I used to have a social media addiction. I didn’t know it at the time. But the truth is that Facebook was draining my energy, reducing my confidence, and making me feel inadequate compared to everyone else.
Everyone wants to post videos from concerts, selfies with celebrities, and the amazing things they accomplish. But for one reason or another, very few people want to talk about what their life is really like.
Why? I have the answer. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that social media has become a highlight reel of peoples’ lives. It’s almost as if every single one of us is broadcasting propaganda to make it seem like we’re happy when in reality, we’re not.
For some people, that’s a hard pill to swallow. And I can empathize with that. Because for a long time, a lot of my self-worth was wrapped up in likes, comments, shares, and other features of Facebook & Instagram.
Social media made me a promise to be more connected to the world. But in a lot of ways, my connection & addiction to social media made me disconnected from reality. Each day, I was starting to lose track of the things that matter. Relationships with my family worsened, friends became distant, and I felt more lonely than ever.
I knew that something had to change. So a month ago, I decided to delete Facebook from my phone, and all of my other devices. Although it was incredibly difficult to quit my addiction, the insights I gained from this experience changed my life forever.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
Social Media Is More Addictive Than You Think
Research shows that social media is purposely built to make users spend as much time on the platform as possible. Quoting an article published by the BBC:
“You have a business model designed to engage you and get you to basically suck as much time out of your life as possible and then selling that attention to advertisers.”
All the time, we let it happen. We get a notification, pull out our phones, and get a rush of dopamine, as someone’s chosen to interact with our social media post. Another like. Another comment. Another mention from a friend, tagging us in a twelve-minute video.
It’s slowly feeding our ego, making us feel validated, and more connected to the rest of society. But in reality, it drains our energy and time, until we need to go to sleep and repeat the same actions the next day.
I used to tell myself “just two more minutes” while scrolling through my news feed. But no matter how hard I tried to control my addiction, I’d often spend upwards of five hours a day looking at other people’s lives on Facebook.
Did this habit have any tangible benefit to my life? I don’t think so. Sure, I got to see what my friends had for lunch and pictures from an acquaintance’s vacation in Portugal. I got to watch a video of my cousin’s new puppy. That was nice. But more often than not, I was thinking about how exciting it would be to have a completely different life, instead of what I could do to improve my own.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that social media is inherently bad. After all, it gives everyone in society a chance to talk to other people, regardless of how far they may physically be. However, problems can arise when social media becomes addicting and takes priority over other aspects of life.
So take a moment to evaluate how much time you spend on social media each day. I’m not saying you need to follow my footsteps and eliminate Facebook (or another platform) from your life. But when you’re not spending several hours scrolling through your news feed, I’ve learned that you can use that time to focus on what genuinely matters to you.
You’re The Only Person Who Cares About What You Post
The truth is that if you don’t post something to social media, life will go on.The world will not stop spinning if you don’t upload a photo of what you had for dinner or your trip to the park at the weekend.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear writes about how feedback loops can create a new habit or addiction. For social media, it goes something like this:
- Cue. It triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It’s an indication of a potential reward. For example, one of your previous posts might have loads of likes, comments, and shares.
- Craving. You notice the high level of engagement and want to receive a similar level of praise or validation with a new post. You want to feel like people actually care about what you have to say.
- Response. This is when you create a new piece of content. It might be joining a relevant hashtag, trend, or writing a status that helps you to fulfill the craving in your mind.
- Reward. People like your status, photo, or whatever you upload. You feel good about yourself, and enjoy the feeling of people engaging with your content.
Engagement on your content reinforces the idea that people care about what you have to say. So naturally, you create more posts, spend more time on the platform, and slowly develop an addiction to social media.
But, when you break the feedback loop, you’ll realize that it’s just a perpetual self-validation game. I guess you could say that most people act like dogs chasing their own tail on social media.
Confucius once said, “We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.” My life began the day I quit Facebook. After all, my self-worth is no longer based on the number of likes I receive on a photo or status.
It’s unquestionable: spending less time on social media can improve your mental health and make you happier. Because when you stop focusing on everything that doesn’t matter, you can begin spending your time on the things that do.