Ending Social Media Addiction: 5 Basic Steps
Although I now call myself a marketing and innovation philosopher, I have a background in psychology. I spent years doing the research for my own book, to fight my own smartphone addiction . I continued learning and doing research about the issues, as well as coaching people around me.
From all this, I have devised the following five-step plan to specifically help in fighting social media addiction and smartphone overuse.
These are the basic steps to ending smartphone addiction. In the next section I offer you my five advanced steps, to go even beyond that.
Here are a few I recommend:
Now, after taking these basic steps, you might be ready to take it to the next level.
How To Beat Your Social Media Addiction According To A Therapist
Social media use is linked to depression and anxiety — here’s what to do to reduce your risk.
Love it or hate it, social media apps such as and have profoundly changed the way we think, communicate and socialize as a society. Instagram is even beginning to change features in response to studies linking social media usage to increased rates of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Given that mental health experts, researchers and other pros are voicing concerns on how our social-media obsessed society can more cause harm than we may have guessed, you may be wondering if it’s affecting your own mental health.
Now that more people are talking about the negative effects of using social media too much, it’s common to see friends on Instagram announce they’re doing a “detox” or taking a break from the apps for a period of time. But is quitting social media a good idea and can it really help you in the long term?
According to Dr. Logan Jones, psychologist and founder of NYC Therapy + Wellness, it depends. While taking a break from social media can be helpful in some cases, according to Jones, there’s a lot more to be said surrounding why you’re taking a break in the first place.
Keep reading to find out why taking a break from social media is not enough to change your health, and how to make your social media use better for your mental health.
In our age of social media, it’s easy to get sucked into checking every app.
Turn Off All Alerts And Notifications
Im slightly embarrassed to admit that I didnt think of this strategy very quickly. Once I did, it was such an Ah-Ha moment for me!
This is such a simple solution that can make a huge difference! As soon as I stopped getting an alert every time I had a message or I was being tagged, my desire to get on the platform quickly fizzled out.
You can turn off notifications in one of two ways, you can go directly into your social media app and turn off all notifications or you can go into your phone settings , go into the app you want, and select turn off notifications.
Read Also: How Can You Help Someone With Drug Addiction
Remove Your Phone From Your Morning Routine
Likewise, do not reach for your phone the moment you get out of bed. For a lot of us, the first thing we do in the morning is to check our phone. Avoid this! Not only does this exhibit an unhealthy dependency on our phones, the sudden huge quantity of content which will hit you as you scroll is too much for our tired mind to handle. This will overwhelm and distract us, and negatively impact our ability to focus for the day. Try not to touch it until you are at least settled into the day.
What To Do If Your Child Has Been Harmed By Social Media
If your child has been harmed by social media, you are not alone. Social media companies have known for years that their products are harmful, yet they have continued to promote their products to young people while refusing to take effective measures to make their platforms safe.
This is egregious, and they will never stop harming children and young adults until they are held accountable. Contact us today if social media has harmed your child.
Recommended Reading: Support For Parents Of Addicts
How Do You Know If You Have Social Media Addiction
A mental health professional can help you determine whether you truly have social media addiction or just really enjoy using it a lot.
But there are a few key differences between social media addiction and a habit that you enjoy. These include:
- negative effects to your job or schoolwork due to the overuse of social media
- increased use during other activities, such as hanging out with friends and family, or while eating
- increased reliance on social media as a way to cope with problems
- restlessness and irritability whenever youre not using social media
- anger whenever social media usage is reduced
- thinking about social media whenever you arent using it, so much so that its the first thing you turn to whenever you have the opportunity
Whether you have social media addiction or are just on your apps more than you need to be, the good news is there are ways you can help decrease your overall use.
Consider the following tips to help you achieve a healthier balance with social media:
Its also important to take regular breaks from social media altogether to help find some real-life grounding.
Depending on your needs, your break can last for 1 day per week, a whole month, or an entire season. Let yourself be in control of this decision not your social media account.
Set Time Limits For Social Media Use:
One of the best ways to prevent addiction is to set limits on how much time you spend on social media. Try to limit yourself to 30 minutes per day or less. If you find that youre spending more time than that, try to reduce your usage even further. You can also set limits by only using social media at certain times of day, or on certain days of the week. For example, you could allow yourself to use social media for 30 minutes in the evening, after work, or at school.
