and 2021. It was an interesting exercise to not use devices. It starts on a Friday night and it goes on until Saturday night. It’s sundown to sundown. I could be wrong.
Either on the first or second time I did the National Day of Unplugging, I remember thinking to myself, “What do I do with my time?” That was the most interesting element of it. I recognized how much I depend on technology. It has been eleven days so far of being off of the TikTok app and no longer having that, or any social media. I’ve deleted off my phone all of the social media apps, and only use them on my computer as needed. For example, I went to Facebook, and I don’t even remember why. I’m not a big Facebook user, but I count that as social media usage because it is a social platform.
To cut out the usage of all of those apps, both in this current period and in that practice of unplugging, is fascinating because I find that I depend on them a lot more than I was fully conscious of. I knew TikTok for years. That was my go-to for disconnecting or unplugging, ironically. Unlike the National Day of unplugging, which means literally avoiding mostly electronic devices, including televisions, but noticing our relationship with technology in general. It’s a 24-hour practice. It is interesting because I would see how I would go towards something.
The same thing has been true with being off of TikTok because that is my go-to every time I feel tired or stressed. I have experienced a few days of deep frustration. For example, before I did this episode, I had finished up a group coaching session, and I love doing that. Well-being coaching has become a deep passion of mine and something I plan to do more and more of. I started offering group coaching in December 2022 and do it every week with a small group of people. You’re welcome to be one of them. That’s part of Beyond Measure, which is my private community. I experiment with it by adding in the group coaching and noticed how fulfilling it is.
Despite it being fulfilling, I still feel drained from it. This is an ongoing reflection for myself. It is what gives me energy. It could also simultaneously be draining me of energy. What makes me feel good and fulfilled and all those positive things can be a lot. What I don’t know, what I’m experimenting with, and part of what’s driving me towards continuing to stay off platforms like TikTok indefinitely is wondering, “Do I really feel drained, or is this part of an addiction? Is this part of my brain craving things that I don’t actually want or need?” That’s what I don’t fully understand yet.
If something group coaching brings me so much joy and satisfaction, why do I feel drained afterward? I’m not saying that’s impossible. It’s like public speaking, which I also love. Every time I speak publicly or even sometimes when I record these episodes, I’m referring to live speaking in front of a live audience or doing a live virtual session. I get such an adrenaline rush and sometimes it feels uncomfortable. It’s like the butterflies in my stomach. That will last sometimes for hours. It starts days before I do something public presentation.
I love it, but it’s bringing my arousal state way up, and then when I’m done with it, it’s a relief but also a drop. I can see that as draining, and maybe that’s what’s going on. It was interesting how as soon as I finished the group coaching, I wanted to lie in bed and be on social media, mostly TikTok because that’s what I’ve been doing for years. I haven’t kept precise track, but I’m willing to estimate that it’s been almost every single day that I spend at least an hour.
Recovery And That Dopamine Hit
I would build this into my day. I would say, “Anytime I’m feeling tired or drained, I’m going to give myself permission to go lay in bed or on the couch and be on TikTok without judgment.” I still feel good about that. I don’t judge that in hindsight either. It’s just that I would like to find alternatives. That has been surprisingly tough. I was able to jump into this episode instead of taking a break. Now, I’ll have to find out, “Was that a good choice for me or not?” Sometimes when I stack two draining things back to back, I’m extra drained. I’m trying to notice how my energy rises and falls throughout the day, what activities, and how I rejuvenate, rest, and recover from things.
That’s incredibly important, but I don’t want social media to be part of that recovery because it’s not recovery. In fact, my biggest concern with social media amongst the subject, which has come up many times in recent episodes, if you’d like to go back, I’ve talked about my overall perspectives and feelings on social media. When it comes to my daily usage of a platform like TikTok, I don’t want to turn to that to try to feel relief because it’s not really a relief. TikTok is designed to give this constant feeling of a dopamine rush.It's not really relief on TikTok. It's designed to give this constant feeling of a dopamine rush. Click To Tweet
It’s almost like playing slot machines. A few days ago, I went to the casino. It’s not something I do frequently, but I’ve gone a couple of times in the last few, and slot machines are my favorite. I walked into the casino and noticed the lights and the sounds. I noticed this time in particular, there’s a vanilla smell. I’d actually love to research why that particular smell is pumped in casinos. Maybe it’s because there are smokers in there. I don’t know, but there’s a smell to a casino.
It’s a sensory overload. For someone like me who’s highly sensitive, it’s interesting because I like all of that. It doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel alive and excited. Given that experience, that’s what I’ve felt on a platform like TikTok. It’s much like walking into the casino, but also being on a slot machine and pressing a button over and over again waiting for a hit. That’s TikTok. Every scroll is the possibility of a video that’s going to stimulate me and give me that dopamine rush and pleasure that I’ve been craving.
