When someone asks you, "Do you think you can stay off of Facebook for a week?", or "Can you stay off of Instagram for a month?", would your automatic response be something along the lines of "Of course I can. It's just Social Media."
Would you believe that this is the exact same response you would get from an alcohol or smoking addict? At the rate that people are scrolling through social media mindlessly, and spending countless hours scrolling through their "FYP" on Tik Tok or Instagram feeds, it is well on it's way to becoming as toxic of an addiction as smoking or gambling is.
The instant gratification you get from scrolling through posts or receiving notifications or "likes" triggers the same dopamine responses in your brain that you would get from smoking, consuming large quantities sugar, or drinking alcohol.
Think back to the last time you picked up your phone to scroll through social media, or the last Social Media notification you received. Recent studies and research suggest that people check their social media anywhere from 80 to 300 times a day.
While we can't compare it to the lasting damage that drugs, alcohol and gambling have on people's lives, there is no question that social media is as damaging; but in its own way. The socio-emotional and psychological effects is has on us can be very damaging as well.
I distinctly remember my freshman year of college; when I signed up for Facebook. I remember seeing that shiny red notification at the top corner of the screen. It didn't fully sink in right away.
But the more I used it, the more I realized I had become dependent on that tiny red dot in the corner of the screen for gratification. If I opened up Facebook and there was no notification, I would refresh multiple times until someone graced my notifications page with a "like". And I instantly felt a rush, a dopamine hit.
Most of us are probably in similar situations, especially if you check your phone multiple times a day. If you're not sure if you could be addicted to social media, check out these 7 signs that you can look out for.
5 Signs That You Might Be A Social Media Addict:
1. You constantly compare yourself to what you see online.
One of the hallmarks of social media addiction is the very obsession with social media. People have long struggled with body image, a desire for status, and a desperate need for validation from everybody around them. Unrealistic expectations are one of the most prominent negative effects of social media. Constant comparison to others makes anybody miserable, especially when your only frame of reference is someone's -curated and cherry-picked reel of their life online.
2. You find yourself mindlessly scrolling without consciously "consuming".
Having good conversation with friends and catching up online is one thing, but of you find yourself elbows deep in your Instagram or Tik Tok feed every time you feel an urge to open the app, it might be a sign of addiction. Checking your socials dozens of times per day without thinking about what you're reading is one of the main reasons smartphones and social media can have an adverse effect on productivity.
To help yourself avoid scrolling mindlessly, try to set limits using your device's controls or usage monitoring features, such as Screen Time on iOS.
3. You reach for your phone or social media when you're bored.
One of the worst signs of social media addiction is when you're on your phone every second your hands are free. There are so many other, more advantageous things to dive into when you have spare time, even if it's just a little.
The next time you find yourself grabbing for your phone, think about all of the other productive activities you could be doing instead—even if it's just getting the dishes done.
4. It's the first and/or the last thing you do everyday.
Is social media an ever-present part of your bedtime and morning rituals? Too much screen time is probably keeping you up and, no, night shift won't help you sleep. Instead of reaching for your phone as the first or last thing you do each day, try reading a good book by the warm light of a lamp or write down five things you're grateful for in a notebook every morning.
Use that precious time to focus on yourself and only yourself. Meditation, a hot cup of tea, and a good, long stretch are all much better ways to bookend your day than visiting the hectic scroll of social media.
5. Your self-esteem is affected by the likes and notifications you get.
The drive to gain likes, followers, and notifications creates a false impression of the world and has negative effects on your mental health and self-esteem. Those who find themselves in this category often make toxic comparisons between themselves and those who's lives they follow online, and they come face-to-face with society’s perceptions of perfectionism, which is never truly obtainable. If you find yourse;f getting affected by the number of likes you get on your social media pages, it shows that you get your validation from social media. This sort of validation does not hold any ground, and does not reflect what you should be patting yourself on the back for.
The Benefits Of A Social Media Detox
"But what if I run my business on social media?"
What if my partner gets upset that I don't like their comments or posts?
"What if I need to communicate with people?"
You might find that you could be asking yourself questions like the above to justify your social media use. Our brains are very clever at manipulating ourselves into thinking that we need these things. Because the truth is without it, we are going to get very uncomfortable.
But let's look at some of the benefits you might experience by going on a 30-day Social Media Detox.
- You'll compare yourself to others less often. Comparison takes its toll on our well-being more than anything else. You're going online on Instagram and seeing the best version of everybody else and comparing yourself to them.
- You'll get more time to invest in yourself. More time to invest in hobbies. More time to read a book. I feel like an old timer, back in my day we used to read books without social media. You'll have more time to bring in positive experiences to your life rather than draining your battery and draining your brain.
- You'll be more focused on your tasks at hand without the multiple interruptions throughout the day, and you can complete them more efficiently.
Steps To Take For A Social Media Detox
- Delete all social media apps from your phone don't just hide them away in a corner. It's not that effective because naturally we will instinctually know... like our hand knows where the app is without even thinking. It's an involuntary movement. You can download these apps again after 30 days and all your information is still going to be intact. The world will not stop turning because you didn't check your phone.
- Log out of all social media accounts on your computer. Make sure that those passwords aren't quickly saved so you can log in instantly. You can use a Chrome extension like Stay Focused to keep you blocked out of these websites completely. The idea is that you want to add as much friction as possible.
- If your business is dependent on social media, then you can use third party apps. It allows me to schedule it allows me to post things and push them to Twitter or Instagram without having to worry about going to these apps separately or having to think of fresh new content every day.
- Figure out what you're going to do with your day. You have to figure out how to keep yourself preoccupied with something more productive other than social media.
If you're having some doubts or if you feel like you're on the fence, try to picture yourself in the future after 30 days.
- How much more productive do you think you could be over the next 30 days if you didn't have the distraction of social media or these apps on your phone?
- What can you accomplish without the distraction of social media?
- How much more clarity and focus will you have in your life after you stop this addiction?
From my own personal journey, I am satisfied with how I have managed my use of social media and can confidently say that I do not scroll through these platforms mindlessly anymore.
I have managed to not let the newsfeeds distract me. While I have missed out on some posts from people I follow and have not been sharing as much, everybody's still here and nothing really changed.
The idea here is that after this 30 day Social Media Detox, you are going be able to go back and think about how you want to bring these apps into your life, in a more intentional and meaningful way.
You may choose to check it once or twice a day and share milestones and achievements, and that's a whole lot better than just mindlessly scrolling.
Good luck and I'll see you on the other side!
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