Addictive behaviors are nothing but trouble. They affect your brain. They consume your time. And they can make it impossible to focus on other aspects of your life.
But today we’re not talking about being addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling. Today we’re talking about a different kind of addiction:
The social media addiction.
Social media addiction is a real thing, and we see more and more of it every day. If you’re ready to get your social media addiction under control (or figure out if you have one), keep reading.
Here’s how to overcome social media addiction once and for all.
Can You Really Be Addicted to Social Media?
The short answer is yes! Social media is an actual behavioral addiction, similar to a gambling addiction.
Now just because you spend a lot of time on social media doesn’t necessarily mean you’re addicted. Being addicted means that you use it excessively or compulsively. Being addicted means that you use it so much that it affects other areas of your life.
The average person spends approximately 2 hours and 33 minutes per day on social media. Based on the average life span, that’s more than 5 years of your life! And that’s what the average person is doing.
If your social media use goes well beyond the 2-hour point, you just might have a social media addiction.
Think about all of the apps you use regularly. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. YouTube. We could go on and on…
The more apps you use regularly, the easier it is to rack up hours on social media. And if you don’t learn how to curtail your habits now, it could get worse.
What Causes Social Media Addiction?
Addictive behaviors are a result of chemical changes in the brain. But you don’t have to smoke anything, drink anything or take any drugs to create those neurological changes. Why?
Dopamine is an organic chemical that exists in the human brain. It works as a neurotransmitter – a messenger that sends signals between neurons. Those signals cause us to feel happiness, and there are a variety of behaviors that people do to increase their dopamine levels.
For some people, it’s gambling. For some people, it’s eating sweets. For some people, it’s exercise. All of these things can increase dopamine levels and make you feel happier.
Social media happens to be one of those things.
Likes, retweets, shares and positive feedback all increase dopamine levels. In that way, social media can make you feel happier. It doesn’t necessarily MAKE you happier, but it can make you feel that way. And that leads to cravings that make you want it more and more.
But, like all addictions, it can adversely affect your brain.
Your Social Media Addiction is Affecting Your Brain
Craving likes, shares and positive affirmations are just as addictive as drugs and alcohol.
And, like drugs and alcohol, you can build a tolerance to it over time. That simply makes you want it more and more and be able to tolerate it for longer, more intensive periods.
The higher your tolerance, the more likely you are to experience withdrawal when it’s taken away.
But aside from the fleeting pleasure of a like or a retweet or a share, social media can have serious adverse effects on your brain and on your overall mental health.
Social media can lead to low self-esteem. It is natural to compare ourselves to other people, and the more you use social media the more likely you are to feel as though you don’t measure up. That lack of self-esteem can actually make you feel less comfortable when you’re in a real-life social setting.
Social media appears to be designed to promote social interaction. But a social media addiction can actually cause you to feel lonely and feel disconnected from the real world.
7 Steps to Kicking Your Social Media Habit
Whether you’re looking to quit using social media altogether or get your habit down to a healthy amount of time each day, keep reading. Here are seven specific things you can do to kick that social media habit!
1. Think About Why You Use It
Admitting you have a problem may be the first step, but that alone won’t help you to control it. In order to get control of an addiction, you need to understand why you do it in the first place.
Think about why you use social media (and why you use it so much).
Is it because you’re bored?
Does it relieve some of the stress that you feel from work, from school or from home?
Do those likes and shares give you a sense of reward or acceptance that you don’t get in real life?
Is the FOMO more than you can handle? Do you feel like you’re going to miss out on something big if you’re not checking your social media constantly?
If you can identify WHY you use it, it can shed light on the bigger issues you may be facing.
Lynell Ross, Founder and Managing Editor of Zivadream, shares, “Part of what drives our addiction to social media is comparing ourselves to others. We keep logging on to see who is going on a better vacation, has a bigger house, or going to a party we aren't invited to.
Ross continues, “comparing ourselves to others is not only useless, it is damaging to our self-esteem. When you think about your values and what matters to you most, you won't feel the
need to find out what others are doing.”
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2. Turn Off the Notifications
Do you stop what you’re doing and instantly check your social media every time you get a notification? A lot of us do exactly that.
Notifications can be difficult to resist. And if you’re unable to ignore them, you’ll be drawn into your social media more than you need to be.
There’s also a good chance that all of those notifications are pulling you away from your focus, whether that be work, school or your family. A lack of productivity can lead to more stress, poor sleeping habits and a whole host of physical ailments.