I don’t want to be experiencing that so frequently. I don’t want to go to the casino all the time. I’m happy to go to the casino maybe once a year or twice if it happens. I’m not going to go to the casino every day or every week. That probably would turn into an addiction. I would lose more than I gained. That’s also my issue with TikTok. It’s that I was approaching it either to gain something or to feel neutral or to numb out. If I look at it like a slot machine or a casino game, the house is always going to win. That actually gives me a very disturbed feeling inside.
TikTok is essentially the casino or the house and thus, they’re always going to win. I’m always going to be somewhat of a loser. It’s never going to be 50/50. At a casino, your best odds are 49% or 48%, but there’s still a 1% loss. No matter how conscious you are, how good you are at playing the game, or how self-aware, there’s always a loss. Do you want to live your life always losing or a little depleted?
Emotions From Social Media
Part of my view with TikTok, in general, is because of how they’re designed, the companies must win in the end. They’re taking something from us. Are they taking our energy? Are they taking our self-esteem? Are they putting us into the comparison trap? I mentioned this in some episodes because of all the reading I’ve been doing lately. Social media companies realize that rage, anger, frustration, judgment, and all of these intense emotions tend to drive people to use social media more, thus they’ve prioritized that. We’re exposed to more of that negativity.
That reminds me of something we explored in the coaching session I did, which is called the Feelings Wheel. There are tons of emotions. It’s color-coded. I’m interested in this moment to thinking about some of these emotions from social media. The wheel starts off in the middle with seven emotions, bad, fearful, angry, disgusted, sad, happy, and surprised. It’s interesting that this wheel, most of them are negative. That’s exactly my experience with social media. It’s very common for me to feel bad about myself.
Within this feelings wheel, it broadens out. There are three circles and they expand upon one another. For bad feelings, there are emotions like boredom, busyness, stress, and tiredness. Those are the reasons I tend to use a platform like TikTok. I use TikTok when I feel bored, stressed, and tired. I’ve noticed in the past eleven days getting frustrated when I feel bored, and I’m not using TikTok. TikTok was my solution to boredom. Now I’m like, “What am I going to do instead?” I’ll get into some of the things I’m doing instead. I want to stay on this Feelings Wheel for a moment.
It’s the same thing when I feel stressed. Stress in this Feelings Wheel is also about feeling out of control or overwhelmed. It’s a huge reason that I would use TikTok. I felt maybe I could control the feelings a little bit if I use TikTok because I get to scroll through and do my own thing. I’m overwhelmed. Oddly, TikTok overwhelms me because there’s so much information. If I spend an hour on TikTok, I could be seeing, at least on average, four videos a minute.
If they’re on average 15 seconds, that’s four 15-second videos a minute. I could be seeing 240 videos on average within that hour span. That’s an overwhelming amount of content if you were to break that down. Yet, I was doing that all the time. Sometimes I would sit there for two hours, so I might be seeing 500 videos. It’s odd that I’m going to a platform like TikTok because of a feeling of overwhelm, and overwhelming myself too. That’s what I’m talking about with the depletion and the loss that’s happening, maybe without me even realizing it.
There’s another section in the Feelings Wheel, which is fearful. That could be feeling scared, anxious, insecure, weak, rejected, and threatened. I feel so many of those emotions on TikTok. Sometimes it built my anxiety. I would go to TikTok when I felt anxious, but I also would feel more of it. Maybe TikTok points out things that I might feel worried about. It’s showing current events and I didn’t realize this bad thing was happening in the world. Now I feel worried about something that I wouldn’t have been worried about if I had not known about it.
Overwhelm was also part of anxiousness according to this wheel. Also, being scared and feeling helpless. Sometimes I would go to TikTok and feel empowered because I would learn something new. Other times, it would point out things and I felt I couldn’t change them, so I did feel helpless. Insecurity is probably one of the main reasons I stopped using TikTok, at least temporarily. I’m not saying I’m done with it. I’m just saying right now I’m not using it.
I felt insecurity, inadequacy, and inferiority all of the time. Those were some of the lowest emotions I felt on that platform. Yet, maybe I hoped that I could feel more adequate and feel more secure if I kept scrolling like a slot machine. “I’m losing money right now, but maybe if I keep playing, I’ll win more.” That happens sometimes. As I mentioned, I went to the casino and lost everything, which is fine. I’m someone that’s very financially conscious about how much money I spend. I have limits. I’m going in realizing that because the house always wins, I’m probably going to lose. If you go in with that realization, you can walk out maybe not feeling so bad, but it’s manipulating your emotions like social media.Because the house always wins, you’re probably going to lose. Click To Tweet
The previous time I went to the casino, I won big time. I won the most amount of money I’ve ever won from a slot machine. Going back there, there’s always that hope that I’ll win again. That’s how they work. That’s how they play with your emotions. You might be down, but there’s always a chance if you have some money left that you could bring it back up and maybe even exceed. Anyone that’s gambled before may have experienced that common emotion of, “I won some money. Should I walk away with my winnings or should I keep playing because I could win more?” In my experience, when I have that thought, it’s very unlikely I’ll win more.
