Let me be frank, social media is addictive, it’s designed that way. You are the product and your attention, eyes on ads, and clickthroughs onto sponsored content are what drives these platforms.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but at some point, I get tired of the mindless scrolling and the long sessions of video feeds, I look into the foreground of the room and wonder where my day has gone. Does this ring a notification bell in your head? – yeah me too.
I’ve tried several times now to leave social media but return for several reasons, my chosen career path is a particular reason. ‘If your not online, then you don’t exist,’ is the words uttered to me many years ago inside a technical college.
The other reason I stay is to avoid isolation, yes, as a vision-impaired person, it’s what provides me with a window into the community, lets me see who’s doing what, and lets me feels global when in reality I’m probably quite confined.
You’re not alone in thinking social media is addictive, it is. It’s been designed that way because it’s what drives revenue, without your attention these platforms are nothing. In short, if it’s free chances are you are the product.
A quick Google might suggest also that psychology has a hand at making these platforms addictive. From the notification bell that lights up, to how the news feed reloads like a slot machine. Each part of the app is arguably carefully designed to exploit our desire to be validated in the world.
So I decided to take back control, it wasn’t easy, and I don’t think I’ll ever win the battle.
So one-day last year, or possibly the year before, I decided enough was enough, lets take this beast on. Did I win? No, here’s what happened.
On the first attempt, I removed the apps from my phone, used a browser extension on my computer, and set off to University. Halfway into the day was the first time I had a chance to take a break and look at my phone. It felt empty, and I kept searching for the apps, they weren’t there. I’d lock, unlock and relock the phone in an annoying pattern desperately searching for something to check.
Then the immense sense of missing out would come into play, what am I missing out on, am I downgrading myself, leaving myself uninformed because everyone else has social media?
Soon I cracked, one app found its way back, a poorly worded internal lie to myself ‘I’ll just check it quickly for this….’ bam, it was back.
I headed back to the drawing board and thought about what is high value about social media, and what isn’t. I enjoyed the connection it gave me, but not the sponsored posts, I also don’t like the fakeness of updates from people, the glamification, or the ‘celebrification of peoples lives.
So for me, I wanted to ditch the feeds, cut the noise but keep a way to communicate! – easy!
Delete the social media apps on my phone that are full of feeds, but keep apps that allow direct communication with one another.
I kept instant messaging apps but ditched any app that was built around the idea of scrolling.
This would be the foundation of attempt two to quit social media or at least take back control of it. Did this work? kinda.
On the second try, the same thing happened, I felt a need to click, tap and check things on my phone, but this time I did something different, I reached out into a chat app and started a conversation with a friend and asked how their day was going.
No mindless scrolling, using the app with intent, and getting high value from the communication. No ads, no bullsh*t.
This worked for a great deal of time and in the process, it forced me to communicate with people. I wasn’t having my mind-numbed, I wasn’t constantly comparing myself to others or even caring about what other people think.
So you could say that is a success right?
Refining the idea further, I attacked the notification settings on my phone, I turned everything off, then started again, and asked myself what do I need?
Here’s what I turned on: Phone, Calander, Alarm, SMS, Bank, Maps App, and a few others that provide high value and essential notifications only. I blocked all app icons bells, sounds. I did turn on notifications for apps that allow direct communication only.
The key shift here is now I intend to visit the apps only with intent and aren’t lured in by low-value notifications or bells. Just what I need only.
I’ve found this works for me, and in the process, I have reduced the amount of unlocks on my phone.
Not only have I cut the number of times I waste my day on social media, but I’ve reduced the addiction to checking my phone entirely.
This is great because I feel I have regained some of the fight.
I now consciously choose what I’m going to open, when and for what purpose.
Even apps like YouTube, I leave all notifications turned off to this day.
Feeling brave? – give the above a go, try it for a few days, report back, and let me know your results.