Unplug: It’s Time to Quit Your Social Media Addiction

This article first appeared on Alpha Efficiency Magazine: Issue 2: Communicating, subscribe and buy here

Feeling distracted? When your attention swings in an undesired direction, you should notice it. Become aware of it and it’s possible to revert gently back to what you were doing before the distraction occurred. Channeling attention this way is easier if you don’t have external distractions because dealing with the internal ones is complicated enough.

Finding Peace in Being Disconnected

You need to understand that when you are “offline” the world suddenly become quieter and your inner world comes to life. This is the specific problem of living in a “connected reality.” Even when we’re physically offline, our minds are still “connected”. This “connection” robs you of real-life experience. It’s like smoking: it shortens your life every time you abuse it. Not only those moments that you spend in front of the screen but also the ones you spend habitually getting your fix.

Is Social Media A Good “Lifestyle”?

Have you noticed people are proclaiming that social media is a “lifestyle”? I have, and I used to be one of them. Not as an evangelist, but a regular active user. The bottom line was that I did not like the effect it was having on my life. I found myself scrolling mindlessly through various different streams in search of the next dopamine rush that came with finding something interesting. Like a rat in a maze, searching for the next treat with no sight of an exit.

The same thing counts for email as well, especially when you are waiting for a reply from someone. Your brain demands that you double-check for things that pique its interest. This “habitual checking” behavior pattern is becoming an ever-growing problem, and this article is an attempt to solve it and increase awareness of this modern issue.

Take the Red Pill and Unplug

The Internet is like the matrix; it prolongs the artificial reality that stimulates the production of dopamine in our brains. With the advent of the social web, we came to see how powerful this disconnect truly is.

Biologically we are wired to search for validation from our environment, and Facebook particularly knows how to exploit this biological need. *Did someone write to me? Did anyone leave comments on my posts? How did they like that picture of mine?*

After prolonged exposure to social media, brain patterns start to change. We adopt the habit of constantly seeking validation from our peers. THAT is WHY social networks are so addictive. This addiction is not coming from Facebook, it is coming internally; Facebook is simply acting as a catalyst and a platform that enables this destructive behavior pattern.

But as with all fake stimuli, Facebook (social media) attention becomes a modern day, cheap, “brain crack” that consistently lets us down. Every day we log in, like conditioned lab rats, looking for our fix, in hopes that we will get that social media high, yet we rarely, if ever find fulfillment.

Consequences of Social Media Addiction

As with all addictions, this one also has its consequences. Whilst they may not result in destructive behavior, they are indeed robbing us of the real lives we could be living instead. They diminish the need for actual social interaction, as all the attention we need to get is located inside of our gadgets, instead of real life interpersonal communication.

Symptoms of Social Media Addiction:

  • Lack of need for human interaction
  • Internalized distraction mechanism
  • Decrease of attention span
  • Overall productivity decrease

As with any disease, we need to actively apply the cure.

What is the Cure?

Once you establish the addictive behavior pattern, it is relatively hard to break it. Before attempting to go “cold turkey” you need to have a basic understanding of how habit patterns function.

Cold turkey can work for some people, but it comes at a high cost, as you are tapping into your will power, which is a limited resource. Using willpower performs infinitely better when you are focusing on doing something than not doing something. It is easier to force yourself to do something else than it is “not to do something”.

This same rule applies to eating disorders, drugs, gambling addictions and even domestic violence patterns within families.

People might take a stance that we are grown-ups and that we should be responsible for our actions, but these kids that are growing with constant exposure to the strong nature of the Internet will grow up in a  reality that is dramatically different to our own. There will be no social stigma associated with spending too much time on their devices because everybody is doing it. Their minds will be constructed from the fabric of the web, and the social factor will transform the world as we know it.

In order to fight the urge of addictive behavior, we need to understand that the urge won’t disappear, but it can be substituted with a positive habit we want to implement. Quitting without having a contingency plan will have the same effect as famous “yo-yo” diets: it might work for a day or two, and then you will revert to the old behavior pattern with a binge period on top.

The Substitute Behavior Pattern

Darren and I embarked a great substitute network for Facebook and Twitter, one that rewards us for the positive behavior patterns that we set for ourselves. This network is called ”Lift” and it is gimmicking Facebook, but instead it rewards us back with positive stimuli in order to encourage us further towards the desired action.

The behavior pattern of going online and posting a tweet or a status update is already formed; In the case of Lift, we are using the completion of our positive habits as a substitute for the traditional status update. Here are some of the habits that I am cultivating on Lift:

  • Meditate
  • Write
  • Read
  • Read Source Code In The Morning
  • Brainstorm
  • Drink Water
  • Drink Protein Shake
  • Exercise
  • Sell Alpha Efficiency Magazine

Embracing Life 5 Minutes at a Time

Going step by step and enjoying the process is of utter importance in achieving the fulfillment of any goals, as well as detoxing from social media. Be mindful of your actions, and stop wasteful communication with your various news feeds.

Quitting habit patterns is a long process, and often you will fail, fall down and miss your schedule. This is okay; you will have to learn to keep trying until you succeed. First, it will look like 5 minutes without you being “plugged in”, and as you expand your comfort zone, you will start feeling comfortable in those 5 minutes. Your mind will find ways to fill the time with something more meaningful, and it will go from there. After that, you will garner more courage, and you will push up to 10 minutes, 20, 30…

At some point, you will decide to go a full day without distractions. And you will succeed. You will find new amazing things that you will be able to do with your time.

All those moments you wanted to devote to your side projects, all those hours you’ve wanted to spend with your kids; they are there now.  Keeping your brain OPEN for all the experiences that need to come its way. Those minutes spent waiting in line – they could be spent reflecting on life, or perhaps working on something that truly matters and making a tremendous impact on your bottom line.

You’ve Made the Decision

To take control of your life back into your own hands. The only obstacle you have is within you, and once you take control you will make miracles happen. Not only by quitting social media, but also with your life in general.