Are You Addicted to Social Media? It May Be Time for a Detox

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A couple of days ago I finished reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, so I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how I’ve been spending my time and trying to be more mindfully “present” throughout the day.
Now, I will be the first to admit, I spend WAY too much time on social media.
I manage two Instagram accounts – my healthy food based account for my business, and my travel/outdoors account for my personal adventures.
I spend a lot of time on both each day engaging with other travelers and digital nomads, figuring out what to post, editing pictures, writing captions, and scrolling through everyone else’s feeds. Plus of course, updating my Instagram story throughout the day.
Then there’s Facebook. Aside from just responding to comments and messages I receive throughout the day, there’s all the Facebook groups I’m a part of which get hundreds of updates on a daily basis that could be great opportunities for me to make connections, promote my blog, or learn something valuable.
Like i said in my last post, the FOMO struggle is real.
The GLT Facebook group in particular is both a blessing and a curse. There are so many amazing, inspirational stories from other travelers around the world, and it’s a HUGE help in planning my itineraries and next adventures. But it’s HIGHLY addicting.

I’ve been noticing more and more lately how much time social media is sucking away from my day and productivity.

I try to justify it by convincing myself of it’s importance in growing my business, but when I’m spending more time on social media than I am actually getting shit done or being present in the real life I’m actually living right now, in this moment, then I know it’s become a problem.
As of late, I’ve been overly stressed as I get ready to take off on my next big world trip because I feel like there’s not enough time to get everything done.
But I’m realizing time isn’t the real issue – it’s how I’ve been spending it.

Social media is like a black hole that sucks you in. And once it has a hold of you, you lose all sense of time and focus. Just like any other addiction.

I noticed I’ve been losing huge chunks of time scrolling feeds. Even as writing this post, I’ve checked my social media 3 times already because it’s an automatic reflex to grab my phone every time it lights up with notifications.
Social media may not seem like as dangerous of an addiction as alcohol or drugs. But the truth is, any addiction is dangerous – social media included.
Your brain doesn’t care what the source of the addiction is. It doesn’t care what your “poison” is. It will fire the same “pleasure” response (a neurotransmitter called dopamine) either way – making you crave more, and sacrificing other important things in your life to get your fix.
People get addicted to all kinds of things because they want more and more dopamine to be released (giving them immense feelings of pleasure) – sex, sugar, gambling, shopping, eating, caffeine, etc.
Similar to drugs and processed foods, social media is designed to keep us hooked and craving more.
But with the overuse of social media comes anxiety, obsessive behavior, self-doubt, loss of time, deteriorating relationships, information overload, and many more harmful consequences.

It’s not just the extensive amount of time we spend on social media that’s harmful to our health either.

A lot of times, when we see other people’s seemingly “perfect” lives on Instagram and Facebook over and over, we are filled with discontentment, insecurity, and a sense of longing to have what they have.
We forget that social media is just a “highlight reel” of people’s lives. Instead we feel like nothing in our life is enough, and we’re always wanting more.
Of course we’re also seeing misrepresentations of what people look like. People post pictures of themselves from more flattering angles, with added filters, strategic cropping, and good lighting.
But all we see is someone way more beautiful than we are, with a better body and perfect hair. Which leads to more insecurity and self-consciousness.
And last, but not least, the issue of “food porn.” And this is one I am definitely guilty of, because I run a foodie Instagram account and even use the hashtag “#foodporn” with each post.
According to Women’s Health Magazine, just seeing delicious food on social media will fire up the brain’s reward system and cause us to overeat.
I can speak from experience that when I’m scrolling through other people’s food pics for inspiration, I definitely get hungry and crave something tasty.

SO, how do we prevent social media from negatively impacting our lives? Here are a few ideas…

  1. The number one way is to be aware of how much time you’re spending on social media and making the conscious decision to “disconnect” during certain times of the day. I turned my phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode and flipped it upside down so that I could finish this post without distraction.
  2. Create a schedule for your day, including scheduled times for social media activity and don’t check any of your social media outside of those times. It may be helpful to turn off notifications, at least lock screen notifications.
  3. Put your phone away when you’re with other people. This is also good manners. But I’ll admit, sometimes I keep my phone on the table when I’m out with friends, and I’ve been trying to be better about putting it fully away – out of sight out of mind.
  4. If you use social media to promote your blog like I do, schedule your posts in advance, so you spend less overall time on social media throughout the day and week.
  5. Find healthier activities to fill your time with like yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, hiking, cooking, etc.
  6. Don’t sleep with your phone next to your bed. It’s ok to use your phone as an alarm – I do too. But set it out of reach so you’re not tempted to start scrolling while you’re waiting to fall asleep.
  7. Look up when walking and make a mental note of all of the things you would have missed if you were looking at your phone!
I want to share a little story from how I applied this to my life this morning, but if you’re short on time then you can stop reading here.

