THE BLOG
09/26/2014 11:45 am ET Updated Nov 26, 2014

High School Angst in a Digital World

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I should probably start off by telling you that I am an addict -- and "no" I'm not referring to drugs and alcohol here -- I've been clean and sober for over 17 years now. My current addiction is far more insidious, as it doesn't entail all the social taboos of a drug and alcohol addiction. Whenever I crave a hit of dopamine, all I have to do is reach into my pocket and hit the shiny icon on my iPhone. It's the first thing I do when I crawl out of bed in the morning, and it's the last thing I reach for when I head to bed blurry-eyed at night. The symphony of my life is composed of whistles, buzzes, and pings, the intoxicating mainline to my social media high.

I, of all people, know that "admitting you have a problem" is the first step to recovery from addiction. You see, my problem is, I am always the last person to realize that I have the addiction! My wife, ever so gently, pointed out that maybe I ought to consider scaling back the amount of time I spend staring at my phone engaged in social media. To be honest, my initial reaction was to be pissed off, and that quickly segued into construing an argument to justify my behavior. I never really considered that my giggles, smirks, and grunts in response to a Facebook comment or a tweet were isolating and disrespectful to the real-life person sitting beside me on the couch.

None of my behavior should really be surprising to me considering the same was true when I was in high school -- I was much more concerned about hanging out with the smokers at the south door than I was about making it to my afternoon chemistry class. So before you start jumping to conclusion here, I want to make it clear that I'm not saying that spending time with my wife is like sitting through a science class, but rather, as far back as I can remember, I've always had a problem prioritizing what's in front of me for what "I might be missing."

I'm amazed at how the universe drops things into your path just when you seem to need them most. I was reading through the paper this morning when a headline immediately caught my eye, "Facebook's killing the high school reunion." The writer brought up an interesting point that because we are all connected through social media and are intimately aware of where we vacation to what we ate for breakfast, the need for high school reunions has become somewhat obsolete. College alumni associations are also struggling to maintain their membership and justify their existence beyond the incessant fundraising brochures that arrive in the mail.

All of this got me thinking that my addiction to social media has allowed me to stay in high school and hang out with all my friends. Come to think of it, social media gives me that mainline angst that so typified my time in high school: How many "likes" will my post get? Will that cool person accept my "friend request"? Or even worse, how do I "unfriend" this guy without hurting his feelings?

The more you think about it, all the different social media compete for our attention, and they tend to attract a certain "type," just like the cliques in high school. Pinterest is populated with scrapbooker, sentimental types, who radiate positivity. Meanwhile, Facebook is all about showing off your gourmet meal, new grandbaby, or athletic achievement. It's no wonder that so many of us aspire to be "liked" by the extroverts and social butterflies who call Facebook home. Twitter's 140-character constraint is the playground of smart-alecks with their quick one-liner retorts, and to those online bullies who seek comfort in Twitter's anonymity. Instagram has become the refuge of the younger generation who fled Facebook once their parents opened an account. Whenever I scan through my Instragram feed, I'm reminded that sometimes on sober second thought, it may not have been a good idea to post that picture from the club last night. And finally, not to be ignored, LinkedIn, which promotes itself as a networking site for professionals, is really nothing more than a "who's who," like the Honor Roll or Dean's List posted outside the high school office.

When it comes right down to it, I guess it really doesn't matter what social media clique I align myself with. What does matter is accepting that I have problem, and that it's time that I stop stooging around with my friends in the hallway and get back into the "classroom of my life."