A couple of days ago, while I was watching a video on YouTube, my attention got caught on the right side of the screen. In the suggested videos to watch list there was one by Freedom in Thought: WHY I QUIT SOCIAL MEDIA FOR A YEAR AND WHAT I LEARNED. Since I’ve noticed that I’m quite addicted to social media, in particular to Facebook and Twitter, I started watching it right way.
The experiment consisted in quitting Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for one year, from July 2015 to July 2016 and guess what? He made it!! 🙂
Most of the people are fully aware about social media addiction but trying to reduce that the amount of time spent scrolling down posts is not something that all the people are willing to try. In fact, social media is a topic that usually split people in 2 categories:
- the ones who think social media are the devil
- the ones who think that are amazing
So, if you say to the first category “I’m going to quit social media for a while” you’ll get an applause…
But, if you do the same with the second one, you’ll probably get a laugh…
Why to quit for a while?
The author of the video said that he noticed a compulsory behavior: he (like everyone else, let’s admit that!) was looking at social media too often during the day. First thing getting up in the morning was to check his feed, during the day and basically every time he got bored, he started scrolling down his home pages and, of course, same story before going to bed in the evening. After some time he thought about what he was accomplishing in that specific period of his life and surprise… it was not enough for him. He realized that he wasted a lot of time instead of doing something useful for himself.
Why are we not able to control ourselves instead of taking such measures as quitting for one year? Shouldn’t be simple? Absolutely not! The reason is because social media were originally designed to be addictive, meaning that you need to spend as much time as possible connected to the network. The founders of the most popular social media spent (and are currently still spending) millions of dollars in research in order to find out:
- what content works better in order to keep the users hooked as much as possible
- how can they adapt the apps accordingly
Are social media so bad for us?
For sure social media are not bad if we are able to control how much time we spent on and which content we look at. It’s not a black or white answer in my opinion as they are part of our life and, for certain industries, they have been the key to success. The side effect found by neuroscientists though, is that social media affect our ability to concentrate and specifically for how long we can stay focused. We are always tempted to check our mobile phone every time we receive a notification, a new like, a new message or a new follower as it increases our dopamine level which means that our brain falls in a positive feedback loop, waking up and being active, curious every time our phone starts ringing.
What was the lesson learnt by the YouTuber once the experiment was over?
He became more productive as:
- He was able to learn more deeply and be more creative
- He started reading a lot of books, producing music and writing articles
- Was less distracted as he didn’t hear social media notifications on his mobile
- Was less influenced by what people thought of him
- No more fear of missing out when you’re not looking at social media
The last two bullet points are the most interesting to me as we all know that on social media, especially Instagram, most of the people do not show what is real, rather they tend to beautify their life or “put some icing on the cake”. He used to feel depressed about his life as it wasn’t as cool as the ones shown on social media but luckily he learnt not to compare his life with others’ anymore.
Also, the paradox is that we think about social media as the real world and because of that we are afraid we will not be part of it, we will miss something if we disconnect from it. This belief creates severe addiction.
Another thing that he learnt was that on social media we believe we have real relationships but unfortunately it’s not true, adding someone as friend on Facebook doesn’t mean that he/she is. For example, you might think that keeping the connection with your elementary school best friend means that you still know him but since you don’t see him, talk face to face you don’t know how much he/she changed. If you ask him/her out for a couple of drinks you’ll find out that you don’t know him anymore.
How to be on social media in a healthy and conscious way?
Social media are not the devil in my opinion. For example. they can be really useful to spread news reaching millions of people in less than few minutes or, as mentioned above, for companies that want to increase sales and/or promote a new product.
But if you think it could be better for you to reduce the amount of time on social media you can start:
- using social media like Google feed. You like the pages/people you’re interested in and in the home page you’ll get mostly useful content and not gossip which is really bad as it doesn’t bring any value except satisfying your curiosity.
- deleting social media apps from your mobile or turning off the notifications so you won’t get distracted
- try to live in the real world and do not check social media when you’re out with friends or when you’re at work
- set a goal and if you reach it give yourself a reward. For example, if you are able to not look at social media for 3 hours get you a pastry!
- download an app to reduce time on social media (Social Fever, Space etc..)
It’s not hard to believe that you’ll try the forth point first, right? 😉
Other useful links:
- Nicholas Carr book: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
- Freedom in Thought YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd6Za0CXVldhY8fK8eYoIuw