Breaking My Social Media Addiction
I don’t want to trivialize other addictions, but I really think I have a social media addiction. I’m on my phone or computer for hours each day. So, I’ve decided I’m going to cut back.
It’s tough, though, because I’m a writer. I make money by typing and submitting things online. The temptation is always right there. A click away. I can’t just block every web site that’s a time-waster, because I may need to access it for promotion or research.
This is going to take a lot of self-discipline.
Social media is the worst for me, because I can’t even justify it. What happens on social media feels real, but it isn’t real. We get a sense of accomplishment from likes. A dopamine hit.
An example of how fake it all is: When my birthday rolled around, lots of people wished me happy birthday on Facebook. I was grateful, until I saw some messages from people I don’t get along with in real life. I was surprised we were still “friends.” The last time I spoke to one person, she said she never wanted to see me again … yet she posted a chirpy birthday wish and a cute picture on my wall. Is it just a habit? Do people think it makes them look friendly? I don’t know.
I was an early adopter of social media, so I’m not new to this struggle. I’ve been on Facebook for over a decade, and before that, I was on sites like MySpace or chatting on AIM. It was difficult for me to connect to people face-to-face, so I did it online.
Now, it’s the opposite. I miss so much nuance when I’m just texting someone or viewing their stuff later over a screen. Someone close to me announced his engagement on social media, and I saw it on Facebook first. What happened to an old-fashioned phone call?
And, as people say, if you’re not paying for something, you’re the product. You give away your photos and information, and in return, you get to see your friends’ photos and information. Then creepy, targeted ads start following you around the Internet.
I’ve written about this kind of advertising before. It’s straight out of Minority Report, yet we accept it as normal.
I know I can’t entirely blame the Internet. I’m the one who used it and put my information out there. Social media sites dug a hole, but I’m the one who jumped in.
And it’s not just social media. I read the news a lot online. Multiple times a day. So even if I cut out all social media, I’d still be in danger of falling into that trap.
Reading the news is good, on one level. You stay informed. But negative stuff rises to the top on news sites. If it bleeds, it leads. And after awhile, reading about horrible stuff nonstop can make you jaded. It’s nice to unplug and do something nice. Create art. Visit family. Something that’s good for your spirit.
I know I’m not the first person to say this. Much has been written about Internet addiction, and the consequences. Honestly, it’s hard for me to pick out an original idea that I haven’t read before a dozen times.
But for me, surfing the Internet is a time waster. I post the same stuff, and read the same stuff, over and over. I justify it by saying, well, I’m a writer, I should keep up with everything. Or that I’m tired or not feeling well and I deserve a break.
I’m not saying people should be 100% productive, but I’ve long realized that the time I spend reading comics online could be spent studying. The time it takes to write a random Internet comment could be part of an article (that I’d get paid for) instead. When I waste time, it’s gone. Out the window. And I haven’t accomplished anything or grown or even relaxed. My brain thinks it’s learning and working, but it’s not.
Part of me still says, “I’m a writer. I need social media to promote myself. And I need to support other writers.” But is that really it? I get a handful of click-throughs from Twitter. That’s it. And I love commenting positively on other writers’ work, but that takes a few minutes. Not hours a day.
I’m not going to stop reading other writers’ work or clapping, but I’m cutting way back on my Internet time. No more hours on it every single day, and sacrificing my own projects. No more Reddit or Facebook. Heck, I can take a break from Twitter, too. I only really know a few people there anymore.
Maybe it will be good for my mental health. Or my creativity. I’ll be forcing myself to take better photos to make my Medium stories unique, not just to get a couple likes on Facebook. Rather than filling up my mind reading junk, I can dive into some books. I can also clean, which is the closest I ever get to meditating. There’s something to be said for slowly improving myself, instead of just reading about how everyone else did it.