Do you ever feel a rush of intense pleasure watching those Instagram likes ramp up? Congratulations, you’ve just received a delightful and hugely addictive hit of dopamine. Though social media addiction can hardly be lumped into the same category as substance abuse, when someone likes that picture you spent ages pouring over, it’s a little bit like taking a drug. As far as your brain is concerned at least, the experience is one and the same.
Like it or not, we’re living in a voyeuristic society where online addiction is a legitimate diagnosis, digital detox centres are commonplace and ‘nomophobia’ is a significant cause of anxiety. And if you’ve ever misplaced or broken your iPhone and felt your stomach drop in fear, then you may be in need of a little reality check.
Ample research suggests overuse of social media has proven links to a decrease in happiness and satisfaction. So how do we stay positive and productive in a digital world which lends itself to endless scrolling, swiping and liking?
Quit second screening
Be honest with yourself. Can you watch a movie without simultaneously swiping away on Tinder or typing furiously on your laptop? You’re not the only one. As the attention spans of Millennials dwindle to a mere 8 seconds, it seems one screen is no longer enough. Whether you’re typing emails or Netflix binging, put your phone away and stick to the one screen. This way, you won’t miss vital moments of Peaky Blinders whilst scrolling endlessly through Twitter and you’ll almost definitely get more done in your working day, too.
Have you ever glanced at a couple in a restaurant together, sitting by candlelight whilst looking lovingly at their iPhone screens? Romantic, eh? Don’t be distracted from real life experiences by online conversations to the detriment of tangible relationships. With the average smartphone user opening and closing their phone up to 150 times a day (that amounts to over 2.5 hours, in case you were wondering), documentation has become as important as living in the moment. Setting yourself boundaries while out with friends and loved ones will help you to nurture real relationships and be more present in day-to-day life.
Our image valuing culture encourages young people to define their worth based on how well they succeed or fail within the parameters of social media. Unsurprisingly, the relationship between social comparison and low body dissatisfaction in young women in particular is strongly linked to increased exposure to idealised images of the female body. Self-esteem is eroding at an alarming rate as social media becomes an unhealthy and addictive space for comparison and critique. Start scrolling smart, and unfollow accounts that stimulate feelings self-consciousness and negativity. Replace your feed with positive and inspiring people who encourage positivity and empowerment, free from perfected and airbrushed images parading as reality.
The digital world doesn’t have to breed isolation and disconnection. When used positively, it can become a progressive vehicle for change. Conscious-raising has remained a significant feature of feminist activism throughout history, and in many ways the digital age has helped to move the personal issues of women and other marginalized groups into the political arena. We need only to look at the #MeToo movement to see this in action. Use the time you do spend on social media positively – join conversations you feel passionate about and utilise your channels as a space for personal growth and knowledge.
Start your daily digital detox with the free iPhone app, Mute. Like a FitBit for digital consumption, Mute tracks your screen time and sends alerts when you’ve spent too much time checking and scrolling on your phone. With daily and weekly progress reports, find out how much time you’re really spending behind the screen, and make small and easy changes to combat it.
Dopamine hits aside, it takes just 21 days to break a habit, so why not start now?