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Once upon a time, I was addicted to social media and my phone.
I was using it for both personal and business use. So, I didn’t see it as an addiction.
It became a problem when I realized I was thinking about what to post next while doing my everyday activities. I also became irritated frequently. I was anxious and worried about numbers, how much I post, the perfect time of day to post, and using this as an indication of my “success.”
But the more time I spent online, the more I had to be online. It never seemed like enough. There was no difference between being on social media and pulling the lever on a slot machine in the casino.
One more minute, one more post, one more—just one more—always hoping for the jackpot, a win, something to make me feel good and successful in what I was doing.
There isn’t an abundance of longitudinal research on the impacts of social media on the brain being a reasonably new addition to human life. We’re yet to have a vast collection of data showing the effect on our brain and well-being. But, whether we have the research or not, it’s evident in how we feel and whether it’s impacting our livelihood, well-being, and relationships. Furthermore, the data is rich on addiction and dopamine. A significant hinter of the addictive qualities comes down to this simple warning—people who create social media platforms have admitted using gambling techniques to hook us and that they wouldn’t let their children use the platforms.
As the video states, many consider dopamine the pleasure molecule, but dopamine plays a role in motivation.
When we do activities that make us feel good, we generally want more of that feeling (the release of dopamine). Our brain also likes the easy route for rewards because doing difficult things that take time requires patience, conscious thought, and consistent action. So if an activity is easy and we feel rewarded when doing it due to the release of dopamine, and we’re not mindful, we’re likely to keep doing it over and over. The brain doesn’t care if it’s healthy or unhealthy. It explains why we have habits that don’t make us feel good but keep doing them.
On the contrary, if we deprive ourselves of feel-good activities and dopamine release, we’ll generally feel tired, lethargic, maybe even anxious—and bored. This is because our brain will desperately search for stimulation, even in the form of distractions.
In my experience, I started to feel apathetic and depressed the more I worked and used social media, so to get to that good feeling again, I would do more and more and more. When we do something repeatedly, we can develop a tolerance, so we need more for that “good feeling” again.
It was an unhealthy cycle that seems acceptable in our current climate, which could explain why so many of us have experienced burnout.
For me, I had maxed out.
I needed to detox—and I did.
I deleted all social media for over a year and a half and involved myself in real life. I went through a period of extreme boredom, anxiety, and feeling like a failure. I thought that I would be left behind and fall off the face of the earth by abstaining from social media and that constant drive toward the top.
But over time, something interesting happened. I started focusing on quality over quantity, efficiency over speed, mental well-being over being the best in the world, and integrity over self-gain.
These days, the things that make me feel good are cultivating stillness, walking, journalling, sitting in the sun, my dog, watering my plants, working diligently, and giving my best by taking care of my health too. I have trained my mind to be excited about these activities and to feel good through doing them.
Sitting without distracting myself feels better than jumping on my phone and mindlessly scrolling (something I could not do before.)
As a result, my quality of life improved, as did my pursuits.
Social media is a beautiful, powerful tool that has connected us worldwide. But with anything, balance is required to make the most of it. There is no point in sacrificing our entire lives on social media to wake up one day and wish we paid more attention to ourselves, our loved ones, the quality of life we live, and the beauty of all that happens around us.
Then, when we come back to social media, and I have, we approach it mindfully and trust that the space is as good as the doing. It’s a journey, not a race.
Dopamine fasting is a fancy term coined by the tech world to describe detoxing from technology—or high stimulation activities. This video has some insight but it is not a well-researched area yet. It’s a simple way of explaining behaviour, and offers insight into taking back control of our brain, mind, and personal power.
Watch here for more details: