The Psychology of Social Media
Every day, we are inundated with unending streams of information. Technology is inextricably linked to our day to day activities. This means it may not be possible to get rid of every piece of technology you use (I would never dare to ask anyone to stop using their coffee maker). One place that you can easily take a break from is your social media platforms. According to Uptal DholakiaPh.D, “Over the past decade, a growing number of psychologist have started to see addiction to digital technologies as a form of behavioral addiction…They point to the fact that when using smartphones, or playing online games, or using social media, many people exhibit features that are very similar to those displayed by drug addicts”.
When you receive a like, a tweet, a share of your posts your brain gets a dopamine response and your brain’s reward system is activated. Like a drug, you will eventually need more of that stimulus to receive the same euphoric feeling.
Even though you may not be addicted to social media, it may be affecting your emotional well-being more than you realize. We use social media for multiple reasons from connecting with friends to hearing about the latest political moment. There are plenty of positive reasons to stay connected on the internet.
Unplugging shouldn’t be used just to prove you are not actually addicted to it. Taking a break from social media is just a way to reset your mental and emotional state. The average American spends roughly 5 hours per day solely watching television. That alone can seem overwhelming. Like any cleanse, its goal is to reset and rejuvenate. Plus, it gives you time to check in with yourself as you head into the rest of the year.
My First Cleanse
I did my first social media cleanse last year. I failed a few times before I got it right. The first time I tried I was back on Snapchat in two days. I guess I really was receiving those positive dopamine responses! Luckily, I stuck with it. I find I don’t need to check social media as much anymore. I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone so now I only use it on a computer. Without even realizing it, I have lessened my reliance on social media for confidence. I’ve become better at stopping myself from intense comparisons of “friends” on Facebook. Yes, at times I still use social media for funny cat videos but more often than not I’m using it with a purpose. The cleanse helped me realize how important the negative sides of social media had been to me. Now I have the ability to reassess and take note of times that the lure of the like starts to pull me in.
Are you ready to take the cleanse? Whether you want to start with a week or go for a whole month is personal preference. I recommend starting with a week. That’s what I did. Here are some basic rules/guidelines to get you ready.
- Delete social media apps from your phone – out of site out of mind. You can always re- download them after your cleanse but for now DELETE!
- No posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat (or any other cool form of social media you use).
- No going on said social media accounts on your computer, even just to check for a second (unless it is for work and you will loose your job if you don’t).
- If you must use social media for work or school, limit your use to work or school hours only. Don’t go on your personal accounts.
- Limit your TV watching to 1 hour a day.
- Limit news consumption to once a day.
- Stay off your phone unless it is for emergency phone call, limit texting responses to nighttime.
- Use a notebook to jot down how you are feeling. For example: do you feel the need to check your social media? Are you feeling anxious?
These guidelines can be adjusted to meet your needs. If you happen to be a social media manager for work, some of these guidelines may be more difficult. The important point is to step back in order to assess how constant use of social media makes you feel. At the end of your cleanse, could you go another week or are you dying to get back on it?
Social media are part of how we communicate. They are a large part of our social interactions and in many ways help us connect. Social media can also be essential in communicating political action steps.
A cleanse does not negate its positives. It is simply a measure to recharge, rejuvenate, and realign your frame of mind. It can seem intimidating to just stop using social media.
Start small, one week. You’ll be surprised how refreshed your mind will feel by the end. You may feel more prepared to tackle conversations, connections, and projects that you previously felt exhausted at the thought of. Giving it a try will never hurt. And it’s much easier and healthier than only drinking lemon water for four days.