Turn your notifications off, and you won’t be able to respond to every message and post instantly. Your friends and family will start to realize that contacting you through social media is not the most effective way to reach you.
When your inner circle realizes this, they’ll probably start reaching out in other ways, such as through texts or maybe even phone calls.
Answering a call or replying to a text is a lot less time consuming than checking Facebook messenger and getting lost in social media for an hour!
3. Delete Those Apps
The less social media apps you have on your phone, the harder it will be to use.
Delete all or most of your social apps. If there’s one that you can’t live without, keep it. Just eliminating a few of the platforms will make it easier to cut your usage down.
It’s also important to realize that you don’t need to have a robust social media profile on every single platform that exists. Even some of the most popular influencers and biggest celebrities favor one platform over others. You can do the same.
4. Keep Your Distance
A great way to curb an addiction to something is to make it hard to access. For alcoholics, that may mean not having booze in the house. For gamblers, that might mean avoiding casinos. For social media addicts, that means putting some physical distance between you and your phone.
You should physically make social media harder to use. Don’t carry your phone in your pocket at all times. Instead, leave your phone in one specific spot when you’re at home or at work.
By disabling notifications and keeping your phone more than an arm’s reach away, accessing social media apps will be a bit more difficult.
It’s also helpful to not bring your phone into your bedroom at night. Without it by your bedside, checking social media won’t be the last thing you do at night or the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning.
Already trying to convince yourself that you need your phone in your bedroom because you use it as a morning alarm? That’s no excuse. If you need an alarm, get an alarm clock!
5. Set Limitations
When you’re trying to battle addiction, you have to set some boundaries. Create limitations for yourself or create time blocks throughout the day for when you are allowed to use social media.
How and when you use it is up to you. Some people like to spend five minutes on social media every three or four hours. Others prefer to use it for a full half-hour at the end of the day.
However, you structure your boundaries and limitations, stick to them!
Experts in psychology suggest that you should limit your social media use to 30 minutes per day. If you can, save those thirty minutes for the commute home or when you’re relaxing after dinner. If you can’t bear the thought of going all day without social media, try breaking that up into five or ten minute blocks staggered throughout the day.
When setting your limitations, be realistic. If need be, wean yourself off social media a little bit at a time by cutting back your usage 10% or 20% every day until you’re down to that 30 minute mark.
6. Find a New Hobby
Most people look at curbing an addiction as the need to break a certain habit. But breaking a habit is a hard thing to do. Rather than try to break one, find a new habit to replace it with.
You’ll think less about social media if you can find a better way to occupy your mind.
Pick up an old hobby that you used to love as a kid. Or, find a brand new hobby that you’ve always wanted to try.
Play a sport. Learn to play an instrument. Cook. Exercise. Learn a new language. Read a book. There are endless ways to spend your time. And they’re all better than wasting hours and hours scrolling through random posts on Instagram!
7. Socialize IRL
Social media, despite its name, isn’t all that social at all. In fact, it’s a great excuse to sit on the couch by yourself, talking with friends that might not even be real people. Stop making social media a priority and start making socializing a priority in real life.
Spend some face-to-face time with your actual friends and family. Get off the couch, put down your phone, and get out in the world so you can explore new things. The more you leave the house, the more likely you are to make new friends – REAL friends – in real life.
Learn to Treat Social Media as a Reward
No one is saying that you need to quit using social media altogether, but it is something that you should learn to do sparingly.
Instead of treating social media as something you like to do, treat it as a reward that you only get to enjoy after you do something you need to do.
Be strict on yourself. Tell yourself that you can only use social media once you’ve completed all your work that day, gotten in a workout or eaten all of your veggies. Whatever motivating factor you need to put in place, do so.
That way, you’ll be more likely to do the thing you don’t want to do so you can get your reward at the end!
How Do You Know When You Have a Social Media Addiction?
If you’re spending hours each day on social media, you might be addicted.
If your social media habits are affecting other aspects of your life, such as your school, work, or personal relationships, you most definitely have an addiction. And if you feel anger or withdrawal when you can’t use it, you’ve got a real problem on your hands.
Here’s how to curb your social media addiction:
- Identify why you use it in the first place
- Turn off notifications so you can’t respond instantly
- Delete your apps (or most of them)
- Put physical distance between you and your phone
- Set time limits for yourself
- Find a new hobby to replace your addiction
- Socialize more in real life
If you think your social media addiction is out of hand, start putting these practices into play right now. The longer you wait, the more addicted you’ll become, and the harder it will be to quit!