Are you spending too much time on social media? Does being away from your smartphone cause you to feel edgy and isolated? Research carried out by the University of Warwickshire found that prolific social media users, who stopped logging into their accounts for a period of four weeks, actually experienced withdrawal symptoms. But why is that?
Perhaps in the modern world we are feeling disconnected from others. This may be due to long working hours or moving away from friends and family. Social media is a way to ‘connect’ with others, in order to ease feelings of isolation. Most of us have a need for social cohesion or belonging to a social group, which is ingrained in us. In the past being part of a group was critical to our safety. The problem sets in when the likes of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram become the only way we reach out to others.
Interestingly, the University of Warwickshire study also revealed that being without social media meant that close relationships with family and friends suffered due to the lack of interaction. Don’t people speak anymore?
Social Media instead of a Smoke?
Like all addictions, social media is often used to assuage feelings of boredom, or even anxiety, at work or in the office. In much the same way as workers would ‘pop out for a smoke’ to give themselves a break from the monotony of the daily grind, many switch off for a while by switching on their smartphones and checking out what’s happening online. It’s the contemporary form of procrastination that’s insidious because it’s socially acceptable, the done thing.
Yet it wastes so much time. It is not unusual for adults in the UK to spend over four hours a day trawling various social media sites. To put that into perspective, that adds up to 1460 hours a year, which equates to over 60 days per year. Imagine what could be achieved by using that time in other ways. It’s sad when you think that in life it’s possible to make more money, travel to more countries, yet we can never make more time. Time is a limited commodity for all of us.
Social Media and the Dopamine Fix
The reason that social media use can be so addictive is that it’s a way of getting a quick dopamine fix, particularly when a large number of ‘likes’ are achieved with a selfie or post. Social approval is particularly addictive – after all most people want to feel ‘liked’ by others. And what better way to prove to themselves just how likeable they are by receiving the online ‘thumbs up’ from others. Conversely, not achieving any response can leave those dependent on others for approval feeling anxious, ignored and definitely not part of the ‘in-crowd’.
But how do you know if you have a problem? If you’re asking yourself if you’re using social media too much, then you probably are.
Apps such as Quality Time can help you track how much time you spend on social media, and there are many other apps out there that can help you get real about the time wasted surfing the internet or on social media.
Get Back in Touch
Getting back into the real world is a great way to feel connected with others. Contacting friends and family and arranging to meet up over a coffee or a meal will do more for your relationships – and make sure your phone is switched off when you’re with them! A good chinwag is far more preferable to simply being tagged in a photo. Joining the gym or a walk in nature is a healthier alternative to sitting on your backside and surfing social media. Get your rear into gear and off the sofa to give you the chance to feel more connected to the world outside your window. Instead of social media, why not sign up for a class or a volunteer group and make a big difference to your life or the lives of others?
Therapies Can Help
Therapies such as hypnosis, TFT (thought field therapy) and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) are great aids to overcome addictions that have a negative impact on your life. They can help decrease the habit of peeking at social media, as well as pinpoint and lessen the effect of triggers that make you reach for your smartphone. By dealing with the triggers before they gain a foothold, it’s possible to lessen or even eliminate the compulsive behaviour around social media.
If it’s time for a digital detox and you want a bit of support through the process, then read on...
Have You Become Social Media Sober?
If you’ve managed to overcome the constant lure of social media, please share your strategies and comment with your tips and tricks for gaining control of your smartphone!
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© Ruthy Baker 2022