A sign of the times is that many of us are having an unhealthy relationship with social media. Our electronic devices facilitate it with the same ease as a teaspoon delivering 5ml of cough syrup to a child. The phone has become the teaspoon delivering dopamine to the brain. Every notification, update, and ‘like’ will release that feel-good hormone in tiny doses, but with constant regularity, as a person spends more and more time on a device. Suddenly the day is over and some of us come up for air only by 2 am.
Many young students and even adults are falling into the dopamine trap during this season due to online study or work. To break the monotony of online lectures and meetings, people start to look to social media for some diversion…and social media delivers.
Some parents find it troubling to see their teenagers spend so much time on Internet gaming. But they fail to realize their own tendency to endless scrolling through social media, which could also have the same negative effect. Internet Gaming Disorder was included in Section 3 of the latest DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association). And according to Turel, Brevers, & Bechara (2018), there are many common features between Internet Gaming Disorder and addictive use of social media. Minutes, hours, and days are lost in a state of ‘flow’ – unfortunately not in a positive way.
What is ‘flow’? The distortion of time, when engaged in an activity, is called ‘flow’. The effect of ‘flow’ is quite a positive state of being. The notion was popularized in the Western world by psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. However, this is the same effect that social media developers go after in order to keep a person so immersed that he or she will forget about time and space while using a particular app or platform (Montag et al., 2015).
Any kind of addiction is difficult to shake off. Social media addiction is no different. Procrastination is a very present side-effect of social-media addicts. Some students are falling behind in submitting their assignments, theses, and coursework. Projects at work get held up and meetings are postponed due to a lack of proper preparation. How does one begin to break the cycle of addiction?
Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Jordan Peterson has formulated a program called “Self-authoring Suite” in which people are guided and encouraged to get back on track from their derailed lives. It has excellent features to evaluate yourself and to write about the past, present and future and also to make certain goals. Having used some of these principals in my counseling practice and seeing many successes, it is evident to me that scheduling your day should be one of the first steps in a viable recovery process from social media addiction.
Design your day. Every evening, write down a schedule for the next day. Only one day. Not a week or a month. Just one day. The next day, do your best to accomplish as many items as possible which are in your schedule. This schedule is not your enemy. It is a tool – written by you. You are in control. Tick off all the accomplished activities and keep it in a place where you can see it. Do a new schedule for the next day. After a week, evaluate yourself. How many hours of productive work/study? Is it getting better?
If you feel an addiction to social media is forming, take steps now to get away from it. If you need some help in getting started, download the free printable ‘Design Your Day’ schedule as a first step.
Montag, C., Błaszkiewicz, K., Lachmann, B., Sariyska, R., Andone, I., Trendafilov, B., et al. (2015). Recorded behavior as a valuable resource for diagnostics in mobile phone addiction: Evidence from psychoinformatics. Behavioral Sciences, 5(4), 434-442. doi:10.3390/bs5040434
Turel, O., Brevers, D., & Bechara, A. (2018). Time distortion when users at-risk for social media addiction engage in non-social media tasks. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 97, 84-88. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.11.014