How I’m kicking my social media addiction to the curb

We’re all slaves to screen time

By Paula-Ann Smit

How I’m kicking my social media addiction to the curb

Social media

Like many who’ve recently seen the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, I seriously wanted to delete all my social media platforms. 

The documentary, written by Jeff Orlowski, Davis Coombe and Vickie Curtis, focuses on how social media companies manipulate users through algorithms, and how these platforms are created to be addictive. 

You know the pull-to-refresh feature on Twitter? Experts have linked the design to that of (highly-addictive) slot machines found in casinos. Plus, a study by Harvard University found that social media usage lights up the same part of the brain that is stimulated when taking an addictive substance. How. Scary. Is. That?

But who am I kidding? Social media is literally part of my job, and I love using it to keep in touch with friends, especially with Covid-19 restrictions. Plus, Instagram is a great creative platform to showcase design and photography, and to be inspired by other creatives. 

There are always two sides to the same coin, and Harvard researchers also found that social media usage can have a positive effect on people, through emotional connection. 

My takeaway? Balance is key. Here are a few steps I’ve taken to avoid mindless social media scrolling and to kick the addiction to the curb:

1.  Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow 

Life’s too short to follow the girl who posts 20 consecutive stories of the countdown to her monthiversaries just because you went to kindergarten together. Unfollow the people who don’t bring you joy, the fitness pages that make you despise your body, and the tannie who emigrated to Australia ten years ago but *still* posts about South Africa being the worst country. Decluttering your feed will allow more time to enjoy and interact with the pages and people you actually like, rather than wasting time filtering through, well, noise. 

2. Turn off notifications 

 The Social Dilemma highlights that, even when people do distance themselves from social media platforms, notifications pull them right back in. If notifications about messages and Instagram likes weren’t enough, Facebook now notifies you about a post you made six years ago, or that you can now “send a message to your new friend”. Turning off notifications has allowed me to set time aside in my day to reply to messages, emails and catching up on Instagram. 

3. Switch your phone to grayscale 

Do you know how boring a phone looks without colour? I’ll demonstrate below. It’s like back in the day before social media took over our lives and the coolest thing on our phones was Snake. According to former Google Design Ethicist, Tristan Harris, switching your phone to grayscale is a quick way to fight against social media addiction. There’s a method behind his madness: it’s been scientifically proven that, by stripping away the neuron-stimulating colours, you’ll be less motivated to look at your phone. 

4. Delete the apps you aren’t using

The KonMari method can apply to your phone too. Twitter doesn’t bring you joy? Delete it. Facebook comments exhausting you? To quote a Disney superstar, “let it go!”. Apps you don’t like anyway can’t tempt you if they’re not there. Plus, now you’ll have more space for pics of your pets. 

5. Find a new hobby 

I recently started gardening and let me tell you I feel a lot better about my life after a few hours tending to plants than I do after mindless scrolling. Track your social media usage, and if you think you can spend less time on social media, put a bit of the tie towards a new hobby instead.

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