A few months ago, I decided to delete my Facebook account. I used to spend ridiculous amounts of time browsing through the feed, looking at memes that my friends shared. I had days with 4 or 6 hours of screen time on social media, which is horrible, tho those are rookie numbers compared to other people. I knew I had a problem, but not how huge it was.
Time Limit ⏱
I started working on solutions for the problem. The first thing that went through my mind is to limit the time I spent on the app. It's that simple, an hour or two of social media and back to work. This can be easily achieved both on iOS and in recent versions of Android. Switch one or two toggles in the settings, and you're done.
However, this "solution" has two big problems. You can set a time limit to an application, and if you exceed that limit, it will kick you out. But once you open that app again, the only thing blocking you from using it is a single button.
The second problem and the reason behind this blog post is addiction. Social media apps are designed to be addictive. Companies spend millions of dollars researching this. They analyze what colors would make you engage more, what posts would make you start a discussion, and more. If these apps detect that you are not using them enough, they will even send you notifications of posts that you will like. Facebook is the champion when it comes to this. They will send you a notification for insignificant things, like a comment a friend made on a random post, friendship anniversaries, and more. All of these notifications have a purpose; for you to open the app. Once you open it, even if it was to check a simple message, the endless scrolling will begin. If you want to read more about how these platforms are designed I recommend this article and this blog post.
The Endless Scrolling ∞
What is endless scrolling? Well, have you ever finished scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or Tik Tok? No, you haven't. This is one of the things that make these apps so addictive. They literally have endless amounts of content. Every time you see a meme or a funny video, it creates a dopamine spike in your brain. While dopamine alone isn't responsible for addiction, it has an important role in becoming addicted to something. Here's an article that explains social media addiction in more detail.
These apps are often an escape from reality. Sometimes you are overwhelmed by work, school, or both; using these apps can help relieve some stress. That's not bad, but these companies know how to exploit this to make you become addicted. That's why a simple time limit won't help you break the addiction. If someone is addicted to a drug you don't put the drug behind a door and ask them to not open it. You know they will, addicted people do not have self-control.
I bet that you can count the number of friends that don't have social media accounts with one hand. This is part of the problem, it is normal to spend this ridiculous amount of time on an app. If everyone does it, why not you? You don't see it as a problem because the people that surround you have the same problem. People see it as something normal, most don't even know this problem exists. Don't believe you have a problem? Go check your screen on time, if you're on iOS it's on settings > Screen Time; on Android, it's on settings > Digital Wellbeing ( or something similar).
You probably have between 4 and 8 hours of screen time, depending on the time of the day and how busy you were. Now, high screen time is not necessarily a bad thing. The thing is where those hours are allocated, if it's something productive or if it benefits you, then it's fine. The problem is that for most people, half of those hours are on social media, they are addictive and things like a time limit can't help.
Breaking the Spell 🧙🏼♂️
The thing with addiction is that you do not control it. You cannot simply stop using something that you are addicted to. You need to take some "extreme" measures to stop it. There are a few things that you can do, for example giving your accounts to a friend so he can change the passwords for a few months. You can use something like Go Fucking Do IT or you can delete the apps. My solution to my Facebook addiction was to delete my account, but I know that's not an option for most people.
These solutions shouldn't be the norm. Companies shouldn't be able to play with your mind as they do. It isn't right, the things that these companies perpetrate have consequences and can affect people's lives. Here are some examples:
- Facebook aware of Instagram’s harmful effect on teenage girls, leak reveals
- Facebook under fire over secret teen research
- Twitter To Study Whether Its Algorithm Causes Unintentional Harms
- Digital Crack Cocaine: The Science Behind TikTok’s Success
Social media companies need to change their ways, instead of creating these algorithms that analyze people, they should be more organic. Even if it is at the expense of making less money. I know it sounds like I hate social media platforms; I don't. There is nothing wrong with using them (with self-control). My problem is how addictive they are (intentionally) and the adverse effects they have on all of us. I recommend disabling your accounts for a few months. This is my personal experience, (and I know everyone is different) but since I disabled them, many aspects of my life have improved. I spend more time doing the things I want to do, ( this blog is one of those things). Im doing better in college, and I feel better mentally and physically. Even if you don't feel like you have a problem with them, I'm sure that you'll benefit from disconnecting for a while. Break the spell, take it as a challenge, and disable them for one month or two.