Addicted to social media

Addicted to social media

It’s undeniable that people stare at their phone screens too much. In fact, a Nielsen study found that the average adult spends five and a half hours every week on social media. That's nearly 12 full days every year.

If that doesn’t scare you enough, a lot of us are now addicted to social media. The rush of dopamine you get from likes, comments and retweets is actually rewiring your brain to crave Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

To test if you’re at risk for addiction, ask yourself: Do you feel like social media is keeping you from doing your best work or living up to your full potential? If your answer is yes, then you’ve been bitten by the social bug. Like breaking any bad habit, the secret is to replace your bad habit with a better one in order for the transformation to stick.


Here’s the step-by-step process I teach my clients for breaking social media addiction once and for all: 

1. Figure out why you’re addicted to social media.

Ask yourself: Why do you open Instagram and Facebook in the first place?

Was your answer, “There’s no reason, I just like scrolling through my Instagram feed”? If so, take a closer look at your motive. Are you bored at work, stressed out, feeling disconnected from the outside world or just overwhelmed?
The first step is to identify the core need, or “cue,” that triggers the impulse to check your phone.

2. Make the itch less easy to scratch.

The second step is to implement three to four tactics that keep social media at arm’s length. These could include deleting social media apps from your phone, using a newsfeed blocker on your desktop, keeping your phone out of your bedroom, setting your phone to Do Not Disturb or turning off app notifications.

Remember, some of the best minds in the world have dedicated their lives to making social media more addictive. You’ll need to get aggressive in order to win your focus back.

3. Find alternative ways to respond to the itch.

The third step is to replace the negative routine of checking your social media with a new routine.

The cue of “I’m bored” or “I’m stressed” is still going to be there. But you can replace your response to these triggers with something positive and productive. For example, tell yourself: “When I feel bored at work, I’m going to take a walk around the block.” Or “When I feel stressed out, I’m going to do a three-minute breathing exercise.”

Once you retrain your brain to respond to these cues, the itch will stop altogether.


4. Implement multiple layers of accountability.

The fourth step is to repeat the new habit over and over again. This is usually where people fall down, because their self-discipline muscle needs to be incredibly strong for this to work.

But self-discipline becomes a whole lot easier when you’re not on your own. Outsource your discipline by enrolling an accountability buddy or coach to keep you on track.

A quick solution for accountability is to use an app. Google “accountability app” and choose one of the many options for external, unbiased accountability options. (There’s even one that donates to a cause you hate if you don’t reach your goals -- how’s that for motivation?)

5. Reward, reward, reward.

The fifth step is to train your brain that the new routine is a good thing by rewarding it for a job well done until the habit is strong enough to happen automatically.

Habit formation shouldn’t feel like torture. To make sure your new habit sticks, incorporate a positive reward into your process, even if you don’t feel like you deserve it. For example, if you work social media-free for an hour, give yourself a 10-minute reward break to do whatever you please. And, if you make it through your whole day social media-free, give yourself an hour of personal time in the evening as a reward.

The best new habit you could create is one that frees you from the chains of distraction and misused time. Join the fast-growing ranks of people pushing back against the tide of social media, and revel in your newfound freedom. 


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