You can be, and probably are, addicted to social media.
Facebook, the apex social platform, alongside its brothers and sisters like Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter, has assumed a scary level of information. What’s scarier — they organize and categorize us like little sheep in their pen.
Despite the fact that we know this, we continue to use these tools day in and day out. So how did we fall under the spell of these formidable foes, scrolling until our thumbs are mere bone and our retinas scrambled eggs?
Last year in 2018, I quit using Facebook and other social platforms for eight months. It was a journey of healing, miscommunication, perspective, and hope. In all of my journey, I learned something incredibly valuable for our modern lives.
Quitting Facebook and other social platforms allowed me to see life for what it was, entirely devoid of “fake news” and the constant pressure of relevance. When you abstain from social platforms, you reconnect with the material world and refresh your priorities, realigning with what you need instead of what you’re told you need.
What Really Happens When You Quit Facebook?
Imagine taking a deep breath, breathing in slowly through your nostrils and paying close attention so as to not tense your body.
As you exhale, your vision bursts with colors ranging from pastel pink to creamy, dreamy sunset orange.
Everything is clear again as you feel your veins flood with oxygen. It’s as if the sunlight creeping in through your window is flooding your neurons with joy and appreciation for the world around you.
Quitting Social Media refreshes and instills a sense of passion for the physical world around you.
You’re no longer connected to the universe through 1’s and 0’s but through the sunshine beaming towards you and the grass that kisses your feet as you traverse over a field of flowers.
It’s not without hurdles and challenges though.
I hadn’t received a text in months, maybe even an entire year, because everyone in my life used Facebook Messenger to communicate. It was because of this exact reason that I missed one of my closest friends graduating from college.
One of the most difficult challenges I faced was missing things. I missed friends, memories, events, and parties.
It’s easy to think you’re close to someone until you realize they value convenience over camaraderie.
While quitting social media is worth every hurdle you face, it’s not without its own set of introspective realizations.
I had no idea I was so addicted to social media before I quit. I didn’t know it was shaping the way I thought or the actions I chose. I just figured it was an easy way to connect with all my friends from a single hub.
I wasn’t prepared for how wrong I was.
Social Media Addiction: What Is It And Do I Have It?
You can take this short quiz for a generalized consensus on internet addiction.
According to one Chicago University study, social media addiction can display with symptoms more intense than alcohol and cigarette addiction.
So what is Social Media Addiction? Sometimes referred to as “Social Networking Addiction”, it’s characterized as compulsive behaviors which impact the personal life of any users of social media.
In reference to this article, we’re defining a Social Media Addict as someone who obsessively checks and/or updates their status, engages with hundreds of posts per hour, or compulsively checks and compares other profiles to their own.
One of the major difficulties in studying this specific type of addiction is the lack of concrete theories backed by the general population. When does pleasure become dependency and so on?
Some of the talented researchers at Harvard University conducted an experiment in which they hooked volunteers up to an MRI machine. The researchers asked the participants to talk about themselves as they measured the brain activity of each volunteer.
They found that self-disclosure communication stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers much like sex and food do.
Essentially this means that by promoting their ego, the volunteers felt a dump of “feel-good” chemicals in their brain. This is the same effect social media has when we post something or receive positive feedback.
Put simply, this provides the illusion of self-validation.
Around the globe, scientists debate the topic of social media addiction. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they’ve managed to agree on at least one thing so far: people who spend too much time online display symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even heavier mental illnesses.
(If you struggle with the symptoms of depression and anxiety, consider reading one of my other posts on effective ways to live a happier life.)
Breaking The Habit
MIT researcher Sherry Turkle wrote comprehensively on the subject of social media addiction, noting that “social media does, in fact, weaken the human connection.”
The good news is, even if you’re struggling to break the habit, all is not lost.
The Wall Street Journal debunked some false reports which stated that “1 in 5 marriages are ruined by Facebook or other social platforms”.
While your marriage may be safe, many aspects of your life are still at risk. Like any addiction, you’re trying to escape using the only means you have available.
So how do you get out? How do you reconnect with the person you were before social media and find gratitude for the physical world around you?
Disconnect And Deactivate
The first step is to disconnect for a little while. It’s up to you to decide how long this will last, whether it’s one week, one year, or the rest of your life. Whatever your goal is, set it and start it.
As soon as you know how long you’ll be away, give your friends a 24-hour notice and disconnect. If they want to get in contact with you, feel free to leave them your phone number or another means of communication.
During the disconnect, you can either deactivate your accounts or delete the apps off of your phone. If you’re like me then you have a phone, a computer, and multiple other gadgets that host social capabilities. For me, the only way I could accomplish staying away was to completely deactivate.
Make sure to stay away from your e-mail too! Unless you’ve managed to keep your contact list ultra clean, you probably have a lot of spam that’s going to catch your attention.
Oh and don’t worry about deactivating — If you deactivate your Facebook account, you can reactivate it by logging back in. Assuming you aren’t planning to quit forever, this should be good news!
Reconnect And Refresh
Just as you should have left your contact information to tie off loose ends, you should request the information of anyone you want to reconnect with.
Reach out to old or current friends and ask to have coffee with them. Walk through the park with your favorite people or go and meet some new ones! Reconnect with the physical world and embrace face to face human interaction.
Through reconnecting with friends, family, and the world around us, we establish new neurological connections. We rewire our brain to analyze body language as a better response than the amount of likes we get on a perfectly angled picture.
We are raw and in the moment, full of flaws, and yet somehow managing to remain admired or even revered. Our relevance on the internet is irrelevant because we begin organizing events that matter the most to us.
Instead of sitting in our room looking at pictures of people in the park, we begin going out and living it. Through this reconnected state of mind, we begin to realize and accept ourselves outside of the snapshot of our internet profiles and inside the snapshot of our minds.
The Final Result
As if stronger friendships and meaningful memories aren’t enough, we end up with peace of mind and hope for the future. Not just any future, but our own future. We stop imagining the horrendous headlines scattered throughout our feeds and instead reinvent what it means to imagine.
Whether you want to rekindle your connections with friends, become a master of your own time, or simply break a bad habit, social media is a good place to start. It can teach you disciplines that will transform other facets of your life while conveying the importance of understanding convenience.
Many of us have grown up with Facebook and social media as if it were our sibling. Always there in the background, holding us down or lifting us up. Take control of your life and reestablish what it means to be social in an increasingly disconnected, connected world.
Have a question you want answered or an opinion you’d like covered? Ask below in the comments and you just might get a response!
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