What interests me most about social media right now is getting real about social media addiction.
For years I’ve been going to a fun relaxed day of learning called Podcamp, where we learn from each other about the latest in social media. So I decided to sort out my thoughts about social media addiction by writing here, and then I’ll lead a session on this topic at Podcamp.
I think I’ll even ask everyone in the session to power down their technology, and find out what happens. Withdrawal? Real connections?
Here are my thoughts about the problem and some solutions. And don’t miss the fun Muppets video below that will give you some relief right away.
The Trouble with Looking at Screens So Much
I hear these kinds of struggles a lot:
- “I don’t like going in to Facebook because I get lost in there and lose my focus. But I feel like I should because my business needs to be visible in there.”
- “People are always looking down at their phones instead of connecting with the people right next to them.”
- “My kids are addicted to the computer screen and they’re cranky when they can’t have it.”
- “I burned something on the stove, again, because I was busy looking at my phone.” (Umm, that was me.)
- “I stayed up too late again because I lost track of time on Facebook.”
And sometimes it’s even life-threatening:
More than a quarter (27%) of drivers report typing or sending a text or email while driving, yet 84% of drivers call it completely unacceptable.”
~AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
Doing something they know is dangerous is a sign of addiction going on. One way to define addiction is when you keep doing something even when it’s interfering with your life or safety.
Sorry to be so gloomy. And I’m leaving out the stats about car accidents, health problems due to sedentary lifestyles, lost productivity, anxiety connections, memory loss, etc. It’s no small thing. (More on the addictive info here.)
OK, let’s have a little breather… 😅
The Bright Side
Life is quite good when you put down that captivating screen. And we can strike a healthy balance. I hear some people are achieving that!
This 3-minute music video for all ages, from Sesame Street, strikes a balance and will make you smile. Social media fans will appreciate the humor.
I believe those screens really do something to the brain that increases the likelihood of zoning out in an addictive way. So that means we gotta be on guard if we’re going to stay out of trouble. It takes some extra effort.
These things seem to help:
1) Cultivate a mindful approach to going online.
For instance, the other day I knew I wanted to pick up my smartphone to look up a couple quick things but I also know I can get distracted in there and then an hour has gone by. Ugh. So this time I wrote down the 2 tasks and then my brain was able to stay focused and get it done within a minute and get out. So simple. I should do this more often.
2) Schedule in real world stuff that doesn’t involve a computer screen.
Remember things like sitting down with friends without phones nearby, or walking outside? Hint: when you want to connect, you can use that phone as a PHONE.
3) Take long screen-free breaks and see what happens!
I’ve been doing Screen-free Sundays, admittedly not every week, but I’m here to say it feels GREAT. I power down the computer and the phone for the day, and my body immediately feels the difference, like I’ve been set free. It was surprisingly easy and delightful. Each time, I rediscover the joy of drawing, reading real books, writing on paper, breathing more deeply, and getting outside. As a bonus, it kickstarts my ability to be mindful about it the rest of the week. OK, I’m doing it next Sunday for sure!
4) Notice what your body says… and listen.
Hmm, right now my neck is getting sore from sitting at the computer and I’m ignoring it while I type this. Ridiculous! Break time… be back in a few minutes.
Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: The world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down….Consider actually exhaling.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
- 18 Things You Miss By Constantly Staring at Your Smartphone
These moving photos are sure to inspire you to face the smartphone withdrawal.
- Your dog (such a good role model).
Don’t miss this film, The Social Dilemma (2020). I found it fascinating, disturbing, and kinda hopeful.
My Update About Getting Away from Social Media
Since I originally wrote this post back in 2015, I’ve taken continual steps back from social media, even though I’m still on the screen a lot for work and entertainment.
I read a book, that I highly recommend, called Digital Minimalism. It inspired me to spend as little time as I can on there. I go in for work-related things for a total of about one hour per week. I am feeling really good about keeping it so light!
I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything because life is better this way.
I still look at my phone way too much and I can feel the negative effects on my brain when I overdo it. It’s not just social media that’s addictive, it’s the screen too, it turns out. They make it work that way on purpose. They know how our brains work.
Big sigh. Time to reread Digital Minimalism I think. Not as an e-book. Like a real book.