It has been known for some time the oddly addictive nature that social media can have. Due to an explosion of social media popularity in the past decades, users all over the world have been experiencing this unexpected effect to varying degrees. Mobile devices have made it incredibly easy for users to access their social media accounts and this seems to only exacerbate the problem of social media addiction. The habit that can be built by being able to easily check your newsfeed literally at any moment of the day can be a particularly difficult one to break.
The widespread popularity of social media and the almost equally widespread symptoms of social media addiction have lead researchers to conduct numerous psychological studies that provide a rather comprehensive view of the problem that has developed as social media addiction.
A notable example is the website 99 Days of Freedom, which encourages users to sign up for their “experiment” that involves essentially boycotting Facebook for 99 days. The findings of the 99 Days experiment have been so interesting that Cornell University used data it collected to analyze this difficulty users have when trying to quit social media. The study even coined the term “social media reversion” to describe this failure to stop Facebooking. The data provided by 99 Days has consistently shown that many users who wanted to, fully intended and believed they could quit were ultimately unable to stop for more than just a few days.
What may be even more interesting, and perhaps unsettling, is what 99 Days of Freedom claims to be responding to directly. That is, Facebook’s apparently clandestine experiment to intentionally manipulate the emotions of its users without their knowledge or official consent. The incident from 2014 involved Facebook admission of studying the effect that occurred when reducing user’s exposure to their friend’s positive or negative posts and seeing the correlating effect in the user’s own feed.
Not surprisingly, Facebook discovered that people who viewed predominantly negative posts tended to post more negatively and vice versa. What perhaps they didn’t anticipate, though undoubtedly should have, was that users responded especially negatively to major conglomerates messing with their personal lives for the sake of curiosity.
This incident, which sparked a backlash of controversy at the time, seems curiously relevant once again in the post-Trump world of 2017. Whether for or against the newly elected president, nobody can deny the powerful role social media played in his election. It is clear to see how engrained social media has become in our culture and the powerful effect it can have to influence our lives, both private and public.
How to Quit?
Replace the habit
Like any addiction, quitting social media could prove to be a challenge for anyone. Mostly this is because it has simply become a habit in your daily life. This is similar to a problem cigarette smokers face in addition to the nicotine craving. Stepping away from a mundane task to clear your head and get a fix is as refreshing and addictive as the fix itself.
This isn’t any different with social media. You have time to kill so you check your newsfeed or you take a break from work to do the same. So one of the first steps you can take is find some other way to clear your head. If you like using your phone, download a fun game from the app store. Or just get up and walk around for a minute if you can.
Replace the fix
The next thing you can do is replace the “fix”. In the case of cigarettes, it’s nicotine. In the case of social media, it’s just simply human interaction. Social media makes human interaction particularly easy because it seems to be always within reach. Of course, that is ultimately the source of the problem. It is too easy to interact and people with social media addictions tend to overshare. Keep that in mind because that will motivate you to avoid the problem altogether and focus more on actual, real human interaction or activities that make you feel like you are making progress in your life.
Delete the app
To help you along, you should either turn off social media notifications on your phone at the very least, or just go ahead and delete the app altogether-,even if it is only temporarily until you break the habit. If you delete the app then the next time you get the urge to check your newsfeed you must go through the clunky internet browser or re-download the app and sign in again. This makes the ease of access not so easy and will help you get over the initial hump of withdrawal that the simple habit has created.
An issue that could potentially complicate the problem is if you work in the social media business. In which case, you especially need to keep yourself in check because oversharing could be detrimental to your occupation. Focus on keeping your interactions professional and reduce your access to work-only environments as much as you can. Deleting the app from your phone will help this because it will reduce your access to a computer, which is likely located in your work environment.
Using social media is not an inherently bad thing and it is not always counterproductive. However, if you think you are spending too much time on social media to the point where it is affecting your emotional well-being you probably need to act to reduce your exposure to it. If you take some of these simple steps, over time you will find that it isn’t as difficult to quit as you may think and you will feel a lot better once you have.