How to Stop Social Media Addiction

A paragraph in an article published by the Harvard Business Review neatly sums up the problem with social media...

A paragraph in an article published by the Harvard Business Review neatly sums up the problem with social media: Social media can connect us to new ideas, help us share our work, and allow previously unheard voices to influence culture. Yet it can also be a highly addictive time-sink if we’re not careful about our goals, purpose, and usage.

What is social media addiction?

Social media addiction is a psychological disorder that can be characterized by excessive or compulsive use of online social networks. It often leads to an inability to perform daily tasks, poor work performance, and withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings and depression when you try to quit.

Social media platforms are cleverly designed to be as addictive as possible. The companies that run today’s most successful social networking apps and websites work hard on improving and growing the amount of people they can bring onto their platform, alongside maximizing the amount of time a person spends there. The more time a person spends, the more ads they can run, and the more they’re likely to make a profit off their product. In the end, it’s a matter of business, and any great online platform is built for brutal efficiency when it comes to getting people to stay.

Are you an addict?

One way is to honestly calculate the amount of time you spend on social media in every 24-hour period.

According to Digital Information World the average person spends about 2 hours and 22 minutes every day while Statista research suggests the average daily time spend is 2h 27m. Let’s agree if you’re spending more than 3 hours a day on it, your interest in social media may be less of a habit and more of an addiction.

Another way to check is to take an honest look at your life. Overusing social networking sites can result in many health and personal relationship problems that are also seen in other addictions. The unfortunate effects of social media addiction include anxiety, depression, increased isolation, decreased physical activity, low self-esteem, and poor work or school performance, among many others.

Ask yourself these questions

• Do you feel the urge to use social media more and more?
• Do you check your phone immediately when you wake up and go to bed?
• Do you obsess over getting likes and comments?
• Are you constantly picking up your phone to see the latest posts?
• Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?
• Do you often try to reduce your use of social media without success?
• Have you found yourself using social media so much that it’s hurt your job or studies?

Might it be time to take a step back from spending so much time on it? If so…

What you can do to stop social media addiction

Get those distracting apps off your home screen by moving them all into a special folder so the temptation to go on it is lessened. Here’s how you can do this: On Windows and Android. On a Mac and iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

To reduce distractions and improve productivity, turn off notifications in all your social media accounts. Here’s how on an Android and on an iPhone.

To gain awareness of where all your time is going and improve your mindfulness, track the amount of time you’re spending on social media. Here’s how on an Android and on an iPhone.

Place less weight on your personal social media appearance. One of the big signs of social media addiction is that you spend a lot of time overthinking and over-planning your posts. You worry endlessly that you’re not as ‘fit’ looking like others on the platform or that they are wearing nicer clothes than you. But much of what appears on social media is carefully curated by people, some of whom don’t even exist in real life. Many are carefully created ‘click-bait’ designed to take in the insecure and gullible. In the first quarter of 2022, Facebook took action on 1.6 billion fake accounts.

Put your devices down before bedtime. The blue light these devices emit interrupts your sleep by stimulating your brain.

Online life is virtual whereas offline life is real – so prioritise it. To thrive and be happy human beings need to be around other human beings.

Do a >digital detox for a few days without unplugging completely.

Go on one of my Public Workshops. I also run them for Schools and Universities.

Out of sight out of mind

Keep your phone out of sight and reach, especially at night when you need to be sleeping. In fact, banning phones and screens from the bedroom should help deter you from mindless scrolling when you probably need to be sleeping.

Ban yourself from texting or phone use during mealtimes…

…and at social events. These are times when you can and should be having real human interactions, that can improve your life and how you feel far, more than social media ever can. Also, by using your device when you’re around other people you’re signalling that you consider the people around you are less important than your social media friends (if indeed the people on social media you’re connected to really are your friends!).

No texting after 9pm will also help you unwind and get to sleep. It’s perfectly reasonable to have time to settle down in the evening without worrying about other people.

Not checking your phone while driving

As well as being illegal unless you’re on hands free, driving provides a great opportunity to just leave your phone well alone with an added advantage. These days if you have it close to hand, (as in ‘just lying on the passenger seat’), the police will assume you’ve been using it whilst driving – and book you.

Understand why social media is so addictive

The reward centres of the brain are most active when people are talking about themselves. Because of the effect it has on the brain, social media is addictive both physically and psychologically. According to a new study by Harvard University, the act of disclosing information about oneself on social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that also ignites when taking an addictive substance, eating or engaging in sexual activity.

The bigger picture

This may sound like an obvious thing to ask but have you ever wondered why you spend so much time on social media? You may not be an addict, but have you ever asked yourself what on earth you’re hoping to achieve by spending your time gazing into this virtual world? I’ve written extensively on this website and provided evidence of the following:

Nowhere near all the alleged people on social media even exist in real life. Just forget for a moment all the carefully curated pictures of people you know. These platforms are a free-for-all of disinformation and misinformation, extremist views, bots gathering data on you, algorithms, celebs peddling products and not being open about what they get in return and, especially in these troubled times, the vested interests of foreign governments that exist to pump out lies and mislead people.

Just consider for a moment Fancy Bear (also known as APT28 (by Mandiant), Pawn Storm, Sofacy Group (by Kaspersky), Sednit, TsarTeam (by FireEye) and STRONTIUM (by Microsoft)) It is a Russian cyber espionage group. Cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has said with a medium level of confidence that it is associated with the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as security firms SecureWorks, ThreatConnect, and Mandiant, have also said the group is sponsored by the Russian government. In 2018, an indictment by the United States Special Counsel identified Fancy Bear as GRU Unit 26165.

So please be very careful about anything you see or read on social media…

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