The year was 2007.
It was my first “hit”.
It was “alright” at first. But it had a strange pull on my burgeoning adolescent brain.
I had experiences like it before but this was different. It was something more…alluring.
It was “alright” until I got my first “like”. Then it started to go downhill from there.
I started to post more “memes”. More witty statuses. More shock-jock material.
It was all harmless, titillating fun.
It only stopped eventually realized was spending hours on a site that delivered sugary highs for doing absolutely nothing.
I was becoming a human PEZ dispenser of shallow entertainment.
My drug of choice in this instance was Facebook. For others, it may be Twitter, Instagram, or even the entire Internet itself.
Luckily, I was able to see that this was leading to a social media addiction and in extension, an Internet addiction, so I cut it off.
Others, aren’t so lucky.
Some people are deep down the rabbit hole of social media and Internet addiction that they don’t even know it’s a problem. Unfortunately, it is.
In this article, I’m going to talk about:
- The reason why you can’t stop “checking” social media
- How to tell if you have an addiction to social media or Internet usage
- The dangers excessive social media and Internet have on your self-development
- How you can free yourself from the nasty tentacles of social media and Internet addiction
If you’ve ever had a lingering thought in your mind asking the question “do I have a problem with this?”, then read on.
Why Is Using Social Media or the Internet a Big Problem?
If you’re reading this article, it’s clear that you have a good degree of self-awareness. You realize that you probably have a social media, Internet, or even general digital addiction and you want to fix it.
Coming from that train of thought…if you think of time as money (which it very well can be), the amount of money you have wasted (literally and figuratively)…is staggering.
Many people hate wasting money, yet that is what millions of people do when they spend excessive time on the Internet.
Every minute you spend on social media or looking at the Internet could be spent doing something else that will actually make a difference.
You could have spent that hour learning a new skill or reading a book.
It ultimately takes away your personal effectiveness.
Realizing this, it is easier to turn a more inquisitive eye towards our collective social media and Internet habits so we can ask the question:
“What is this doing to me?”
Why It’s So Damn Hard to Quit Social Media and Ultimately the Internet
We humans naturally avoid pain and seek pleasure. This means we gravitate towards the path of least resistance (I touched on this in the article on social intelligence).
In the case of social media and Internet addiction, there is no visible benefit to quitting your behavior, so it makes no sense to stop. If you took a sniff of cocaine, had a heart attack, and managed to survive – I doubt you’d do it again.
Compound this with the incredible fact that no one considers Internet or social media addiction an “addiction” in the same way for hard drugs. The result is a culture that literally acts as an enabling force to encourage this type of behavior.
But I guess I didn’t answer your lingering question:
“Do I have an addiction?“
Ok, so you may be in slight denial at this point. Maybe you use the Internet a bit too much, but you aren’t “addicted”, right?
Using the classical definition of addiction:
Addiction is the repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable.- MentalHelp.net
If you find it hard to get work done, if you procrastinate, if you check your phone first thing in the morning and head to a social media site – then you can say that your use is “habitual”.
But let’s tinker with this:
What happens when you try to stop?
When most people try to stop, they find out that they can’t.
It’s not that they don’t want to it, it’s that there’s no real reward (in their mind) to stopping this behavior.
If you stop and you “can’t” or experience withdrawal symptoms (irritability, restlessness, anxiety, etc), then yeah – you have an addiction, pal.
And addiction shouldn’t be something that’s shameful. There is no shame in admitting you have a problem, even with something as “minor” as this one.
People may think you’re a “crybaby”, but challenge them to not go onto their favorite social media website for a week.
Nine times out of ten? They can’t do it.
Why Is It So Easy to Become Addicted to the Internet?
Human beings are wired to seek out and enjoy novelty and new experiences.
Because our ancestors’ survival relied on them to chase new experiences and surroundings. If that wasn’t the case, only a tiny section of the world would be explored rather than the entire globe.
As a reward for novelty, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine every time we engage in novelty.
This neurotransmitter is responsible for motivation – not pleasure. It is the “go get it” chemical that makes a person seek out new experiences.
This is why a new song sounds better than the old song.
This is why your new girlfriend kisses better than your old girlfriend.
This is why you can literally become “addicted to travel”.
We still have our ancestor’s DNA and unfortunately, evolution can’t keep up with the pace of the modern world. We are mal-adapted for our current environment.
We are effectively an old species in a brave new world.
Old People in a New World
In days of old (up to the early 90s), information was sparse and limited.
Most knowledge was in the form of books or passed down by oral traditions. If you wanted a serious type of education, you’d have to go to college or the library. Today, the world is your library. Today, the Internet is your “college”.
Social media and the Internet take advantage of novelty with the creation of things like “the news feed” and “clickbait” headlines.
This new flush of information releases dopamine because the brain has identified a piece of information that may give you an advantage or increase your longevity. Unfortunately, the brain isn’t the best at filtering out information that serves it no use, so all information (especially in an untrained brain) is tagged as “valuable”.
Even this article, your brain is producing dopamine from reading it because it is “new”.
