Have you ever been so stuck when working on a project that the only way you think you can stop feeling anxious is to grab your phone and check social media?
So you head off to the internet to “research” a great idea, but take a minor detour via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or whatever your social media drug of choice is…just for a minute or two!
Then, before you know it, an hour or more has passed and you’ve lost all track of time and that great idea you had now feels lame; your passion for it has dissipated because your mind is consumed with the scrolling.
Other times you just…you know…want to take a quick peek to see what’s happening, check if something you’ve posted has any likes or, even better, comments. So you grab your phone then, whoosh—you’re right back down the rabbit hole!
I know I’m not alone in this. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s becoming an epidemic.
The National Health Service in the United Kingdom recently announced funding for their first internet addiction centre in London. A British comedian, Russell Kane, recently admitted he’s in therapy for internet addiction as he’s, “no longer in control of how he uses this ‘Machine.’” He’s likened his need to pop off to the bathroom to check his Twitter feed to an addict disappearing to score a line of coke!
I’ve even allowed my teenage daughters to become addicted, although their drug of choice is usually Netflix. I used to be so strict with them when they were younger, but lately it feels so hypocritical when I tell them to take a break. They just look at me and say, “Errr, you’re always on your phone.” I try and respond with, “Errr, yes, but I’m working,” which is kind of true, as I do have social media for my business, but in truth most of my time is spent scrolling through my personal Instagram or Facebook.
I see toddlers and young children fixed to phones and iPads—even babies—because their parents are addicted, so the easiest way to keep the kids quiet whilst they feed their own addiction is to get the kids hooked on a device too.
Somehow, as a collective, we need to break this chain.
Studies show that the hardest part of breaking a habit or addiction is the first three weeks; if you can make it through the first three weeks you have a good chance to reboot.
Usually, before I feel a habit gripping tight, I tend to go cold turkey, but I can’t even do that with the internet as I really do need to post for my business. I would love to start by taking all the apps off my phone and just using them on my laptop, but unfortunately Instagram isn’t set up for posting on computers. I can delete my personal account and only keep my business one live, but then I take a cute photo which I just have to post on my personal account. Just a quick post, then a quick peek at what I’ve missed in the past few hours or days, if I’ve managed to stay away that long!
And suddenly, I’m back in. More hours of my life wasted. Or are they wasted?
Could my addiction be making me a better person?
When I created my Facebook account, it was to keep in touch with friends I’d met travelling, and with Instagram, it was more of a picture gallery as I didn’t want my children to forget all the amazing travels they’ve had. Then, as life happened, I’d post new photos and write stories about our travels and parts of our lives I wanted to capture. Lately I’ve gone back in time and posted about my own travels, pre-children, so it’s become the story of all our lives and a sacred space that we love.
As Instagram evolved, it’s become a place where we can follow anything and anyone so it’s a great tool for connecting to like-minded people and learning about different interests—we follow one account and are able to find similar ones, which take us on a journey. It is possible to make social media a mindful experience as long as we follow accounts with substance, rather than endless selfies.
There are writers, poets, chefs, yogis, artists, photographers, world travellers, astrologers, politicians, motivational speakers, entrepreneurs—whatever floats our boat. We can learn about anything—meditation, writing, feminism, racism, sisterhood, or spirituality—and do so mindfully. It’s a huge global village, which can be fascinating, inspiring, and sometimes a little scary, but we just need to be selective about who we follow.
We’re lucky to be part of this beautiful community, but it’s important to get a grip if it has become an addiction. The trick, if we can’t go cold turkey, is to set boundaries, stick to them, stay focused, and find ways to be productive. For our own mental health, it’s important we use these “internet drugs” mindfully—if we don’t get a grip soon, who knows what’ll happen next?
Here are a few ways to break our social media addiction before it takes over our lives:
1. Allow yourself access only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. This keeps us from looking at our phones first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
2. Have a charging station in the kitchen so the phone isn’t in your bedroom when you sleep. This is a great idea for so many reasons—hello, electromagnetic radiation!
3. Add passwords to your social media apps so you have to log in each time you want to use them, which makes you more conscious of opening them.
4. Download an app to restrict your usage. I use Moment, a screen time tracker which tells you how many hours you spend on your phone. This can be a real eye-opener. Flipd is an other app that locks you out for a time period with no way to disable it, so it’s pretty hardcore.
5. Turn off notifications so your phone doesn’t beep or flash all day.
6. Switch to Airplane mode during the day.
7. Find a hobby, maybe even something you saw on Instagram, that keeps you from needing or wanting to pick up your phone.
8. My absolute favourite tool is going outside in nature more and leaving my phone at home or in the car. This gives me a chance to be mindful of everything around me, without having my face stuck in a screen.
What tricks do you use? How do you set social media boundaries? Let me know in the comments section—I’m totally open to trying new ways until I find one that sticks!