I’ve been playing slot machines off and on. The first time I did a slot machine was in 2008. In those times, I count on one hand the times that I’ve won more than I put in. Most of the time, I either walk out even and I say, “I might win some money, but if I come back to the money that I put in the machine, I’m not going to go under it,” so I’m neutral. Most of the time, I spend the money that I put in and then I leave.
Even though consciously I might feel okay with it, there’s still a bit of a feeling of, “If I added up all the money, as small as it might be.” I’ll do the math right now. I love numbers. It’s 2023, so 2008 was 15 years ago. Let’s say I go to the casino maybe once a year. I’m going to throw in my number. It’s actually not that much. I feel a little bit better. I won’t tell you what my number is, but I have a dollar amount that I’m willing to spend. Now that I look at it, I’m like, “I’ve lost that much,” but it’s still money that I’ve lost. Was it worth it? That’s the big question. That’s what I’m reflecting on with TikTok, is it worth it?
Going back to the Feelings Wheel, I mentioned anger. This category is what most social media uses to keep us engaged. Anger can be feeling let down, humiliated, bitter, mad, aggressive, frustrated, distant, and critical. Critical is huge. Criticism is one of the biggest driving factors in general. I can’t stand that element of social media. It’s the worst feeling to feel criticized. The angry feeling is distant, which is further defined as withdrawn or numb. I am often going to TikTok with the hopes of feeling withdrawn or numb. Those are my aims.
Now that I see on this wheel that that’s part of being distant and angry, do I want to be distant and angry as a human being? No. Why am I engaging in that so frequently? Why do I want to feel further frustrated and annoyed? Why do I want to be provoked and hostile, furious or jealous? Jealous, which in this wheel is part of being mad and angry. I don’t want to be mad or angry, so why do I want to be jealous? That’s part of the fear, insecurity, and inadequacy. I look at these emotions and feel a bit disgusted.
For someone like me, I need to sit down and weigh out the pros and cons. I haven’t done that yet. Maybe I will as an exercise and use this Feelings Wheel and say, “How many of these things that I experience on a platform like TikTok are good? How much does TikTok make me happy?” I’ve said before that it feels like it brings me joy. If I look at this wheel, sometimes it feels playful. I feel positive arousal. Joyful on here under content. TikTok piques my interest. It taps into my curiosity. It answers questions. I sometimes feel accepted and respected or valued on there, but that’s mostly if I’m posting. If I’m posting comments, a lot of people are liking them.
Internal And External
I don’t like that feeling, to be honest, because it feels too superficial. It’s not acceptance or value. It’s a temporary feeling that doesn’t feel enough. I wouldn’t say that I feel powerful unless I post a video that gets tons of views. Again, that’s a temporary power. I might feel creative though. That’s a positive emotion if I’m posting on there. Most of the time I spend on TikTok is observing and viewing. I don’t think I ever feel peaceful. There are some accounts I followed that are meditation accounts, but among those 240 videos I see in an hour, most of them are not peaceful. I might feel ten seconds of peace during that hour. Is that enough for me? Do I feel optimistic and hopeful? Sometimes.
It’s even the ratios too. If you do that math, one thing I’ve considered doing, but it feels like a lot of work, is to note down how I feel after every single video. That’s a lot of work if I’m averaging 240 videos an hour, but it could be an interesting exercise. I might only make it to 50 videos if I’m taking notes on each and every one of them. I could pull up this Feeling Wheel and say, “How did this video make me feel?” I could then see the percentages.
For someone like me who likes math and data, that could be useful. I will take a moment to say I’ve been working on a new podcast series that I would like to post clips on TikTok because of the style. I’ll keep you posted if that all comes together as planned. I was thinking I could post videos from my computer on TikTok. I’m uploading but not viewing if I want to create those barriers. I also need to create some boundaries because in the past, when I posted videos on a platform like TikTok, I can get caught in the addiction of validation with these emotions. I might feel the desire to keep checking to see how many people viewed my video. Do I feel respected and valued? Do I feel powerful? This is something I know a lot about.
If creativity is key to my happiness, which it often is, if feeling free, joyful, and confident, I could have all of those within myself intrinsically and internally. What if I was driven by that? That’s something I’ve been asking myself a lot for 2023 since I’ve been feeling a lot of discomfort, negativity, and out of alignment with social media as a whole, yet still interested in being part of it. What if I could be part of social media for intrinsic reasons? What if I could do it for myself and not for others? That is a big question I’m asking.
Having this time away from TikTok and other platforms are helping me clarify that because it’s keeping me internal. That was the other big drawback to TikTok. It’s external. When I would lay down in my bed for that hour or so to watch videos, it was almost like if you’ve ever seen the Matrix or Ready Player One or read that book, which is based on the metaverse. Somebody puts on some headset and they travel through virtual reality or whatever technology. They travel into another universe. That’s digital. It’s not real. Their real body is still in the physical realm, but their brain is in another spot. That’s what I felt I was doing with TikTok.
