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How to take control of your social media addiction (Part 2)

I recently wrote about what your social media 'addiction' is telling you - this is part 2.

I thought the topic was worth some further, more detailed investigation and tips... so more on that below. But first - some of you may have been sitting there, seeing the title of this post and thinking to yourself "I don't actually think I'm doing too badly"...

Well, you might want to double check yourself (check yourself before you wreck yourself!) Here is the definition of addiction (this is from Psychology today):

"Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns, such as work, relationships, or health. People who have developed an addiction may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others."

Now, with that in mind - have you ever stood by a lake at the blue hour and instead of the scenery looked at your phone? Have you sat in the same room with another human being and, instead of engaging with them, checked your insta feed? Have you ever been at work and checked your facebook notifications?

Yes, these things my happen once in a while, but what I've observed in my own behaviour is that it is a creeping addiction... a little bit more each day it becomes acceptable (or accepted) to do things like googling the answer to a dinner table questions while at the dinner table. To glance at my phone while actually talking to somebody to quickly pick up the incoming message notification. And at nighttime, when there is a prime opportunity to catch up with the daily family events, play a board game, practice an instrument or at least read a book, the smartphone slowly becomes the default option.

In fact, more often than not I'm finding myself in a room full of people all staring at their individual screens.

To me, the whole thing is a bit like Pavlov's dog experiment: the same way the canine in it's sling started salivating at the sound of the bell, we reach for out phone at the notification sound - in a more and more automated manner.

1. Motivation

This one was hardest. Because, in actual fact, I enjoy hearing from people. I learn a lot from what people post. I was never a great fan of reading a newspapers, but following my super-intelligent and clued up friends links has given me access to a whole lot of really useful information. I'm participating more in political discourse and debate than before. I also have a chance to be supportive to other people in the various facebook support groups I'm a member of. I'm able to send my love to faraway friends navigating challenging life transitions that I probably wouldn't hear about otherwise.

Which means, it's all a good thing, isn't it?

Why stop?

Well, there's the funny cat videos. The posts about the woman who dropped 150 pounds and found she was getting less dates than ever before. And the fact that Kim Kardashian was caught photoshopping her bottom.

I didn't need those.

​That admitted, I looked at what all this information cost me: less quality time with my children who are racing through their childhood (Sometimes I worry that I may look up from my screen and they have moved out.). Less quality interaction with those around me. Less time for physical activity. Less motivation to go out an do stuff (because of finding enough distraction on the couch).

So, my first step was becoming very clear about what my motivation is for both: spending time on screens and NOT spending time on screens.

Ask yourself: What are you gaining from being 'on social'? Write it in the left hand side column.

Then ask yourself: What is it costing me? Write it on the right hand side column.

The truth will set you free.

More aspects of what your social media use is actually telling you and your motivations you can find in Part 1 to this post.

2. Scheduling time

As an online entrepreneur, I have to spend time online. Social media play an important role in my business and while I can see the merit in outsourcing all of that - I'm not quite there yet.

So I scheduled some time into my diary each week (2 hrs on a Monday) where I can sit down and focus on those things, getting rid of the 'but it's work!' excuse. I schedule out all my social media during this time - and then I'm done for the week. I may engage with people's comments once more later in the week - or I wait till a week later. My time is precious but if you want a response, you can reach me via my website, email or via WhatsApp.

3. Rules

The next step is taking care of the big stuff. All the completely inacceptable little habits that snug in over time. Things I didn't have to negotiate with myself about because I agree with myself that it is just not on, under any circumstances.

  • No phones at the dinner table.

  • No phones while engaging / interacting with someone (esp the kids!) (Sometimes that means asking them to wait a few seconds while finishing a text, then putting the phone far far away and only picking it up again when they've taken off to do something else).

  • Turning ALL notifications off (best move ever!!). You can find this in 'settings'.

  • Phone off or on airplane mode at night (I am still working on 'no phone in the bedroom' - I have to get an alarm clock!)

  • Get a watch (you know those old school things you wear on your arm!) to stop yourself from pulling out your phone to check the time (if it's a smart watch or exercise tracker, turn off bluetooth and kill the connection with your phone. Sync once a fortnight.

  • No phones while driving (duh!!) - other than google maps if needed.

  • Rearranging all the apps on my phone: Home screen only has email and work related apps. Second screen has folders for "health" with the '7 minute workout' app, meditation and breathing exercises, "banking" with all things finance but also a folder called "learn" with access to online courses I'm enrolled in and "read" with links to my e-books, .pdfs I'd like to get through etc. I have to scroll all the way to the third screen to get to a folder with any social media apps (all silenced) - that's at least 5 clicks away. I rarely bother.

I'd love to hear your suggestions - what have you done to take control of your media use??? Tell me and others in the comments below!

Much love,

Natalie xx

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