Are we pulled by social media, or are we pushed to them?

Okay. I finally got down to write this.

I noticed I was going through my Instagram feed while I should be writing my thesis. Why?

I am noticing patterns in my habit. I am not pulled by Instagram, I was pushed to Instagram.

This happened yesterday. With much hesitation I started working on my thesis. For a while, it was going good. Then I found something in my research that needed to be figured out. It would need me to consult more papers or consult other people. Then something happened to me. I find myself in my Instagram feed, all of a sudden.

This happens every day. I encounter something difficult and I escape to social media to get my dose of hormones that make me happy. But social media only works for so long. It keeps me happy until it makes me regret the time I wasted.

The day before yesterday, however, was a completely different story.

I was designing some steel brackets. (I am a mechanical engineer.) I was using a software I was fairly familiar with but I had not designed brackets before. I tried a method and it worked. I designed one bracket.

I had to design about 10 brackets, each a little different from the other. I decided to try something that I had only read about. In engineering, we call it parametric design. It worked again. I did not have to design all the brackets separately, I could modify some parameters in the first bracket to create every other.

I realized the beauty of parametric design. It was truly an Eureka! moment. I was in joy, but calm in heart and mind. My head felt so light.

I was shocked when I checked the time. About two and a half hours had passed without any distraction. I had just experienced ‘flow’. I could feel the hormones in my brain that made me happy and calm.

I do not know much about neuroscience, but I have a theory. It is not the pictures I seek in Instagram, or my friends’ updates I seek in Facebook while I am having it a little difficult at work, it is actually the pleasure and calming hormones that I seek.

I do not crave the social media in itself, I crave the hormones. Probably the secretion of the hormones needs some conditions, much similar to the conditions that helped me experience ‘flow’ two days back.

Things that require me more time and focus while working send me to Instagram for quick fix of those hormones. Probably dopamine, serotonin, or nor epinephrine. I will have to read about those (some other time).

But I can’t run away every time I find work demanding my time and focus.

What do I do?

One thing I found that works is taking a real break. Whenever I find discomfort while I am working, I try to avoid screens. I could drink water, go talk to people, or hell, just walk a bit. While I do these, the ideas marinate. My path of what exactly to do next becomes more clear during the break.

I still find myself resorting to social media, but I feel I am less of a sucker for social media.

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