3.196 billion. That’s the number of social media users worldwide in 2018, which is up 13% according to The Global Digital Report. In today's culture of #followforfollow and #life4like it's as important as ever to interrupt the mindless scrolling and look up. Social media, which was designed as a tool for connection, has become a replacement.
Chamath Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist who once led Facebook’s efforts at global growth, told an audience at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.” In fact, studies show that the tiny hit of dopamine you get each time your phone alerts you to a new comment on Facebook or Instagram like is so strong that tweeting is actually harder for people to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.
Is it time to disconnect? Here are 3 tips on taking a social media detox:
Choose a designated day
Brian Primack, a director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health at the University of Pittsburgh, co-authored a study published last year that looked at how much 1,787 U.S. adults ages 19 to 32 used 11 social media sites. They found that the people who spent the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites.
So, check your calendar for a day that makes sense for you to go sans social media. Begin with Sunday and if those 24 hours help you to feel grounded and more present, then try for an entire weekend.
Don’t go empty handed
It’s not enough to exorcise social media from a day or a weekend. You need to fill that space with something else, otherwise it might be too tempting to slip back into the mindless scrolling. Try a new workout class, pick up that book you’ve been meaning to finish, get crafty with a DIY project or meet a friend for coffee. Check in with how good it feels to make more eye contact without having a phone tethered to your hand. According to a study detailed in Harvard Business Review, taking a nature break has also been proven to increase productivity and improve your attention span.
Remove the temptation
Adam Alter, social psychologist and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, told the New York Times, “Technology is designed to hook us...Email is bottomless. Social media platforms are endless. Twitter? The feed never really ends. You could sit there 24 hours a day and you’ll never get to the end. And so you come back for more and more.” In fact, the average person spends at least 1 hour and 40 minutes per day looking at social media sites and apps.
Try taking the apps off of your phone so that you aren’t tempted. In fact, remove all of the time-sucking apps. Don’t worry, all of those notifications will still be there when you re-download those apps later, you just won’t be distracted by your phone lighting up every 4 seconds throughout the day.
Sure, it’s great to stay connected to loved ones when distance and busy lives keep you apart. But when scrolling replaces eye contact in doctors’ offices and on dinner dates, it causes more of a disconnection. Double tapping funny cat memes is a sad replacement for small talk in long post office lines, and the smiley face emoji texts just aren’t the same as picking up the phone and hearing your friend’s laughter.