Wellbeing

Breaking my social media addiction

I recently hit a bit of a wall.  My life as I knew it in London was going to fundamentally change.

Without going into all the ins and outs, it led me to evaluate all aspects of my life.  Everything from ‘what is my purpose in life’, to ‘how do I really want to spend my time’?

It was then that I came across a talk by one of my favourite thinkers, Simon Senik.  He was speaking of the struggles faced by this group of society I belong to called the ‘millennials’.

He touched on a number of very interesting points which are all well worth a separate post in their own right.  In particular, he mentions the addictive behaviour that is associated with social media and the chemical reaction that is happening every time we get notifications.

When we receive a notification from our social channels our brain releases the happy chemical dopamine (the same chemical that’s released when you drink, smoke or gamble). It became apparent that I too was using social media to get my daily dopamine hit.

I was also using it to get a sense of validation of myself and in turn, was missing out on the precious moments that were happening all around me every day. These factors combined lead me to take a step back and re-evaluate how I was using social media and what was important to me in my life.

In no particular order here is what I experienced from this 2-month hiatus…

I was more present in the moment

Ok, so the first observation is fairly obvious (see what I did there?) but once you’re not actively checking your phone every 5 minutes (latest figures are we check our phones +150 times a day) you have moments with people that are more meaningful and fulfilling.  We’ve all been there…when you’re trying to talk to someone and a phone that’s laying upright on the table goes off.  That split second where the focus has shifted from whatever was being spoken about to glance at the screen or even acknowledge a vibration in one’s pocket is detrimental to the development of healthy relationships.  When we’re talking to someone and we’re 100% in the conversation with no distractions it shows a respect for one another that is rapidly being a rarity.

I was not stressing about my next post

This probably says more about me than anything but I would continually be looking for my next piece of content.  This meant I’d once again not be completely present when out and about with others but also when I was in a beautiful place I was not able to appreciate it as I was continually searching for ‘the shot’.  Without the need to constantly post I was able to just enjoy my surroundings without feeling guilty I’d not captured any content to post.

I had WAY more time to do other things

This was a scary realisation that I had been spending on average 2-3 hours a day on Instagram alone.  The important thing here I found was making sure I used this newly available time to do something positive for me or others.  It’s fairly easy for us to just transfer one bad habit into another one.

People were concerned about my wellbeing

Given social media can be used to share only the best parts of our life, when the content and images stop flowing it’s only natural to think that something is wrong.  I was actually blown away by a number of people checking in to see if I was ok due to the lack of activity.  Now more than ever it’s so important for us to look out for each other and even a simple ‘yo man – are you ok?’ goes so far. Thank you to everyone who reached out to check if I was alright.

The final word

I’m now actively back on Instagram but have made a number of small changes to my everyday life:

  1. I don’t put my phone on the table when I’m with people.  Better yet I put my phone on sleep mode (so it doesn’t vibrate in my pocket).
  2. I keep my phone away from my bed so it’s not the first and last thing I see.
  3. I allow myself to enjoy special places/moments without feeling guilty about not taking any photos.
  4. I actively try and be as present as possible when I’m talking to people.

Instagram has always been a creative release for me and I love planning my feed and trying to make it all look consistent.  The biggest difference is I now have a better balance and try to dedicate my time and energy into the things that are truly important.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Roz
    November 5, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    Great story Ben – pleased to see a millennial setting some boundaries around what is still a very useful tool

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