If I was spending that hour, it was like I was having an out-of-body experience. It was taking me out of myself, not literally but it felt literal in that sense where my brain was suddenly zeroed into this world and then exposed to 240 strangers. That’s also nuts. Can you imagine in the real life walking into a room of 240 people you’ve never met and going around to have ten-second conversations with each of them? To me, that would feel so superficial. That would not feel satisfying because I would rather spend an hour with one of those people. It’s like you might be spending an hour with me on the show or someone else that you love that you’re spending an hour with. That is satisfying, but I also want to spend an hour with myself.
Alternatives To Social Media
Let me share some of the alternatives that I’ve been doing. Since I cut TikTok out of my life for the past eleven days, I’ve had to re-adjust. One of the big things that I’ve been doing is reading a lot more. As I mentioned in most episodes of the show, I love reading. Now I’m reading probably at least twice as much as I used to because I have at least an hour of free time opened up after cutting out TikTok. I’ve experimented with getting into bed, bringing my iPad with me, and opening up the Kindle app to read a book, whether non-fiction or fiction.
In general, I’ve been experimenting with reading non-fiction during the day and fiction right before bed. I learned that from the book Stolen Focus that I’ve referenced several times. It’s part of what inspired me to take this social media break. They had a section about the impacts of fiction on our brains. What if instead of spending 60 minutes seeing 240 videos, I spent 60 minutes reading one book, paying attention to one story, and noticing how that impacts my brain, my mental health, and all of that? It’s the same thing with non-fiction. I focused on reading that one non-fiction book and focusing on that one subject matter for that time.
One thing I’ve discovered through doing that is I usually do not have the desire to read for an hour straight. I haven’t calculated it, but it feels like I read in 15 to 30-minute-long spurts, and then I’m ready to go do something else, which is interesting because part of that is feeling antsy because I’m focused on that. I’m focused on one thing for 15 or 30 minutes and then my brain has had enough. Maybe that makes more sense because, in TikTok, I could easily go for an hour, but I’m focused on 240 separate things during that time.
Especially for someone like me who believes herself to be neurodivergent, it’s impacting my focus. It’s pulling it here, here, and here versus one book. It’s like you just have one thing to pay attention to and that feels harder. Social media platforms know that about our brains, even if most people aren’t neurodivergent. In general, the majority of people that spend time on social media fall into that category of enjoying their focus being pulled in all different directions, or maybe being tricked into enjoying it.
That’s part of the question. Do we actually enjoy this? Do we feel satisfied and nourished? I’m willing to bet most people don’t. I’m willing to bet that if most people use the Feelings Wheel or another method of observing how they feel after these periods of indulging in social media, they would find that they don’t really feel that good. I don’t have all the data. If you know me at all, I will probably find the data, come back around, and do another episode to better understand this. That’s the other thing too. I’m spending my time not just reading books but also tons of articles and newsletters. This has felt so satisfying to me.
One thing I also love to do is to organize, but I don’t always have the energy for it. I still haven’t found the physical energy to organize my home. That’s deeply frustrating to me. There’s stuff scattered around my desk. There’s stuff behind me on the floor. The bed isn’t always made and it feels discombobulated. My bathroom, I want to organize that. I’ve told you I want to start this new podcast series and organize that stuff together. I could go on and on. I did an episode about being functional. I recommend you check that to know how I approach the times when I feel disorganized but still functional. That’s where I’m at physically. In my physical space, it does not feel organized but it is functional enough. The place where I have an easier time organizing is digital. Lately, I’ve been tackling email newsletters.
You may be able to relate to this because a lot of people are in the same boat of subscribing to newsletters and then not reading them. You then have a massive email inbox of unread messages. I’ve gone through phases in my life where I’ve been able to get it to what they call Inbox Zero. I don’t care that much about Inbox Zero at this time, but I do like the idea of making progress. I developed what most people would consider a very extremely nerdy system. It has brought me immense pleasure. This is part of all the extra time I have now from not being on social media. I’ve turned to things like this that I now go through every day. I don’t always accomplish it, but I aim to go through all the newsletters I receive.
I have my emails separated into different categories. One is emails I need to respond to. The other main category is the emails I’ve received with the intention of reading them and learning something. That second category, I have ignored for a long time maybe even the past few years due to the fact that I’ve been spending so much time on social media. Since I started reading through most, if not all the newsletters I receive each day, I’ve learned so much. Learning and feeling educated gives me immense pleasure, and it helps me in all different ways.
I create this whole system for myself where I read a newsletter, and then I take that information, and I apply it to something. I feel like I’m getting all these things done. I feel more productive and efficient. As I’ve mentioned, my goal is to not feel productive and efficient. I still enjoy it though. It’s not the be-all end-all. I don’t define my life based on productivity anymore, but maybe there’s a sense of inspiration happening. That’s really important to me. Feeling excited and inspired is a pleasure I like to lean into. That often will lead to me getting things done. Sometimes I get things done and they’re helpful to my clients, friends, and family. They are also helpful for me in going deeper and having an understanding of life and getting that data that I crave.