There are a few different ways to set time limits for social media use. One way is to use a timer. Set the timer for the amount of time you want to spend on social media, and when it goes off, stop using social media. Another way is to download an app that will track your usage and limit your access.
Also Check: Outpatient Programs For Drug Addiction
Impact Of Social Media Addiction
Human beings are naturally social creatures that benefit emotionally and physically from social interaction. However, the beneficial effects of social interaction occur face-to-face.
Social media interactions are often inauthentic. The advertisements and images on social media are edited and unrealistic. Many young people, perceiving these as real, compare themselves and their lives to what is depicted in these images and try in vain to measure up.
What Made Me Do This
I recently had the chance to read the book Hooked by Nir Eyal. Though the book offers so many positive things to designers, it is impossible not to think of the negative implications. I learned how powerful and dangerous these technologies could be, if not used properly.
At this time, I was also very active on Instagram and spent most of my time mindlessly. Once I started applying the knowledge I gained, I came to realize that social media is almost always influencing our decisions, the way we spend our time, and the amount of time we spend every day. It was the realization that helped me break out of the loop. This is what BF. Skinner mentioned as a way to break out of the vortex.
Knowing you are being controlled by something is the first step towards breaking its grip.
However, I still believe that designers should take primary responsibility instead of blaming the users. So I thought to redesign Instagram in a less-addictive way by introducing more features to help in digital well-being. I am aware that Instagram has already made heavy strides and invested in user well-being in the last few years, but here are certain features that I believe could be added.
PS: This redesign is not to point out Instagram. Its just my opinion and is purely hypothetical.
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Does Social Media Addiction Cause Withdrawal
People who compulsively use social media are unlikely to develop physical withdrawal symptoms in the traditional sense. However, they may experience certain psychological effects.
For instance, stopped or reduced access to social media may cause restlessness, irritability, agitation, or distress.
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This type of psychological withdrawal is similar to that seen with other types of behavioral addictions, such as gambling addiction or internet addiction.
Use Positive Reinforcement To Build Better Social Media Habits
Like Jones suggested, using an app or Apple’s Screen Time feature on your phone is a good first step for being more mindful of your social media usage. You may be surprised how much time scrolling Instagram can add up. According to Jones, it can be helpful to evaluate this time and choose something more positive and intentional you’d rather fill your time with .
If you decide to fill your former social media time with a new activity, like say reading, it will take a few weeks for the new habit to set in. It’s totally normal to sit down to read and feel the urge to check social media for a while. But, it’s best to commit to your routine and try not to break it for at least three to four weeks, according to Jones.
“From a behavioral point of view, doing something for three weeks or at least 21 days will allow you to form a new habit. You really are rewiring a certain part of your brain when you try it,” Jones said. And Jones said it’s helpful to add in a positive activity, instead of just telling yourself or others that you’re cutting down on social media.
“The best way to reinforce behavior is to do more of it. So instead of saying, ‘I’m not going to do social media’, you can say ‘I’m working on being more present.’ So you want to be affirming healthy, positive things that you’re doing,” Jones said.
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How To Break Social Media Addiction Or Spend Less Time Online
- You may be able to break a social media addiction by going on a cleanse, setting limits, and deleting apps.
- While you don’t need to abstain from social media entirely, experts say it’s important to set limits.
- This article was medically reviewed by Zlatin Ivanov, MD, who is certified in psychiatry and addiction psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology at Psychiatrist NYC.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a behavior that becomes compulsive or continues despite negative consequences. In 2017, 43% of Americans reported checking social media constantly, and 20% said social media is a source of stress.
In addition, interacting with social media can trigger a dopamine response in the brain, similar to that triggered by drug or alcohol use. That response can leave you wanting more and feeling addicted. Here’s how to fight it.
How To Tell If Youre Addicted To Social Media
Since social media is so easily accessible, its easy to develop a problem. When you notice that your mood is directly related to your social media use, or that your sleep or relationships are being damaged by your use, thats a sign that its time to get some help.
