Social Media De Addiction — Experiment 1

Social Media addiction is strange in many ways. Unless you’re in a severe stage wherein you cannot live without a constantly refreshing fb/twitter feed (in which case you need to immediately head to a de addiction center), the tip I share below could work for you almost all the time.

TL;DR

https://cdn.meme.am/instances/400x/57455945.jpg

The Details

  • On Web logout of all your social media accounts and on Mobile, uninstall all social media apps and access them via phone’s browser.
  • Use a social media tool (Eg: Buffer) for posting updates. These are best because you can schedule your update and the tools does it for you without the risk of you falling into the slippery cycle of “newsfeed procrastination.”
  • Setup filters in your inbox so that no social media related messages reach it. Not even the status report of how many “Likes” you got for your latest profile pic.

And keep this in mind when you log back next time —

  1. Uncheck “remember me” or “Keep me signed in” check box. (Interestingly, Fb and LinkedIn has taken out this check box and I believe they assume you always wanted to be logged in / addicted. Twitter, though has retained this.).

2. Sign-out immediately after you have received your “Notifications” aka dose of dopamine and when you know the interesting articles in your newsfeed are over and you start scrolling down in a mindless fashion, something like this :

http://www.socialsamosa.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/bored-cat_Fotor.jpg

Why this works:

To understand why this method works for me and will work for you also (unless you’re an unruly self-sabotaging social media addict, in which case you need to head to a de addiction center), here’s a quick 101 on how habits work , especially in the context of social media—

http://modernhealthmonk.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Habits-1.png

1. Cue

It could be a browser popup, or push notification in your mobile or it could be an “interesting” url shared by one of your friends or colleagues.

2. Routine

Is the response to cue in the form of — firing up the app / opening the browser and heading directly to see what’s that “new” stuff waiting for me — Who sent that friend request / who started following me ? Who liked/shared/commented on my post ? etc.

3. Reward

The reward is the answer to all the above burning questions. (which sometimes ends up badly when, you open the notification and see that one of your friend invited you to like her company’s page or worse, invited you to a game of candy crush).

Though the diagram looks trivial, there has been tons of research on this model of habit cycle, how they are formed, how to break them etc.

The Problem

We generally fail in breaking a habit because we think in terms of Black and White, which goes something like this :

I understand this is a bad habit and this could ruin me. What should I do ? Quit doing it. Simple as that.
Not so fast.

Most of the time failure happens when people try to change a habit by trying to break the habit cycle at Cue stage. This results in various side affects such as being fidgety and also a lot of Will power is lost in this process.

A classic example is that of a chain smoker —

Brain Nicotine level comes down → Brain generates Craving (aka Cue)→ Inhale new Nicotine (aka Routine) → Dopamine released / Reward.

Now typically, when somebody announces s/he is going to quit smoking, what they’re trying to do, as we saw above, is to suppress the Cue. What they don’t realize is that Will power is a limited resource and it depletes after sometime.

Hence you’ll the see the same person taking a puff may be after an hour/ day / week.

The Solution

So how do you go about breaking the Habit cycle ?

You don’t attack it at the Cue stage. It doesn’t work. Its resource intensive. (resource = your will power) and it has proven to fail (atleast I can vouch for that).

One of the popular solution for breaking this Habit cycle is to attack it at the second stage — The Routine. Lets take the example of the smoker:

Brain Nicotine level comes down → Brain generates Craving→ Substitute for tobacco→ Dopamine released.

But..

While this may be a suitable solution for many situations, applying this to social media would be disastrous. Why ? Any alternative that are as powerful as Fb or Twitter are prone to be equally addictive.

So what do we do ?

What I have been trying (and fairly succeeded so far) is taking delayed gratification and forcing it on my social media addiction. How ? Its simple.

Make your Routine longer. Add more steps from Cue to Reward. Sure you’ll get your dopamine release, but at the cost of testing your patience, which on the long run will run out.

The Result

On Web

Before — Craving for checking notification → open a browser tab → immediately see the update.

After —Craving for checking notification → open a browser tab → enter login password → see update → logout.

Later On — Craving for checking notification → open a tab → close tab (because I can’t stand to type the entire email and the lengthy password again n again.)

On Mobile

Before — Push notification induces craving → clicking on it directly lands inside app.

After — Craving for notification → opens mobile browser & goes to website → enter login password → see update → logout.

Later On — Craving for notification → opens mobile browser → goes to website → sees the login screen → dread kicks in → closes the browser.


I have been experimenting this for about two months now and the effort seems to be worth while by looking at the progress I have made so far. I recommend you also try this and let me know how it goes.

If I were to condense this entire article into one line, I would again say —

Remember to Logout — Every single time !!!

Coming up next: Social Media De Addiction — Experiment 2 : How to De-addict yourself from apps that don’t require you to login. Eg: Youtube.

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