Africa

3 ways to stop social media from controlling all of your time

Nigeria takes the crown as the country with the busiest social media users with an average of 4 hours and 7 minutes spent connected to such platforms per day, Statista reported in 2022. In second place is the Philippines, which is only 1 minute behind Nigeria, while in third place is India with 2 minutes and 36 seconds.

With 2 hours and 14 minutes, the United States ranks fourth. China, with 1 hour and 57 minutes, ranks fifth. 

laptop, notepad (©Nick Morrison)
laptop, notepad (©Nick Morrison)
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What’s scary is that most of us likely know people who beat all of those records. Perhaps, we should all try to become more aware of what the internet, and social media in particular, is doing to our brains and our lives.

You can stop social media from controlling all your time. Here are three ways that work: 

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1. Accept that you may need help.

It’s all rather silly when you give it some thought. Do you really care that some friend is feeling grateful while eating a steak? How important is it for you to see the route your friend took on their bicycle ride yesterday? Most people on Instagram aren’t exactly world-class photographers. The most recent newcomer to the social media pack, TikTok, features short videos of people doing stuff that’s highly unlikely to win anyone a Nobel Prize. Yet we keep coming back for more. 

There’s only one word that describes the act of not being able to control a desire for something and that word is addiction. The research is still too young to make definitive claims, and at present, there’s no such thing as an official diagnosis of being addicted to social media but there is a growing consensus among the medical community that social media addiction is a type of behavioral addiction that as many as 10% of those who use it will succumb to.

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2. Decide to eliminate digital distractions by blocking them.

If you find yourself reading this and recognizing your behavior, perhaps it’s time for a self-intervention. You don’t need to go cold turkey. Tens of millions of people around the world have discovered the power of Blocksite, a free-to-download blocking app. By learning how to block yourself from a website for studying or work, people are weaning themselves off of this addiction, while still being able to enjoy the beneficial side of social media, which includes a sense of community, connections with friends and relatives and a place to express yourself. 

The key to being able to use social media but not abuse it is limitations, which is what Blocksite offers. With this app, you can set times of the day when social media is unavailable. If you’re an office worker perhaps that would be office hours. For a student, it might be the time they should be doing their homework. Let’s not forget all those parents with their heads down, scrolling through their phones at the dinner table. All of these misuses can be avoided by setting up a schedule that blocks access to social media sites during specific times.

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3. Learn how to get dopamine from non-web sources. 

Many of the feelings of addiction are not entirely your fault. There are some very clever algorithms being used by social media sites and other entertainment platforms such as YouTube. These companies have stockholders to please, which gives them every incentive to get you to stay on their platform or return to it as often as possible. Such companies are more than aware of how our neural circuitry is set up.

When you make a comment on Facebook, for example, and you get 10 likes, seven laughs and three hug emojis, it’s the equivalent of a little shot of dopamine. You feel validated. You feel loved. And it’s a feeling you want to continue feeling. But unless we are careful and willing to set limits on ourselves, the possibility of being sucked into addiction is very real.

But we can get dopamine from plenty of non-internet-related things such as good food, good sleep, exercise, meeting with friends, and a walk in a green space with trees. Each of us must learn what our bodies need to naturally produce sufficient dopamine so we aren’t so easily hooked by a like or a thumbs up. We’re all wired differently, so for some, getting more sleep is the ticket, while for others, changing their diet is what works in balancing the chemicals in their brains.  

In short, we all need to begin to develop more digital discipline, or when augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) start to become everyday tech, we’re going to spend most of our lives in the Cloud – literally. We have choices. We can choose to block it. As some might say: Out of sight, or out of site, out of mind. 

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