Breaking free of a social media addiction

Without a cell phone enticing me to watch reel after reel, I have been able to renew relationships and find time for pets, reading, hobbies
Like drugs or gambling, social media can be addictive soaking up time that could be used on more meaningful pursuits. On May 23, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a health advisory which concluded that while social media may offer some benefits, there are ample indicators that social media can also pose a risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents. Among the many harms cited in the advisory are lower self image, particularly body image; exposure to hate speech; and sleep deprivation.
Like drugs or gambling, social media can be addictive soaking up time that could be used on more meaningful pursuits. On May 23, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a health advisory which concluded that “while social media may offer some benefits, there are ample indicators that social media can also pose a risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” Among the many harms cited in the advisory are lower self image, particularly body image; exposure to hate speech; and sleep deprivation.
Sophie Leung-Lieu

Social media is a way to connect with friends, family and share your life online, but if not managed correctly, it can ruin your life. In just less than two decades, social media has completely changed the way people live their lives. In its early days some of the biggest platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, seemed like harmless apps that had a lot of positive effects on users. Although they did, and still can, in recent years, consumption of online content has gotten so out of control to the point that people are completely wasting their time.

Many people have compared social media consumption to gambling since both so addictive and because in both activities you are hoping for the next ‘win’ that gives you a quick boost of dopamine.

Up until a few weeks ago, I fell into this trap. I would spend hours on Instagram, just scrolling through Reels, knowing it was bad for me but being so manipulated that quitting seemed too hard to do. The night I quit and totally deleted all of my social media apps, I had spent over six hours on social media, mindlessly scrolling and taking in posts and videos that I would forget in just a few minutes. That night, I found that I was irritated and really disappointed in myself for spending my time like that. I realized that I needed to stop this unhealthy habit, so I completely deleted the apps off of my phone. I was clearly not able to have a healthy relationship with them.

For years I have known the terrible impact that social media has had on my life, but it’s so addicting that it’s incredibly hard to delete. Many of my peers I have talked to about their relationship with social media have had the same experience and continue to consume this content even though they know it is negatively interfering with all aspects of their life. The issue with social media is that it is so easy to get addicted. Most social media, like TikTok and Instagram, give you an endless stream of content to the point that even if the video or post you are viewing at the moment isn’t very good, you continue to scroll since you are hoping that the next video is going to be the good one. These apps take so much of your information to create a perfect “for you page.” Many people have compared social media consumption to gambling since both so addictive and because in both activities you are hoping for the next “win” that gives you a quick boost of dopamine.

Along with stronger connections with others, deleting social media helps you feel like a kid again.

Dopamine is released in your brain by anything that gives you happiness. Dopamine activates the reward pathway in your brain which leads you to continue the activity you are doing because your brain associates that activity with happiness. In this case, social media releases dopamine when you find a video funny or amusing. This is why you pick up your phone when you’re bored or are in a situation where you need a distraction from what’s going on, since you are hoping to get a quick burst of dopamine. The dopamine boosts create a shorter attention span and is why so many teenagers struggle with longer lessons, videos, conversations, etc. Since your brain is addicted to the dopamine gained from social media, it makes everyday activities that you should find relatively entertaining, boring.

Social media algorithms that pull you in can be incredibly hard to escape. One of the most difficult things about deleting these apps is having to rethink your time and how to spend moments where your first thought is to pick up your phone. For me, I realized that I was able to have more conversations with people around me, like my parents. I would normally go away from them after school since I used to sit on my phone all the time after long school days. Now, I talk to my parents instead. Along with stronger connections with others, deleting social media helps you feel like a kid again. Personally, as a kid I would always think of random things to do since I didn’t have a phone to waste my time. I would find myself reading, building random things, playing with my pets, etc. With my time back now, I think just like this again.

If you find social media is taking over your life and you don’t have control over your decision to be on it or not, I strongly urge you to delete social media.

One thing I have found myself getting back into that I used to do before I had social media was learning about history. I’ve read a lot of books or watched movies about historical events that I wouldn’t have learned about before. Besides being interested in history like I used to be, I also feel as though I am having to think of things I don’t usually do to spend my time; for example, I’ve started bringing my dog to my neighborhood park, which I never did before.

The most important thing about deleting social media is being mindful. If you still have it on your phone, try to be more mindful when you open the app, if you don’t want to delete it completely for whatever reason. Ask yourself “why am I opening the app right now?” because most of the time you will notice you’re just doing it out of complete boredom, which isn’t a good reason to go on there. If you find social media is taking over your life and you don’t have control over your decision to be on it or not, I strongly urge you to delete social media. It doesn’t have to be for good, but I suggest you give it a try.

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