While those things are not as exciting and stimulating as social media is, in general, they are still exciting and stimulating on a different level. A book might not be as thrilling as scrolling through TikTok, but it does have a level of thrill. That’s part of what I’m trying to examine right now in my life. It is like a drug. I can take a drug and become dependent on the elevated mood and feelings, and the way my brain seems to work. I can see if I can achieve that naturally and bring it down to a less extreme version.
Using social media has impacted my attention span. That has changed a lot. A lot of people say that about TikTok. It’s a huge downside. People find it hard to read and watch TV and movies because they’re used to things being so fast-paced. Anything that feels like a slow pace is not as exciting and stimulating, and they’re not used to that slow pace. I believe I mentioned in last week’s episode, I realized one of my big aim in 2023 is to slow down. This all makes sense. I’m slowing down the input and stimulation. I’m bringing my baseline down so that I can achieve a balance. I’m recognizing that I’d like to achieve more wins than losses.
I don’t want to live my life in that casino-like experience. It’s okay every once in a while, but I’d rather have these slower days. Now I’m trying to figure out the adapting. I’m in a transition period. I wrote down some other things that I’ve been trying out and I’ll pull out my list. One is that this period has felt a lot of withdrawal. I felt anxiety. I almost gave in. I almost redownloaded TikTok. I thought to myself, “It’s okay. I’m not trying to beat some streak. I’m not using any rules for myself or guidelines. I’m just experimenting. I’m not trying to go 30 days or a year without social media. I’m taking it day by day. It’s okay if I break my streak or if I redownload TikTok. I can delete it again afterward.” I thought about that. It didn’t feel worth it because I felt like I was going to have to start all over again and I could be pulled back in.
I also realized it was a temporary desire to use it. It wasn’t something that was going to be so fulfilling. I didn’t feel a need. It didn’t feel deep. It was like I was looking for a quick fix and I started to wonder if I could get that fix elsewhere. That has been surprisingly hard. I even looked up sources of dopamine because if I felt like I was getting a dopamine rush, and a rush of that pleasure from TikTok, where else could I get pleasure from? It was funny because it was hard to find immediate sources of pleasure. That gave me a lot of contexts too because a lot of the articles I pulled out about dopamine were about taking supplements or doing something like exercise. You have to build those things up in your system.
I started taking daily walks. I don’t remember exactly what date it was. I feel it was after Thanksgiving. I was feeling uncomfortable in my body physically. It was like my body was screaming for exercise and I thought, “What’s a gentle, easy, and accessible exercise for me?” It’s taking a walk with my dog. I’ve been doing it almost every single day for probably a month and a half or going on two months. It feels good but it took at least weeks for me to have the buildup of pleasure from the exercise. I don’t know all this data again about how long your brain needs to feel good about something like that, but it’s not instant. A supplement or exercise didn’t feel what I was looking for.
I was looking for instant forms of pleasure and dopamine. One of them was sex. Most of the time, it’s not having sex or an orgasm or any sexual experience, whether it’s with myself or another person. That’s not what I want to turn to in the middle of the day after a meeting. There’s nothing wrong with it. I suppose I could, but that’s not the source I wanted to go to either. It’s funny, I hadn’t even thought about that as an option. That’s part of why this has been such an interesting experience. I seemed more interested in using TikTok than a sexual experience. A sexual experience is so primal and human, yet that did not feel as tantalizing and arousing as using TikTok.
Am I addicted to that? Is that part of the definition? I haven’t bothered looking up. I don’t want to label myself as addicted to TikTok. I’m not trying to deny it. Addiction doesn’t feel like the right word, but maybe that is what it is. I’m not sure yet. Another thing on the list was listening to music. This felt like an avenue for me. In general, I feel very comforted and soothed by music. I feel stimulated by music and I feel joy from music. I go through periods where I listen to a lot of music. Other times, barely at all.
One type of music I listen to the most consistently is calming music. I don’t know the category that I would put it into. I guess it’s instrumental, but music that’s designed for well-being. I’ve listened to things like binaural beats, and those have been helpful. I generally use those things to focus. Sometimes I use them if I’m taking a bath and I want it to feel like a spa. I started experimenting more with music. There’s even music designed to increase dopamine. It doesn’t feel the same as TikTok, but it was worth a try.
I also started using music more consciously to move my body. For instance, I found a song that I got super hooked on. Some people will call this a form of stem, which is to listen to the song over and over again. I’ll do that with certain songs, not even intentionally. I’ll hear a song and I feel so much pleasure from it that I want to listen to it over and over again. I think it was yesterday or the day before, there was this one song. I don’t even know why, but I lost count of how many times I listened to it and it felt so good. I was dancing and singing. That is pleasurable. Talk about primal, moving to a song, singing along with it, and the throat and everything. It feels so good. I don’t find myself yearning for that experience that much.
Talking about pleasure, going to a concert is one of the greatest feelings. I go to a concert now maybe once a year at most. That I found myself thinking about. The other thing that I started using more intentionally is ironically a tool made by Facebook. Their parent company is called Meta for the Metaverse. About a year ago, I started trying out what was then called the Oculus. Now it’s called the Meta Quest 2. I mentioned this before. There are a few apps on there that I love and I’ve used them very intentionally. One of them is owned by Facebook and Meta, which is called Supernatural.
