Dealing with Social Media Addiction

Written by Valay Agarawal (valayagarawal@iitb.ac.in)

Note to the reader: This might sound like counseling to ‘throw away your phone’, but we do not support this view. The idea is to master technology to your benefit. 

The idea of compulsive checking of phones/laptops, which benefits the companies behind them is not new. There is evidence that the call for the reduction of digital clutter among the developers is often shot down since it might reduce revenue. A lot of theories, and evidence, present that applications are usually made to give small dopamine hits to the brain on checking, which makes them addictive. 

Addiction may be a scary word and is often looked at concerning substance abuse. However, any activity that disrupts your everyday lifestyle, and which you would do even after knowing that it may harm you is an addiction. It could be substance abuse, porn, or digital or any other.

The first step of fighting any addiction is to realise that you do have an addiction. There are simple ways of finding it out, which is to see if you can not think about it when you don’t have it. Take a holiday where you know that you won’t have urgent work coming in. Keep your device away for a few hours before you go to sleep and after you wake up. These are usually the way of checking whether you have a compulsion to check your phone first thing in the morning. See if you can go without thinking about it. 

For starters, take this online quiz to figure that out yourself: 

https://psychcentral.com/quizzes/internet-addiction-quiz/

Digital minimalism, as the name suggests, is to have only the required digital technology in your everyday life.  It is not equivalent to reducing the number of devices since one phone can clutter your digital feed a lot.

The following strategy is to reduce the digital clutter in your life. 

The philosophy of digital minimalism

  1. Clutter is Costly: Cluttering your attention with too many devices creates overall negative cost, which can swamp positives of each device in isolation.
  2. Optimisation is essential: Knowing technology supports something you value is the first step. To extract the full potential benefit, know how to use it.
  3. Intentionality is satisfying: Significant satisfaction is derived from the general commitment to being more intentional in their use of the tech. 

Keeping this in mind, there are a few steps on how you can be a digital minimalist. Please note that these are not specific for addiction to digital technology, but also helpful for people that want to reduce the clutter anyway. 

Practices

  • Spending time alone: Allowing yourself to be you, helps in recollecting your thoughts better, think about yourself, and reclaim your solitude amid the daily bustle.
    • Leaving phone at home: This is not to introduce the nostalgia of the good old days. Of course, communication has made our life more comfortable. However, many times, the phone is not useful or slightly convenient when stepping out. 
    • Take long walks.
    • Write letters to yourself.

  • Don’t click like: Like has been invented to reduce the comments like ‘Good’, ‘Cool’ etc., to the general approval of a post.  
    • Don’t click like: Try to reclaim conversations.
    • Consolidate texting: Keeping your phone on do not disturb mode helps you to help a better quality conversation, and instead of weakening the conversation, it helps to strengthen the relationships.
    • Holding Conversation Office hours: Making hours where you are available for texting, it helps you to make your conversation more intense and helps not to get distracted by endless dripping social media pings.
  • Reclaim Leisure:  
    • Schedule your low-quality leisure
    • Join something.
    • Fix/build something regularly

Steps to be a digital minimalist

  1. Define your tech rules: Differentiate between convenient and critical technology for a month. A Facebook group for events on campus might be suitable but not as essential as maybe Email.
  1. Take a thirty-day break: Power through the first week of compulsive urges to check and browse. Meanwhile, explore other higher-quality activities. Note that the number of days may be variable as per your comfort.
  1. Reintroduce technology: Not all, only which you pass your minimalistic standards. Does it support something that you deeply value?  

These ways can reduce the influence of smart-phones in our lives and take charge of our life. 

A recent Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” explains the issue at hand profusely. It is recommended to watch it.

References: 

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

Cover picture credits: https://www.change.org/p/anuradha-sawhney-pathways-in-social-media-addiction

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