“Each day, discover the magnificent, awesome beauty of the world.”

I was packing up my stuff last night as I get ready to move out this weekend, and I read this quote in an old poetry book I forgot I had. It made me realize how much beauty I was missing every day by constantly looking at a screen all day.
Sure, I get to see a lot of beautiful places around the world from other people’s pictures on Instagram and Facebook, but seeing a beautiful picture doesn’t even remotely compare to experiencing beauty in real life.
That’s why we travel after all, right?
The pictures are meant to inspire us to go chase that beauty and experience it for ourselves. Because pictures never do true beauty justice. True beauty is something we feel, not just something we see.
I’ve been reflecting on that quote above for the past couple of days, and realized how much beauty I’ve been missing all around me by walking with my head down, scrolling Instagram when moving from on place to another, constantly switched on in “work mode”.
So this morning, I put myself in “airplane mode” so to speak. I put my phone in my backpack so that I wouldn’t be tempted by it, and I took the same walk that I’ve been taking for the past 6 months.
But this time the experience was much different.
I stepped outside my door in the brisk cold morning air, and paused. I took a deep breath in and turned my head toward the sky.
I watched the stars for a few seconds, noticed the position of the moon, saw the pink starting to form out on the horizon hinting that sunrise was on it’s way.
It was dark, and I could barely see where I was going. I thought about pulling my phone out to use the flight light, but fought the urge, because I knew the second I lit up my screen I’d be pulled in my the stream of notifications on the lock screen.
So I let the moonlight guide me.
Suddenly I saw a spider hanging down from a tree right in front of my face and dodged it at the last second. My heart was pounding and I had that disgusting creepy crawly feeling. Then I wondered how many spiderwebs I’ve walked through without realizing it during my morning walks, and got even more grossed out.
I shook that out of my mind and turned my attention back to everything happening around me. The sky was getting lighter by the second and I watched as it changed from black to purple to pink to blue and orange.
I admired how beautiful and exotic the palm trees looked against the colorful sunrise. I was reminded of the feeling I used to get when visiting California from Seattle.
In Seattle, we don’t have palm trees, and rarely have sunrises like this outside of summer. In California, we get them more frequently than we don’t. And because of that, it’s so easy to take them for granted.
I felt so grateful during my walk this morning to have had the opportunity to live in California for the past 8 months. Something I used to dream about when living in rainy Seattle my whole life.
For a second, I was actually a little annoyed with myself for not appreciating it more while I was experiencing it this past year. I spend so much time with my head down – scrolling, reading, posting, and engaging on social media to promote my business that I was missing all of the magnificent, awesome beauty happening all around me on a daily basis.
Then I told myself to let go of the past, and just enjoy the moment. 
Starting my day in this way set the tone for the rest of the day. I was in a great mood, felt grateful and excited about everything I was experiencing, and found beauty in the little things that normally get overlooked.

When was the last time you truly disconnected and actively looked for the beauty around you?

It’s a fun exercise to try out during those moments that you would normally whip out your phone – like waiting for your coffee order, taking public transportation, walking from one place to the next, looking out your living room window, drinking tea, sitting in your car at a red light, or any of those other daily moments we tend to let pass us by without paying attention to what’s happening all around us.

You’re not in this alone – let’s make healthy choices together.

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Bre Fowler

Hi, I'm Bre - the founder of The Positive Change Co! In early 2015, I left my familiar life in Seattle, WA behind to travel the world and become a digital nomad. Traveling as a LIFESTYLE completely transformed me. It was during my first big trip abroad in SE Asia and Australia that I found my passion for healthy living, addiction for personal growth, and a profound sense of purpose in the world. The Positive Change Co. is about more than just eating healthy and taking care of your body, it's about becoming the best possible version of yourself so that you can offer your best self to others and live a more meaningful life.

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