If you have a Quest headset or have been thinking about it, I highly recommend checking out Supernatural. All the pros of it weigh out the cons. The con is it’s $19 a month unless you buy it annually. It’s a monthly subscription and it’s also owned by Meta from what I know. I am almost positive it is. That to me is like, “They’re probably collecting my data.” It doesn’t make me feel that great, but it’s so good. The graphics of it are incredible.
You put on the VR headset and you hold the controllers in your hands. You go into this virtual world that’s designed around natural landscapes. They have settings in natural parks and beautiful parts of the world. Your senses are fully stimulated, and then they have these real-life instructors who have their virtual versions, but the graphics are so good. They look pretty realistic, even their size. You see their whole body show up in front of you like Star Trek or something. They morph in front of you. I’ve never really watched Star Trek, but one of the few things I know about Star Trek is traveling digitally, whatever that’s called. Anyways, they show up in front of you and they start talking.
They are the kindest people and the real people because you can actually go on Facebook into the Supernatural group and talk to them. They’ll talk back to you. I found them on TikTok too. I’ve interacted with these people that do these trainings and they’re all recorded. They’re not live. The coolest thing is that you can pick the music that you listen to. They have all these playlists, hundreds of them. You can organize them into categories based on what type of music you want to hear. You then get to choose the level of difficulty because you do a workout with them. To me, this is one of the greatest forms of instant dopamine.
Unlike a lot of exercises I’ve described in which it takes time for me at least to build up the dopamine, the desire, and the pleasure for it, Supernatural is a shortcut because there’s so much stimulation happening. It feels a little bit like a video game. You’re holding these controllers in your hands and you’re either doing boxing moves or you do something they call flow, where you’re holding sabers or batons in your hand virtually. Your controllers buzz as you hit things. There are things flying at you and you have to hit them. That’s part of your movements.
The boxing exercises are designed based on all the boxing styles. They have knee lifts and a southpaw. You’re doing hooks and all of the traditional boxing moves. Every time you hit something, it vibrates. The coaches are talking to you as if you’re in a real-life exercise class. They’re guiding and coaching you toward each movement. On top of that, there’s music in the category of your choice. It’s so awesome. You can choose the timeframe of it. I’ll go in there and sometimes I just do one song. I’ll open up a playlist and I say, “All I need is some dopamine right now. I’m going to listen to this one song, do some movements, and be done.”
Sometimes I’ll go in there for 20, 30, or 40 minutes long and do full-on workouts to the point where I’m sweating. My temperature goes up. I wear my Apple watch and I track it there. I can see my heart rate. It’s a full-on workout. I feel so proud of myself, accomplished, and excited. I also get the stimulation of the music. That to me is one of the best sources of dopamine that I’ve found in the past year. It does require a monthly investment plus buying the headset and also being okay with using a tool.
If you did not know this, Apple is coming out with its own virtual reality headset. I believed it to be sometime in 2023. I love Apple products. It’s probably a matter of when and not if I get that, but they’re going to have their own infrastructure. You’ll hear me talk about that. I can almost guarantee it because that’ll be an exciting day. You can see me light up. I feel the most excited right now in this episode that I have based on anything else I’ve said. Clearly, I feel an immense amount of dopamine.
I have a few other things I’ve been trying. One is taking the daily walks that I mentioned with either not taking my phone with me at all or not using my phone. Quite often, I listen to Audiobooks while I’m taking my walks. It feels a little unsafe because I live in a big city and there’s crime everywhere in the city. Sometimes I worry that I won’t be paying attention and I won’t be as alert. I usually keep the volume pretty low. I’ve experimented recently with not listening to anything. In fact, it was raining the other day, not pouring. I grabbed my umbrella and I wore my favorite waterproof shoes, which are called Vessi. They’re so comfortable. I wear Vessis all the time. I especially love them when it’s wet out because they’re water-resistant shoes.
I walked around in the rain. I went by myself. I didn’t bring my dog, Evie. I spent 20 or 30 minutes outside. I’ve also started walking to the grocery store. That also feels satisfying because I’m accomplishing something and I’m not using any energy from my car. I am experiencing the grocery store a little bit differently when I walk there. There are several within walking distance. It feels so quaint to do that. Taking that time away from social media is interesting because when I’m taking my walks, I see other people that are looking at their phones. They do that in the grocery store. Certainly, I do too because oftentimes, I’m looking for coupons to use or a grocery checklist.
