We all know that one of the biggest underlying factors behind our obsession with social media isn’t necessarily FOMO or fear of missing out…. it’s our socially promoted addiction to poison envy. Admit it or not, we follow a lot of the people we follow to see what they are doing so we can judge it, gossip about it, copy it or compete with it.
Some of this can be positive like Fitbit challenges and fundraising challenges for charity. But most of it is just exposing ourselves to really bad brain waves. Yes, I am about to drop some science on everyone’s “haterade” addiction, including my own.
Social media has socially infected us all with a desire and need to present ourselves outwardly in ways that we think are going to make us happy. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. For me it has made me think more about the person that I am becoming. After my social detox last winter, I was happy to see that my feed had become more about my life than just about my work because for me that reflected the re-centering that I already knew was happening, but it gave me visual confirmation that it was really where my life was going. More pictures of TJ and #sweetbabyjames…. less of a focus on work, work and more work.
Yet even the best of us who surround ourselves with the least gossipy of social circles, still secretly stalk each others posts, trying to fuel our own internal motivation engines based on negative energies of out doing someone else, getting revenge against someone who did us wrong or to prove to our enemies that we did something they didn’t think we could do. While some of us are better than others at avoiding these thought patterns, even the best of the best of you on here has at least one person who fits this mold on your feed.
The problem is drinking this “haterade” goes completely against the actual science of happiness and yet we continue to gulp it down because it is ridiculously addictive, provides us with short term satisfaction and we honestly believe that eventually we will be able to post that one thing that will finally make us happy. It’s not even limited to Facebook. A friend of mine just said he couldn’t wait for his former boss to see his new title on LinkedIn was going to be for his new job in a very “that will show her” sort of tone. Another friend is obsessed with the new trend of girls Beautyplus-ing their photos. Another was upset that her “rival” in another state copied her and went on the same trip she had a few months before to find herself.
What a waste of freaking time and life space. And why are we doing this to ourselves and each other?
Negative brain waves attach much more easily as habit patterns than positive ones to our brains. In fact, in order for positive brain waves to really “affix” to your pattering you have to sit in them longer…usually a period of 30 seconds or more.
During my sabbatical I was on kind of a social media detox and the only time I got on was to post my #100happydays images which was part of an exercise in gratitude recommended by my spiritual director. My relationship to social media changed and now that I have been on a bit more, the “haterade” energy is almost too much. I am noticing how quickly it can suck you back in which is making me long for escape again.
During my sabbatical, not only was I not connecting on social media as much, because I was traveling up north every 3–5 days when I was in Phoenix I spent all of my free time with people who make me happy. I didn’t have time for networking events where I’d run into people who I know don’t like me but who make small talk “fishing” for info to gossip about. I had no time for negative talk, people venting over coffee, or any of that. I only had time for happiness.
And happiness started to permeate my life. The more happiness I felt, the more I sought it out. This sounds like something very “touchy feely” but again it’s freaking science.
My dad and I got into a long discussion about the science of happiness. My pops is a D.O. and a surgeon so asking about the science of anything is an easy way to get a 3–6 hour conversation started. We spent several afternoons reading medical journal articles about the neurology of happiness and really diving into how happiness works based on brain chemistry.
One of the studies encouraged participants to train their brain neurons for happiness by “soaking in” or being aware of the emotion for periods of 30 seconds or more. Why? Because while negative emotions are much more “sticky” neurologically — meaning they fuse much more easily and become regular brain patterns. Happiness emotions take longer to fuse and we rarely sit in them long enough to have them change our brain chemistry.
It seems simple but when was the last time you were happy and really noticed it, let alone sat in the emotion for any length of time, let alone 30 seconds?
We started to test this out and realized that while 30 seconds seems very short….when practicing soaking in happiness it actually feels like a really long time.
My dad and I have very playful personalities — — so of course, we tortured pretty much everyone in the family with our happiness experiment. We stopped and looked at people for a really long time with deep stares and said in super creepy voices- “I’m soaking in your happiness.” The laughter energy during our experiment was loud, joyful, often leading us all to tears. It has now become a family culture play that only my dad and I could pull off. But everyone in the family is now ‘soaking up happiness’ and what started as a laughing medicine eventually became very real. Our holiday gifts for each other were more heartfelt and meaningful. Our texts to each other have less of an obligation feel and more of a “I see you because you see me” attitude to them. It’s subtle, but powerful and in reflecting on the transformation since my dad and I started our experiment, part of me now wonders if it may be what kept my dad from having as many side effects from his chemo. Instead of asking himself if he was feeling the side effects listed on the “you might” list from his doctor that was several pages long — he and I had become happiness hunters and were laughing our asses off doing it.
It sounds silly but it is science. Think about this — — if I told you to hold a plank position to work on your abs for 30 seconds…you would feel those muscles firing, you might notice your breathing change, you might feel your face tighten.
Why would it be any different exercising your brain? When your brain is the control center?
