It's Time To Disconnect: Why Your Social Media Usage Might Be An Addiction
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
When you wake up, at work, at a bus stop, in line at a restaurant, in your car - your phone is probably never too far away from you. It's also likely that you're one of the 42% of people in the world who uses social media in some form. The average social media user spends over 4 hours on their various platforms each day - including the first hour after they wake up and within the hour before they go to bed. Our online platforms have become a huge part of our daily lives.
A few months ago I realized just how addicted I'd become to my phone, and social media in particular. When I went to bed my phone would sit on its charger on the dresser next to me. When I woke up, I'd grab my phone before I even started getting ready for the day. On the phone with a friend, I scrolled social media. While at dinner with my boyfriend, I'd grab my phone if he left the table for a moment. I'd pull it up at work, at traffic lights, and while waiting in line. One day a notification popped up on my iPhone showing me my average screen time. I'd spent an average of 8 hours a day on social media.
Seeing that number made me uncomfortable. I didn't want to believe that I'd spent so much of my time looking down at a phone. What else had happened during that time? Who had spoken to me only to have me ignore them because I was focused on something else? How could this tiny device have so much of my attention? A big part of what I do depends on social media usage, but I've never wanted to be the person who spends the majority of their day staring at an app.
Since that day I've begun taking steps to reduce my phone usage. It's helped me to realize how much my phone affects other aspects of my life and sadly, how disconnected you can feel from other people when you are no longer as dependent on social media as your means of communication. Here are some of the changes I've made:
1. I no longer take my phone into the bedroom at night.
This has stopped me from using social media right before bed, and in turn, has allowed me to get much better sleep. The blue light produced by phones and other devices affects melatonin production which makes going to sleep much harder. I've noticed that I fall asleep faster and sleep much longer when I don't use my phone within the hour before I go to bed.
2. I try to fill the first hour of my day with other activities.
If it's a work-day I now try to focus on getting ready, packing my lunch, and heading off to work before touching my phone. I typically don't open my phone until I'm in my car and listening to music or my friends' Marco Polo messages for the day. That way I don't start my day with social media.
3. I've turned off notifications on all of my apps.
I never realized how big of a part notifications had to play in my social media activity. Whenever my phone would light up I'd pick it up to see who liked, commented, or shared a post. Without those constant notifications, I actually think about the apps less often which results in my ability to go longer periods without touching my phone. It's helped me to zone back in on "real life" and focus on the things happening right in front of me instead of what's constantly being posted online.
4. I have a "no phones at dinner" rule.
When I go out to eat, I put my phone in my purse instead of on the table. Going for the "out of sight, out of mind" option instead of putting it on some corner of the table means I don't feel tempted to pick it up if I'm ever left at the table alone.
5. I now make an effort to practice non-traditional communication
I took some time to reach out to close friends and family to get their mailing addresses and birthdays down in a notebook. When those dates come around (along with certain holidays) I've begun sending them hand-written cards as a way to go a bit further than the usual text message - social media post combo. My friends have really appreciated the effort, and the process of writing and mailing something physical has really made me feel great. You can purchase a set of cards for any special occasion via Amazon (along with stamps.)
These five small changes have granted me a bit of freedom from my constant need to check out what's happening on social media. They've also made me a better in-person communicator and more conscious of what I'm actually doing to make meaningful connections with the people around me. Phones a great tool, but they can become toxic when we allow our usage to turn into addictions that disconnect us from the people we love. Today, I invite you to take a good look at how you use your phone and social media apps and consider allowing yourself to "reconnect" with the "real world."