Sometimes you’ll see people that are so absorbed in their phones. They’re not even aware of what other people are doing around them. The same thing is true when I take my walks. I see people walking their dogs and they’re glued to their phones. I don’t feel like I’m judging them. I’m observing them in relation to where I’m now where I used to do all of those things very frequently too. I used to open up TikTok any time there was a moment of nothingness. If I was in the car and I had to wait for something for five minutes, I’d be on TikTok. Now, I find myself doing other things. This is part of the withdrawal period that I’m in. I still go to my phone in those moments. It’s still my tendency to turn to it whenever I feel bored or I have a spare moment of time, even on those walks.Sometimes, you'll see people that are just so absorbed in their phones, they're not even aware of how or what other people are doing around them. Click To Tweet
I don’t use social media, but sometimes I pull up my phone to see if I have any text messages or emails. Most of the time I don’t. I could get by easily with checking my phone for messages at most once an hour. I could probably go and check my phone every 2 to 3 hours and not have anything urgent. In fact, very likely, I could go the entire day. I could check my phone twice a day and deal with all my emails then and texts. There’s a part of me that aspires to that. That sounds cool. That’s funny because that’s the way it used to be. The iPhone came out in 2007, I believe. Prior to that, unless you had a Blackberry or a Palm Pilot or whatever those other devices were, you were not checking your phone so much.
Looking For A Feeling
You might go to the computer a few times a day, but there wasn’t that much to do. Now, there’s so much to do and most of it is not even necessary. It’s just the stimulation and going back to that Feelings Wheel. I don’t want to say just but often, we’re looking for arousal, joy, and signals that we’re respected, valued, loved, and that we have information. We’re looking to feel less lonely. Maybe a way to distract us from grief. Maybe we’re in some ways a glutton for punishment and want to feel depressed, empty, or inferior. We want to judge other people or feel embarrassed or cringe at somebody. Maybe we like humiliation or seeing other people feel humiliated. I’m only halfway through this wheel and so many of these things are part of our lives now with everything that we do.
Maybe we feel scared, anxious, and overwhelmed. As I said earlier, we had this hope that what was on our phones is going to change that for us. We may feel weak or rejected. One of the books I’m reading right now is a fictional book called Fleischman Is In Trouble. I started reading that because of the TV show on Hulu, which I enjoyed so much. I’m reading the whole book, even though I know the story already. The book is good. The beginning of both the book and the TV show is centered around this man who’s recently divorced and is going on dating apps for the first time. I don’t know if it’s the first time in his whole life or since he got divorced.
It’s all of the feelings of feeling accepted and desired but also feeling rejected. Both of those things happen. Value and respect are common, plus rejection and exclusion. One of the things I’ve been practicing with my newsletter reviews is noticing those feelings. It’s much like what I thought about doing on TikTok. Part of my newsletter system is to note my feelings because I’m trying to decide which newsletters I want to continue reading and feel beneficial to me, versus the newsletters that I’m subscribed to for some unknown reason and they’re adding clutter.
It’s like the Marie Kondo method or what you would do with your clothing, for instance. Picking it up and examining them brings me joy. I’m asking that question more and more when I read something like a newsletter. I’m noticing that some newsletters have information in them that I feel inferior. I feel like I’m missing out. I feel like I’m less than, others and being rejected in a sense. I wonder why am I subscribed to this in the first place. Is there some part of me that enjoys, wants, craves, and needs that? That’s an interesting thing to reflect upon when we’re on these devices with social media or not.
Speaking of newsletters, I had mentioned in the previous episode how impactful it was to meet C.L. That was a profound experience for me reading her newsletter, reflecting on her place in my life, but also the article that she linked to and how much that impacted me. Another newsletter that impacted me on multiple levels is by someone I’ve been following her work for many years. Her name is Tara McMullin. She focuses mostly on the business aspect of life, entrepreneurship, small business, etc. She wrote a great newsletter about slowing down and how baking has helped her slow down. I believe she said being present is like meditation. I actually have started cooking and baking more.
That’s typically not something I have done a lot of in my life. I’ll go through these phases, but right now I’m finding immense pleasure in that. After I read her newsletter, I thought, “It is like meditation. It is so fun to tweak, experiment, see how things turn out, and then try to improve them if we want to make them again.” I made cookies and I had no idea how they were going to turn out. I was pleasantly surprised that they were edible. Now I know how I would change them. I’m looking at recipes and feeling empowered by that experience. That has been a huge benefit to reading and using technology. It is the access we have to all this information and inspiration, and how I can go and find multiple recipes and tips on how to bake and cook.A huge benefit of using technology is the access we have to all this information and inspiration. Click To Tweet
I’m so grateful for those things. This episode is by no means an anti-technology episode. It’s re-evaluating my relationship with technology and re-assessing it. It’s been such an interesting journey. I’m noticing how I’m still filling the gaps of TikTok with other forms of technology for the most part. I’m noticing how I’m more open to documentaries because I love information. I’ve been watching more docuseries and full-length documentaries. Some of them are sensationalized. The one I watched is in the true crime realm. It was interesting, but it felt like I was watching a long TikTok. It was funny enough based on social media in a way.
It’s called the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker. It’s about this man who went viral on social media in 2013, and his journey from there. It was fascinating but sensationalized. There were a lot of questions and it left me feeling a little bit sad. It didn’t really feel like it was a fulfilling thing to watch, but I was glad that I watched that instead of watching 300 to 400 TikToks in the same time span. Lastly, I would say the biggest shift I’ve made in terms of TikTok at least is that I have the dynamic with my sister of sending TikToks back and forth. Historically, I will send her probably ten times the amount of TikToks. I don’t know if that means I spend ten times more on TikTok.
