Growing up, we millennials didn’t even know what social media was, let alone how it might play such a big part in our adult lives. If you feel you are becoming addicted to social media, don’t worry, there are steps you can take to beat your social media addiction.
Depending on when you were born, your first encounter with social media could have been having a MySpace Page or perhaps joining up to Facebook with your educational institute. Of course there was also MSN Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger (ah, AIM), which we used to keep in contact with each other and stay up to date with all of the events and dramas of the school day just gone. There were no smartphones or apps and iPods were used for their original purpose: listening to music on the go. The best thing you could expect from your mobile was the ability to play Snake.
Continuing advances in technology now mean that more people than ever before are able use the Internet extensively for both work and social purposes, and research and communication which previously would have been time consuming now takes just a matter of minutes.
In the past decade, social media has crept from our computer screens onto the screens of our handheld devices. With the flick of a finger we can upload photos directly from our phones onto our social media accounts, reply instantly to messages, or see what our families and friends have been up to. With our mobiles always within arm’s reach, it can be super easy to become a little too enamored with social media and it can negatively affect our relationships with others.
Whilst it is a positive step that we can now talk, search, shop, play, and find love and experience all of the other far reaching benefits of the Internet, as with everything in life, there can’t be a positive without a negative. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is the term used to describe excessive computer use which begins to interfere with daily life. As it stands, IAD is not officially recognized as a clinical disorder, though an increasing body of research and evidence is establishing internet addiction as a public health concern, with many leading health experts now advising it be officially recognized as a clinical disorder.
The condition exists in many subtypes, all of which are essentially characterized by excessive, overwhelming or inappropriate use of online activities, which if done in person would usually be considered negative. For example, compulsive gambling, shopping, pornography use or gaming.
So here are some tips on how to gradually gain control of your social media addiction.
Turn Off Your Notifications
When you stop notifications from disturbing your normal routine, you might find it easier to concentrate on your daily tasks and not get distracted so easily. Notifications are a constant reminder that something is happening in the online world and you might feel like you’re missing out. So to quell your FOMO, turn off your notifications. The bonus is, when you do come around to checking your social media, you may have a buildup of more notifications which will make it more exciting and will make the experience more rewarding.
Set a timer on your watch or phone, to limit the amount of time you spend on social media. Choose a limit depending on the severity of your addiction – say an hour a day, which equates to seven hours per week – and whenever you check your accounts, start your timer going. When you reach your limit, be strong and don’t be tempted to add on extra time. This will be a strong test of your willpower, but it will be worth it in the end.
Get a New Hobby
You may have a lot more free time on your hands now that you’re trying to cut down on your social media usage, so why not pick up a new hobby to fill your spare time? You could learn a new skill or do something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. You’ll probably surprise yourself at how much free time you have when you stop mindlessly scrolling through your newsfeed. Plus your new hobby will keep your mind and hands preoccupied when you’re craving social media.
Spend More Time with Your Loved Ones
Instead of keeping up to date with your friends’ and family members’ lives through a screen, spend time with them in the real world and reconnect with them. Make new memories and keep them personal to you — you don’t need to document everything you do in life with selfies.
Make It a Treat
Look at social media as a treat. You might not buy an artisanal coffee everyday or get your nails done every week, but you may reward yourself with these kinds of small treats when you feel like you deserve it. So think of social media in the same way: only allow yourself screen time when you’ve achieved something or you’ve done something productive first. This way you might change the way you think about social media.
Meet People In Real Life
There are so many ways you can meet people in real life. You could join a club, attend a talk, organize a get-together where all your friends bring a friend, or embark on a single’s night. Whatever activity you choose, you’ll be making connections with new people in reality, which totally beats stalking your ex on Facebook, obsessing over celeb’s Instagram feeds, or trying to take the perfect workout selfie.
Go Cold Turkey
Depending on how bad things have gotten, it might be time to go cold turkey. If you’re spending more time on social media than you are interacting with people in real life, give yourself a reality check by having a holiday from social media. Decide how long it’s going to be, inform your friends online how long you’ll be away and how they can reach you if they need you in person, and delete your apps. If you normally spend a minimum of two hours on social media per day, you will have an extra fourteen hours per week which are totally free to do whatever you want with – you could even setup your own small business or get a part-time job with all your newly freed up time!
A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health found that using multiple social-media platforms may put you at increased risk of depression and anxiety.
The study found that people who use anywhere from seven to 10 social-media platforms are three times more likely to be depressed or anxious, compared to those using no more than two. Those who reported such symptoms were overwhelmed by the multitasking needed to manage their profiles — and the more profiles they had, the more the pressure added up.
Though it’s on the high end, maintaining seven social-media profiles is possible with the bevy of options available to users today.
“People compare themselves to the posts they see, and then feel inadequate,” says Nicole Amesbury, head of clinical development at online-therapy company Talkspace. “Another reason is biology-based. Each time they open [a social media app]and see a positive response, they get a small amount of dopamine released in the brain. When someone doesn’t get enough ‘likes’ or dopamine hits, they feel the loss.”
Social-media consultant and Queens resident Josh Springer, 35, recommends limiting usage to three platforms.
There are many addiction services and avenues of treatments available to help individuals back on the road to good health, one of which is counselling.
- The first step in recovery from social media addiction is to admit you have a problem. Currently there are no 12 Step support groups for social media or internet addiction but breaking the denial and asking for help is a good place to start.
- Secondly seek support (not online!) set up an appointment with an addiction’s trained counsellor who can support you in the process of your recovery and healing from your addiction. You will need to plan your recovery and if this will mean total abstinence from social media.
- Thirdly start to look at re-building your off line life, this means meeting up face to face with people and looking at other activities which you can enjoy.
The world is literally your oyster, so don’t get trapped in a virtual world. Get out from behind your screen and enjoy life’s pleasures!