Some general signs of a social media addiction include:8
- Engagement in social media changes your mood i.e. you feel happier when youre on social media
- You have a behavioral, cognitive, and emotional preoccupation with social media
- You keep increasing your use of social media over time
- You experience unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms when social media use is restricted or stopped
- You have interpersonal problems due to your social media usage
- You quickly revert back to excessive social media usage after you try to take a break
- As the number of symptoms and their severity increases, the more likely you have a problem with social media use.
Also Check: How Does Nad Help With Addiction
Do An Audit Of Your Social Media Use
Something as simple as a daily journal auditing social media use can go a long way. Within this journal you may account for time spent on social media, individuals contacted, and feelings associated with use that day. Recognizing and monitoring your usage may help you recognize issues before they start, or stop them before they become worse.
How Do You Know If You Have A Social Media Addiction
A person can suspect having social media addiction if they spend increasing amounts of time and energy on social media. Another major indicator of problematic social media use is its negative impact on an individuals life and personal relationships.
Because social media is now the priority in an addicts life, they may start neglecting responsibilities and ignoring real-life relationships to engage with social media users. This interference in daily life functioning ultimately leads to a poorer quality of life.
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Shifting From Subtraction To Addition
Today, I use Freedom to block social websites and news in the mornings nearly every day. I deleted Facebook and email from my phone, I will manually re-install them from 4pm to 5pm and then delete them again . I take regular 24-hour breaks. And I track my usage with RescueTime, which sends me an alert when Ive hit 45 minutes of total distracting time.
With social media, many of us want to reduce our consumption, but we miss an important piece of the puzzle: were craving something that we want, and we think that social media has a quick answer. These experiments helped me realize that at the heart of my cravings around the social internet are deep connections with friends, access to new ideas and information, or time to zone out and relax after a hard day. Each of these components can be satisfied with other things beyond social media, and more effectively. As with many tools, its not an all or nothing, good-versus-bad conversation. I will continue to experiment in the future, especially now that Apple has introduced its Screen Time feature. Just because the apps are available, doesnt mean our current default behaviors are the best ways to use them or get what we want. By limiting my access to social sites, I created a pattern disrupt that allowed me to reach out to more friends, read more books, and go deeper into work that mattered.
This App Could Fix Your Social Media Addiction
Frederik Riedel was addicted to Instagram. It was the first COVID-19 lockdown and, stuck at home in Berlin, Riedel knew he was spending too much time on the app. He knew that he felt worse after using it than before. And yet, multiple times a day, his finger would gravitate to the little square icon.
To quit, he first tried going cold turkey. That didnt workit was too easy to get around. Next, he tried the function on his phone that let him set time limits on his apps. That didnt work either, for the same reason.
Weve all been there, Riedel, 27, says. I started to question myself, like, Why is this happening? And then of course, as an app developer, I tried to find solutions.
The solution Riedel settled upon was simple: remove the element of instant gratification that makes opening social media apps so addictive. He designed an app that would activate whenever his finger clicked the Instagram icon, and force him to wait for about 10 seconds before continuing. During the intermission, the app would invite him to take a deep breath. Just by introducing that tiny element of friction, Riedel discovered, his social media use began to decline drastically.
Its fascinating to me, Riedel says, that such a small change can really impact our habits long-term.
Experiment #: 24 Hours To Break The Cycle
One of my favorite methods for resetting my brain is taking a full weekend day without my phone or my laptop, an idea I originally got from Tiffany Shlains tech shabbat. Back when I used to train for triathlons and open-water swims, Saturdays were spent largely outdoors, and its rather difficult to spend time scrolling the web while biking or swimming. So I used Freedom and a mesh wifi network to block the internet from midnight on Friday evening until Saturday at 3pm from all of my machines.
Results. Having something to dogoing on a hike, going to the beach, meeting friends for coffeehelps tremendously.
- The hardest part is walking out the door without the phone. From there, the freedom begins. The best way to block the internet is to physically leave devices elsewhere.
- On days when I stay inside, I set my Freedom App to a weekend schedule of no social media or email until 3pm on Saturdays. The mornings can be lazy and slow. Im not a doctor, Im not an emergency worker, and we can all make it through the day if Im not on email at 6am on a Saturday morning. By the time 1pm rolls around, Im usually so involved in some other activity that I dont notice.
- I found I needed to be flexible about this experiment. On days when I have article deadlines or want to work a few hours on the weekend, Ill set parameters for how and when to log on to get a chunk of work done.