The same thing happened when I started to soak in happiness. I physically felt it…sometimes it made my body actually warm, sometimes it made me smile so HARD that the muscles of my face were stretched to the absolute max and could not smile any bigger, my dad often snort laughed, and, especially if it was related to my family, I had tears come to my eyes. BIG, HUGE, I cannot hold these puppies back if I tried, chemical tears — -the kind that taste funny.
And then the craziest thing happened. As I started to do it more, I started to crave it more. I found myself in more and more situations looking for happiness to soak up. And I started finding it all over the place.
Pretty soon my 30 seconds of soaking happiness up became like having a secret super power. I started acknowledging and becoming more and more aware of the people who brought this out in me and the people who didn’t. The distinction between the two sets of people were like night and day. Almost like seeing the good and bad guys in a Batman comic book.
People either brought out tons of happiness in me or they didn’t bring much at all or worse brought out negative feelings. Ironically this phenomenon is also backed by science. People who are happy tend to be more community minded and unselfish as a whole. People who are not tend to be more likely to participate in behaviors like jealousy, spite, revenge and are more centered on selfish tendencies. And the science also supports that people are typically either all in one direction or the other based on how they are wired mentally.
People promoting fake happiness on social media are in fact even based on science “fake happy” because their neuron wiring is different. Brain scans of haters are different than people who are authentically happy. This is why haters appear ridiculously unhappy and why it is written all over them, and is so transparent in the way they carry themselves and even in their posts in the second dimension. We all know this- we can all see it. But what has happened is they have allowed their brains to become unhappy and feeding on more and more unhappiness is how their brains function. So while it suddenly felt- “good guys” vs “bad guys” in a Batman comic sort of way- it really wasn’t that these people themselves were good or bad. It’s that their brain wiring is more pre-disposed for one or the other.
Now of course this made me have compassion and want to help the ones whose wiring leans towards the bad. Who has happiness and doesn’t want to spread it? But the reality is that people who have become this negatively wired require professional support to undo the damage. I am not going to be able to happy their unhappy into happiness no matter how hard I try and the more exposure to them— the more they infect me with their negativity. This is why we have terms out there like “energy vampires”. In fact- their unhappiness wires them to be unable to be happy for me if I am happy. It makes them immediately think of themselves and how unhappy they are and feel jealous or wish they had it and feel angry that I do and they don’t.
It’s what my grandmother would have immediately called- “Bad Juju” being around people like that who even in a moment of happiness can’t separate themselves from it — it turns back to them and their own emotional void deep within.
This revelation gave me not only full permission but absolute justification to stop drinking the haterade or exposing myself to these people before I become one of them.
I fully committed in December to a “Happiness A-Team” method.
I went on a social media unfollow and block tour. I unfollowed anyone and everyone whose immediate first thought for me wasn’t happiness. I blocked some people I knew were sending negative energy my way when they read my posts. I will continue to cleanse my feed and life until they are all gone. It’s not anything personal. I like them as people, I actually wish them great happiness — I just can’t give it to them. I don’t think they are bad humans. But they need help and putting them on my boat leaves less room for people who can support my happiness project. Our lives like a boat only have so much capacity to stay afloat and I don’t want to waste a seat that could be filled by someone who will make me more happy with someone who I know from the onset isn’t capable of being happy for me if they tried. While some may be offended by this I can’t really be worried about it because just like infected zombies I do not want to get bit by them.
The biggest gift this experiment gave me was that I discovered that one of the biggest distinctions between the two types of people is that those who bring me happiness don’t just WANT or DESIRE HAPPINESS — they literally ALREADY HAVE IT THEMSELVES and just want more. So I know that by spending my time and soaking my brain in more happiness with them….I can literally train it to find more and more and more. Because they have some to share. Again, not touchy feely. This is science.
Last summer I helped plan a startup retreat for CEOs and Founders of some of the growth stage start ups in Phoenix. We had Clate Mask the CEO and Founder of Infusionsoft speak during the lunch. One of the things he said really stuck with me. He said- “Once you reach a certain level of success, you realize that you don’t have time for anyone except A players. I don’t spend any energy on non-A players.”
My dad and I talked a lot about this during my sabbatical as I tried to define for me what A-players are for my team, my life and my world.
Our happiness experiment made me realize that my A-players are the people who share my authenticity and commitment to love and happiness. These people are not filled with spite or envy, they don’t feed into the hype machine or drink the haterade on social media or anywhere else in their lives. They see thru the transparency of all of that. They are confident, positive, “let’s rise the tide for all ships” type of souls who make me even more happy being around them.
Now that I know how the people around me and even on my social media feed effect the neurons in my brain- I am fully committed to spending lots of 30 seconds sprints soaking up laughter and joy from A-players. Because it’s good for me.
I have reached the success level of life where I don’t have room, space or energy for haterade and I recognize that society desperately wants me to go there because drama sells, and because negativity is an easier stick to the brain, advertising and reality TV shows are built on it. But I am no longer wired that way and it did not take me that long to get here.
I encourage you all to try this out today…. soak in 30 seconds of happiness and see who is giving it to you.
Only spend time with them. Eliminate all the rest like you are in a zombie apocalypse. Focus all of your energy on your A-team.
“I love it when a great plan comes together.” — Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith (George Peppard), The A-team