I don’t think that’s true, but I constantly find videos that I want to share with my sister so that we can laugh about them or learn something together. It’s bonding for us. That’s something I miss about the TikTok experience. She hasn’t caught on to the fact that I don’t use TikTok right now. I didn’t tell her. I’m not hiding it from her. It just hasn’t come up. What I’ve done about a couple of times a week when I find myself missing the TikTok experience, I go onto the web-based version and see if she sent me any because I don’t have notifications on. I have to manually check. Usually, at least once a week, she sent me a few videos. The joy I feel now from those few videos is wonderful and fulfilling.
It’s all I need because I’m getting videos that my sister enjoyed. We have very similar tastes in videos. She curated it for me. She curated the joy and I go and I watch whatever she sent. It takes me probably two minutes to do and I’m done. I’ve stripped away so much of it and I’ve tuned into the joy. Now what I’ve achieved is I’ve won. I found a way to beat the system. TikTok isn’t collecting as much data on me anymore. It isn’t stealing away my attention and my focus as the book Stolen Focus references. Now I feel more focused and in control of my attention and my joy. I even thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could get more people in my life to send me videos and curate it all for me? Wouldn’t that be cool if that was more how social media works?”
I probably would use TikTok if it was just people sending me videos. The system wouldn’t fully work because we’d all be waiting for somebody to send us something instead of scrolling and curating it. For now, I’m enjoying that limited experience through the lens of my sister and feeling that’s enough. I’ll keep you posted as the journey continues. Thank you for tuning in. As usual, I would love to hear your thoughts. I’ve mentioned how I’m experimenting in 2023 with changing the mediums in which I communicate and encouraging my favorite medium, which is Beyond Measure. I created Beyond Measure because of a lot of the challenges I faced with social media. My favorite part of social media has always been connecting with people like you.
Truly, when I stripped social media down in all of these years that I’ve been on it, my favorite parts have been meeting amazing people, forming friendships, learning from people, and seeing life through their eyes like I see what brings my sister joy on TikTok through what she sends me. Since I’m not using social media, I can no longer recommend that you contact me through direct messages on platforms like Instagram. I used to encourage that. I’ll still go on there. I probably open Instagram once a week at most and I check the messages there and respond to what I can.
Since I’m currently a bit overwhelmed sorting through all my emails and newsletters and maxed out on what I can respond to and read, I conclude that the best way for me to get in touch with you in the most meaningful way would be for you to check out Beyond Measure and come chat with me there. I know that’s an extra step. The issue there is it requires you to create a profile and spend some time there. You might not want to be part of it, so that’s the risk. What I’m experimenting with is if you’re willing to spend time to connect with me and the other people in there, that is meaningful. Sometimes going the extra mile for people says so much.
In fact, I read an article in one of these newsletters about the benefits of subscriptions to some of these platforms like Patreon. They require you to join something in order to leave a comment. That has drastically reduced trolling, negativity, and hate. What social media has made it very easy for us to do is send hurtful comments to one another. I see the benefit of adding a barrier to communication. Right now, I am respecting my own needs and desires by limiting things to Beyond Measure. That’s where I’m at now. That could change. If you would like to comment on this episode, there are two ways to do that. One is you can go comment on the blog post every episode at Wellevatr.com.
Every episode has a blog post with a comment section, so you can go in there. I rarely ever check it though. It’s set up to get notifications, but people rarely use that medium. I would be surprised if you did that. If that is not your avenue, the second avenue is to join Beyond Measure, which is free. I am currently re-adjusting it a little bit. It’s historically been free. There will be a paid version of it that you do not have to join in order to chat with me. When you enter Beyond Measure, you can send me a message and also connect with the other people there. That’s why it’s worth the effort for you because there are many people that are tuning in to this show, and they are amazing as a whole and as a community. People contribute to one another’s lives in the most remarkable ways.
That’s where I’ve been doing the coaching, so you can come and join the coaching sessions and get the benefits from one another. That’s why I’m encouraging it because it goes beyond you and me having an exchange. It goes into your well-being, which is the core of all of my work. It is how can I elevate your life, not just mine. I know I want to do that in more meaningful ways. That’s why Beyond Measure is set up the way it is. I’ll be back again with a special guest. Check out who that is. The special guest is talking about the ugly side of personal growth, which ties nicely into this episode’s subject.
I hope you stay tuned. If you haven’t yet and you want to subscribe to the show, that is available on all the platforms. Some of the platforms even allow you to leave reviews and ratings. If you enjoyed this episode and other episodes of the show, and you want to recommend it to others, you can leave a review on Apple Podcast. You can leave a rating on Spotify, and you can check out to see if the other platform you might be using has any rating or share features. I’m deeply grateful for that. That’s another way for you to communicate with me. Giving feedback is always valuable. I’m wishing you the very best with the rest of your day, whatever that holds for you. I’ll be back again. Bye for now.