Advertisers, social media sites, and news outlets know this so they make sure they serve up content every hour on the hour.
Sites like Buzzfeed (even the Washington Post to a greater degree) use this to get you to click on the page. Think of it this way:
If the Internet was a giant “news feed” where you could scroll down, you’d die before you even got 1/1000th of the way down. That’s how deep the Internet is.
And that’s how maddening Internet addiction is. It literally makes no sense.
Tips to Stop Internet and Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction and Internet addiction is draining you. It it draining your time, your energy, your motivation, and your life.
If you don’t agree, then let me ask you this:
How do you feel after looking at YouTube for 3 hours? Do you feel good? Or do you say “damn, what a waste of time”?
What about scrolling down your Instagram for an hour and a half? Do you feel amped up and ready to take the day? Or do you feel like shit because you’re comparing yourself to others consciously or unconsciously?
When you have a social media addiction or an Internet addiction, you’ll find it harder to do the things you want to do. You’ll find it harder to concentrate and have sustained focus on one objective.
This is because your brain is being pulled, like a magnet towards the object of your addiction.
And if you can’t focus – what good are you?
Here’s some tips to help you take your life back:
1. Put a timer on it
Many people who have a social media addiction or an Internet addiction find it very difficult to quit cold turkey. Since Internet addiction or social media addiction won’t kill you, you don’t have to quit entirely.
Just reduce your time.
How to do it: Set a designated time on which to log onto the Internet. Spend that time catching up on your favorite social media and other sites. Once the time is up, don’t go back to those sites again. Reduce your time by a couple of minutes every day until you can go days without checking those sites. This requires a lot of self-discipline and constant monitoring to pull off.
2. Embrace boredom.
Boredom is one of the most painful things any human being can experience.
Because it’s hard to be alone with yourself or your thoughts.
When untrained, the mind is like a wild dog that won’t stop barking. At its worst, it is like a merciless judge who only seeks to condemn.
In order to hopscotch past the rigorous process of disciplining the mind, many people turn to distraction. Today, this distraction is in the form of social media and Internet addiction.
How to do it: When there’s a “gap” in which the mind is not active, the mind will want to latch onto anything it possibly can in order to keep itself occupied. If you train your mind to latch onto the present moment, there will be no tension because you are accepting what is. One way how to train yourself to do this is to sit with yourself for at least 10 minutes every day, then increase the time. This is also known as “meditation”.
Present moment acceptance and awareness is at the core of “deep work”, which is a valuable skill to have.
3. Get rid of similar bad habits
In Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, he speaks of certain habits being activated by certain “triggers” and cues.
For example, your alarm clock rings – you either get up out of bed or hit the snooze button. Your alarm clock is a “trigger”.
Since the brain is a large network of interconnected nodes, neurons, synapses, and axons, that makes the brain similar to a chain. One thought triggers another thought, which triggers another thought. This creates a series of related actions. This is largely subconscious, once it reaches the point of habit.
With this rationale, if you can eliminate other bad habits, and change their triggers and cues – you can weaken the hold social media addiction and Internet addiction have on you.
If you take out one link, the chain breaks.
How to do it: One of the best ways to get rid of bad habit patterns is to develop a steady rhythm from the beginning of the day. You can do that through the implementation of a new daily ritual or routine. If you start your day differently, you will most likely end it differently as well.
Again, if you take out one link, the chain breaks. The first link in the chain determines the shape and structure of the rest of the chain.
Need help eliminating bad habits? Check out this post.
Autosuggestion is one of the most powerful tools for personal change – if done right.
It is nothing more than suggesting things to your subconscious mind when you are in a state of relaxation.
Your subconscious mind is responsible for 90-95% of your behavior and it has been programmed a certain way. Most often, this programming is done by others (parents, peers, teachers).
Instead of letting others program your mind, do it yourself.
How to do it: You need to induce a state of relaxation if you want your subconscious to accept a command. The subconscious responds to repetition, faith, and expectancy. This article goes more in depth on how to elicit subconscious change.
5. Believe you can succeed
Belief is the starting point of all achievement.
It’s hard to believe in something you can’t see, I know. That requires a special quality. That requires faith.
You need to have faith that you can muster up the willpower and the self-discipline to essentially, become a new person.
Internet addiction, social media addiction, digital addiction…you weren’t born with any of these. They were “given” to you.
They can be taken away as well.
How to do it: Envision yourself free from constantly surfing the web aimlessly or constantly checking social media. How does that feel? Do you feel liberated? Empowered? Start to live in that feeling and eventually that feeling will be expressed externally because you’re thinking and acting a certain way.
The Big Benefits of Stopping Social Media and Internet Addiction
If you stop your addiction to social media and the Internet, you’ll get some great benefits:
- More time
- More attention to use on other things
- Greater ability to focus
- Less need for external validation
There’s more but those are the big ones.
Beating social media addiction, Internet addiction, or any other sort of digital addiction is tough – but it is doable. Use the steps outlined above if you’re serious about reducing your time on social media.
Knowing this, do you think you have a social media or Internet addiction? Are you planning to stop? How so?
Let me know in the comments below!