Checking all your social media handles one last time before you sleep? Starting your day by checking new notifications? Constantly eager to know about new updates even after keeping your phone on silent? Well, you are not the only one.
All the above traits can partly indicate Internet addiction disorder. The day losing your phone makes it to your top three fears list, or you can’t remember the last time you did an activity not involving a phone or a PC at all, you should start worrying about all those things you might be missing out on your life. Social Media invented with the aim of bridging gaps based on distances, connecting corners of the world, did achieve a lot of what it intended to. But not all good things come without flaws.
According to worldwide statistics, 4.33 billion people are active social media users as of 2021 and 210 million of them suffer from an internet addiction disorder. Depression symptoms are twice as likely to appear in teenagers spending more than 5 hours on their phones daily and 27% of children spending more than 3 hours daily on social media are subjected to poor mental health. 71% of people sleep with their phone next to them and 50% of drivers use social media while driving!
Negative aspects of social media
One need not prove the harm, social media is causing through stats as being an active social media user, after some time, we realize it ourselves. Only if we would start acknowledging it too. Not only do we need to bring it up more often, but search for efficient solutions and encourage ourselves in implementing them. We need to spread awareness about it especially among children or teenagers who are just starting with social media and are most vulnerable to manipulation and addiction.
Social media is associated with dopamine-driven feedback loop mechanisms. Dopamine is a chemical, and a neurotransmitter i.e., it sends signals from the body to the brain and is responsible for motor functions, learning ability, memory, and emotional sensations of the body. Once we achieve a target or seek something, the brain produces a chemical response in the form of pleasure.
Hence when pursuing any particular task continuously produces the pleasure response, we get accustomed to it and expect pleasure each time we are seeking. Thus, this ends in a continuous loop. We go through the same posts in our feeds endlessly in the hopes of finding something new or interesting that might produce that pleasure. Even new messages or someone liking our post can produce a positive stimulus as we anticipate pleasure through those reactions. The loop can continue longer than one realizes, and hence 2 minutes phone break ends up wasting 2 hours.
Social media is also often blamed for depression, loneliness, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and body image issues. Though a lot of body positivity campaigns are now coming up and more people are aware and recognizing the need to appreciate diverse body shapes, social media still induces low self-esteem, constant consciousness, and imagined ugliness concerning one’s appearance.
Because let’s admit it, a lot of brands and celebrities still do endorse the concept of a “perfect body standard”. Comparison to one’s appearance with ours and even their lifestyles through social media, stalking people who are apparently living the life we wish we had, is only burning up our time and making us question ourselves more.
We need to realize that not all that is posted online are true and certain things can be faked. It is common to feel left out or not enjoying enough compared to others because people will mostly post their amusements compared to their hard times. It should be brought into consideration, whenever we experience the urge to compare with someone’s success, that we may know more about the things they have achieved, than the path and hardship they might have faced to come this far.
Self-doubt and comparison, especially due to social media aren’t beneficial because we will always come across someone who will be better according to us, no matter whichever grounds. It is only efficient if you compare your current self to the past, and realize you are turning into the person your younger self wanted.
So, what exactly is the solution or does one even exist? Social Detox might be the answer:
Stepwise guide to a social media detox
Social media detox is the process of gradually reducing the use of social media for a specified period of time in an attempt to gain control over the desire to constantly check social media accounts and prevent addiction. The duration differs from person to person but on average, can take up to 30 days. The goal is to eliminate complete social media consumption or at least control usage. One can start off by directly deleting the apps or deactivating the accounts. This is quite a drastic step for first-timers and may not be efficient for many, given reinstalling is still an option. Though, it is a straightforward way of getting it done if you are persistent about it.
Setting time limit
The gradual method might be to start with identifying those apps you spend the most time on and setting time limits on those. It is a simple yet efficient way to kickstart the process. You can take the help of third-party apps or just set an alarm from the moment you start scrolling. Remove those apps from the home screen and turn off the notifications. Gradually shorten the time period spent on those apps as much as possible to no time at all at some point.
Try social media detox in peer groups
Try doing it with a friend or in a group where you can watch out for each other’s progress. Now, pursue hobbies or activities that can fill those leisure time and demand your constant time and practice. If you are a student involve yourself in extra-curricular activities and try participating in new events to explore your interests. Multitasking often drains you and in this case, may be enough to distract you from social media.
Count your time as a priority. Consider wastage of it as a big loss and analyze how much you can establish if you spend it well. Try planning your day at the start, making timetables or routines with tasks or goals you must achieve. Watch motivational videos about time management and try inducing guilt whenever you feel like you are wasting your time.
Choose what’s best for you
Social media cannot be categorized as a good or bad thing. It has its own share of negative as well as positive impacts and it finally depends on us, on which aspect we want to focus. If one is not affected by the events occurring online and losing time scrolling through mundane photos and videos, there is no harm in using social media to remain connected to friends living far or socializing with new people.
But if it is a prime source of distraction and your addiction to it is interfering with your time and life, then the safest bet might be to take some time off of it and figure out how to balance it all. It’s in the users’ hands to identify if it acts as a problem to them and seek out the required solution if it does.