REMEMBER THAT commercial from the ’80s with the guy and the egg and the hot frying pan?
“This is your brain,” he ominously said, holding up the egg. He then cracked the egg into the frying pan, where it sizzled and screamed, adding, “This is your brain on drugs.” Dramatic pause. “Any questions?”
While there’s no doubt there’s still a war on drugs and substance addiction and abuse are rampant in the United States, many Americans aren’t seeking escape from their problems at the wrong end of a crack pipe. Instead of snorting, smoking, or shooting something up, more and more people are going online and logging onto social networking sites for their daily fix of mind-numbing pleasure. You never quite realize just how second nature constantly checking these sites has become until you make the conscious effort to stop using them.
In a bid to ramp up productivity whilst trying to finish a particular project, I decided that I wouldn’t do anything online that didn’t specifically have to do with my writing or research. I don’t consider myself to be a social media addict (red flag #1), so I didn’t think it was a big deal. I just realized how much time I wasted looking at other people complaining or showing the world what they had for lunch on Instagram.
I started weaning myself off social media on a Monday, an auspicious day for all good diets and cleanses to begin, and what I found surprising was that I constantly had to remind myself that I was in fact avoiding these sites and apps. I would open a web browser with the intention to search something, and I’d look down at my screen to find myself typing www.facebook into my toolbar. It took a few seconds for it to click in my head that I wasn’t supposed to be doing this — because I hadn’t even realized I was doing it. Looking back on it, it felt like something I would imagine Invasion of the Body Snatchers was like. I was zoned out. It was a blur. Yet my fingers were typing.
I quickly exited the web page and thought to myself,what a close call that had been. But throughout the day and the week it happened again and again. I would accidentally almost log on to Facebook or would touch the Instagram app to open it. So, yeah I think that means I have a problem. And I’m not the only one. According to a Pew Research Center study on Internet statistics, 60% of Facebook and Instagram users log in every day. It’s estimated that, as of 2013, Americans spend an average about 6.5 hours on social media sites every month. That’s a full night of sleep (to some), a few good movies, or hell, 6.5 hours of doing something productive for either yourself of society. And that’s average, mind you. That number surely skyrockets if you solely look at teens or college-aged users.
So I decided to do what one does when they come to the realization that they have an addiction. The only thing one can do, really — quit… cold-turkey style. I extended my social media cleanse — for the foreseeable future.
So do you need one too? How do you go about purging this aspect of life that has become so integrated into your day-to-day? Well, I’m here to tell you.
Delete all social media apps from your phone. Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking that spending time online means spending time on a traditional computer or laptop. Wrong! Once you erase the apps from your smartphone and other devices, you will have less access to them and they won’t be in front of your face 24/7. They won’t constantly be on your mind and you won’t be wondering what everyone else is doing.
Make actual plans with people. I know. Seeing real friends and having to interact and have a conversation… it feels like a lost art and form of communication, doesn’t it? If you’re busy in your “real” life and having a good time, you won’t be nearly as concerned with what others are doing virtually. Your friends will be able to update you on their lives in person. Because, come on, you aren’t really friends with all of your “friends” on social media. Half of them you probably haven’t spoken to in the past five years and the other half you probably don’t even like. When you stay off social media, you won’t be bitter if the biatch from high school just got engaged because you won’t know. You will be out living your own life.
Get a hobby. Something outside — whether it be sports or gardening or bird watching or finding a new hiking trail. You can choose indoor activities, too like learning how to knit or mastering a foreign language. Choose something that requires focus and dedication so your mind doesn’t have time to wander.
Cautiously integrate it back into your life. When you finish your cleanse, and you feel like you can handle social media again, be sure to start slow. Just like with finishing a juice cleanse, you can’t dive back into solid foods with reckless abandon. You’ll end up with yak all over the place and a bellyache to last you a lifetime. The same should go with social media. Make rules for yourself that you will only check your profiles one or two times a week — and stick to it!
The moral of this story is simple. There’s A LOT of life out there to be lived. Sure, social media creates the illusion that you are sharing your life with others but, the truth is, when you’re too engaged it actually prevents you from living it. So, please: cleanse! And I won’t be offended if you don’t like, share, or retweet this article (as long as that’s the only reason you’re not). Start now!