Social media addiction is a behavioral disorder in which we become enthralled by social media and are unable to reduce or cease our consumption of online media despite clear negative consequences.
While social media can seem like mindless and relaxing fun, it actually has a significant effect on our brain. Whenever we log on to our favourite apps, dopamine signals in our brain increases.
These neurotransmitters are associated with pleasure. When we experience more dopamine after using social media, our brain identifies this activity as a rewarding one that we ought to repeat. I would feel this reaction whenever I made a post of my own and gained positive feedback.
The rush of dopamine we get from likes and comments is actually rewiring our brain to crave more social media. However I’ve learnt these positive feelings experienced during social media use are only temporary. On top of this, social media use can reduce quality time spent with loved ones. It can result in being less present in the moment, disappointment and low self esteem when posts aren’t “liked” or responded to, and unrealistic expectations of what your life should look like when most of what you see of others’ lives is holidays, good times and beautiful people.
I approach life with a “everything in moderation” mentality and this is no different with social media. I don’t believe it’s necessary to give up social media entirely and instead I subscribe to the ideal psychological outcome of controlled use.
Over the years, after consciously feeling the onset of my own social media addiction, I ran some personal experiments which have opened my eyes about my relationship to social media platforms. Through these experiments I have learnt and implemented a few strategies to maximise the benefit of these social apps while limiting the downsides.
My first experiment was a complete removal of all online social platforms from Friday night until Monday morning
Yup, no Facebook, or LinkedIn for 2 days. Once I decided to go all-in, it was surprisingly easier to do than I expected. Afterwards, I felt an instant relief, a sense of serenity and surprisingly a clearer mind.
My second experiment was turning off my Notifications
When I stopped notifications from disturbing my normal routine, I found it easier to concentrate on my daily tasks and not get distracted so easily. Notifications were a constant reminder that something is happening in the online world and it made me feel like I was missing out.
My third experiment was removing my phone from my morning routine
For many of us, the first thing we do in the morning is to check our phone. Avoid this!
The sudden huge quantity of content which hits us as we scroll is way too much for our mind to handle. It overwhelms and distractS us, and negatively impacts our ability to focus for the day ahead. I prefer to check my phone once I have had my coffee and settled into the day.
My fourth experiment was during lockdown in 2020, and this involved falling back in love with my hobbies
Setting aside time away from work and my phone, I was able to start playing the guitar again and exercising more. Over the last few years I have also started a new hobby which is listening to audio books. In giving myself back time I would have spent scrolling social media I was able to dedicate more time to learning new and cool things.
I hope some of these strategies can help you prevent an overreliance on social media before it becomes harmful.
If you do suspect you have social media addiction, there are many other ways you can treat it to increase your overall well-being. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your GP or mental health professional for help!
I’m Brett Thiedeman – Just an ordinary guy, focused, conscious and intentional about my learning, growth & being a change maker in my own life and the lives of others.