Q: I find myself increasingly glued to my smartphone checking Facebook and Twitter. What is a good way to combat an addiction to social media?
Sounds like it’s time for a digital detox. First let’s assess your level of toxicity.
You allude to having an addiction. Addiction means you have a loss of control, continue using social media despite harm and feel cravings for it followed by compulsive use. Answering yes to the following questions may indicate addiction: Does the amount of time you spend on social media interfere with essential daily tasks like completing work duties or going to sleep at a reasonable hour? Does not receiving enough “likes” on your post propel you into a dark place of inadequacy? If you went a week without checking social media would you encounter symptoms of agitation or feel incomplete and desperate?
Perhaps you have a psychological dependence rather than an addiction.
Answering yes to the following questions may indicate dependence: Do you typically have your phone connected to you in your pocket or hand? Do you have phantom phone syndrome, misperceiving your stomach growling or leg twitching for the sound or vibration of your phone? Is social media influencing your cognitive process, such as giving you symptoms of ADHD, but you choose to overuse social media anyway?
Addicts and dependents alike, consider these tips:
— Find space from your fifth appendage: the phone.
To start, keep the phone in your bag or briefcase and not on your person. Determine the maximum amount of time you will allow yourself on social media per day and enlist a friend to help you implement this “use and abuse policy” with yourself.
— Practice impulse control.
Neurologist and psychiatrist Victor Frankl stated, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” In today’s world of instant gratification, we’ve turned into 6 year olds whining ‘I want it now!’ Learn mindfulness to develop a witnessing presence. This freedom from reactivity lets you stay aware of what’s happening immediately around you and within you.
— Don’t let social media replace face-to-face interactions, the kind that actually include eye contact.
Dependence on social media can encourage social slackers. These are the individuals who want to feel connected, but without putting forth the effort. They are too lazy or feel too vulnerable. As a result they turn to social media to provide the most connective value for the least energetic output. Are things less risky for you on the other side of a screen? Prevent becoming a drone who loses the ability to interface with another human in front of you. Notice too what you could be modeling for your children. Bring a more intentional approach to how you connect with others.
— Choose sleeping over scrolling.
To your body, the bright lights of your smartphone signal the need to be alert and on guard. And you wonder why you have insomnia? Stop looking at the screen an hour before bed. Sleep and rest are essential to every part of your waking life. Enough said.
— Even if you refrain from posting to social media, your event still has value.
It’s OK to not post that embarrassing anecdote or latest self-revelation. What you experience in your own presence has worth in and of itself. Consider letting a private moment of self-reflection be just that, a private moment. It’s also OK to not post the change in your relationship status. You never have to share your personal truths with anyone who does not feel protective of your heart.
— Turn your FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) into JOMO (Joy of Missing Out).
Let go of incessantly checking what’s going on elsewhere, as if the grass is greener over there. Notice if you can’t refrain from online participation for fear of being forgotten or deemed irrelevant. If you only derive self-worth from the number of “likes” to your post, you will be caught in a cycle that can never fill your void. Notice if this is more about overachieving and a “having it all” mentality. Maturity means recognizing you cannot be everything to everybody, online or otherwise.
— Take space from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Snap Chat, all chat rooms, and anything else I didn’t mention (because I’m too old to keep up with all the options!) and see what else you have time for again. Remember that even if you skip a few days on social media the most vital information about those who matter in your life will make their way to you. It’s hard enough to manage our discretionary time. Before you overdose on social media remember there are indeed other things you want to experience with your one precious life.
Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to [email protected].