Most people’s lives today are centered around their smartphones. Their eyes seem to be glued to the screen more than they focus on where to walk. Did you know that an online statistics report done by Statista revealed that the average daily internet users worldwide, from 2019-2020, spent 142-145 minutes per day on social media? In the U.S. specifically, the daily time spent on social media was two hours and three minutes. Over a month, that accumulates to 57 hours and 24 minutes; that’s more than a basic 40-hour workweek! When you consider how time-consuming this habit is, one can only help but wonder if people have lives outside of their social media accounts.
The engineers behind social media platforms have already admitted that the intention was to make their users addicted for financial gain. And while it is understood that the motive behind a product/service is to keep the consumers coming back, could the habitual use of social media platforms be creating mind-trapping addictions?
In a Wall Street Journal article, former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris, blew the lid off some of the tech industry’s best-kept secrets about the addictive nature of social media. He argues that technology and smartphones have stolen the attention of their users and have a corrosive effect on their self-esteem through an obsession with “likes” and “followers.” Scientifically, it has been proven that receiving “likes” on social media is linked to the release of dopamine in the brain, which is the “feel-good” chemical. The positive social feedback rewards this behavior, motivating the user to post even more. This is how the addiction is formed. However, all is not lost for those who want to regain their freedom. Just like any other addiction, doing a “digital detox” requires a little willpower and discipline. Here are some tips.
Identify Your Reason for Using Social Media
The other co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, Aza Raskin, is a leading technology engineer who designed the “infinite scroll.” The infinite scroll feature on most social media platforms allows the user to endlessly swipe through website or video content without clicking, which causes users to be impulsive and lack concentration. It’s also a great time waster as it encourages the mindless viewing of content without any purpose. Mr. Raskin concluded in a 2018 BBC interview, “If you don’t give your brain time to catch up with your impulses, you just keep scrolling.” Such sporadic behavior has lasting effects on the level of focus of an individual.
To combat the addiction, question your motive for engaging in the social media platform beforehand. Is it to contact a client for your business, or to promote a new product/service? Perhaps to write a blog post? Whatever your reason, commit to it and avoid the distractions. It’s easy to get carried away by the vast ocean of new content designed to grab your attention. And what should’ve taken five minutes can quickly become thirty. Don’t let click-bait and “infinite scroll” pull your strings. Take back control of your mental health.
Remove Notification Settings
Now more than ever, the need for external validation through likes, tweets, and shares creates anxiety. The best way to be free is to simply turn off your notification settings. The propensity to sit on the edge of your seat counting views is unhealthy. This is true, especially for content creators. A possible remedy would be to temporarily leave the media platform after making a post to free your mind from obsessively checking in.
Find Value Outside of Social Media
If you’ve built your image and personality on social media, this is easier said than done. Your appearance on the chosen platform may be how you make a living. But this can create a tendency to overthink, over-plan, and over-indulge over every post to maintain your social standing. If you want to fight against this obsessive appearance compulsion, fall back in love with yourself. Re-ignite the hobbies and passions you’ve always enjoyed. Find time to explore new ones. Keep learning, growing, and expanding yourself. This can also add a genuine freshness to your posts while relieving your mind from the constant stress of people’s perception of you.
Withdrawal from Digital Dependence
Quoting from an article posted on the Addiction Center website (www.addictioncenter.com) covering the effects of social media on the brain, it reads, “Due to the effect it has on the brain, social media is addictive both physically and psychologically. According to a new study by Harvard University, self-disclosure on social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that also ignites when taking an addictive substance.” Therefore, treating digital dependency with the same aggression as alcoholism or nicotine addiction is a sure-fire way to get “clean” from your addiction. Many refer to this radical action as a digital detox and may require you to completely spend time away from social media. The results are oftentimes apparent, brightening the very countenance of a person.
There are many other methods to overcoming social media addiction. However, the main pointers to take away are first, recognize your addiction, and second, be intentional about your determination to be free. Mental health is one of the most coveted aspects of our well-being. It’s something that should be fought for, even at the expense of our social media platforms.