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  • Writer's pictureCara Gruhala

Unearthing addiction social media. Here's update #1 on my attempted social media mini hiatus. See my previous post for the outline of goals.

addiction (noun) 1. a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence : the state of being addicted

2. a strong inclination to do, use, or indulge in something repeatedly

(“Addiction.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.)

Well, it's been way harder than I thought. I've sat with a lot of feelings about myself during this week; some negative, and some full of self compassion. Here are a few highlights for the first full week:

  • I was doing okay(ish) for the first couple of days. Then, there was a massive incidence of community gun violence in my city. It hit hard how much I rely on the speed of social media updates to gather news info. It was also both touching and very sad to see friends and relatives using social media to check in or mark themselves safe. Not sad as in they shouldn't use it, sad as in it was heartbreaking to see how many people were affected, and certainly more citywide than were just on my feed. I felt, as I have felt during a few other public incidents, as if I were sitting vigil by staying tuned in. Even though part of my brain was telling me to close it and take a break, I just couldn't. It also become seriously obvious how, even though it's quick to update, social media news can be so unreliable. I saw numbers and groups of affected individuals reported, change, go up, go down. It was hard to know what the truth was.

  • Social media is meant to be addictive. The documentary The Social Dilemma shares a lot of this information, some from sources who have engineered parts of our major social media plaforms. It was no more apparent this week than when my finger would just hit the app buttons on my phone without a thought. Why am I even doing this? There's not even a purpose or something specific I'm looking for? This was a common thought during parts of the past week.

  • Online book reading helped some! I do really require a period of "coming down" from my day. Quiet time that is just mine that lets my brain slow to a pace I can get drowsy. So many times that has been filled with social media scrolling, which certainly isn't always calming. I have both a Kindle app as well as the Libby app for my local library, and use both for reading electronic books. These are helpful for when I'm helping my kids try to sleep and the lights need to be off, but I would still like to have a few minutes for me. I was much more likely this week to read during that end of day time, and noticed that I got sleepy quicker than when I was getting the quick dopamine hits that come from social media's frequently changing stimulus.

  • I realized just how much I do use social media for work. From running my business page, to professional groups, to our local resource and referral group, I did have need to jump onto social media, particularly Facebook, and it was way too easy or automatic to get caught up in something totally unrelated.

  • My kids noticed that I'm not sticking to my plan. I heard "mom, no scrolling apps" more than once. This is not a good look for me, and I am certainly not modeling what I had hoped. This is a motivator to do better.

  • In happier news, I stuck completely to no phone games other than my three New York Times games Wordle, Connections, and the Mini Crossword. I spent less than 10 minutes total daily on these, and often closer to 6. My family also took interest in helping me solve these more than ever before.

You might be thinking, Cara, just delete your problematic apps. I did. Then I found that I needed access at times and my computer wasn't always an option. I learned the difference between "delete from phone" and "delete from home screen." The latter makes them less visually accessible, but PHEW, my brain sure did adapt to a new swiping pattern SO quickly it's almost scary, to be able to get to them on a different page of my app storage. I really do think I'm going to have to delete from phone. Ugh, this feels bad to even type, but I promised to be honest.

Interesting data (for those data nerds like me) -

  • my primary usage switched from Facebook, then Facebook messenger, then text messaging prior to the experiment; to text messaging, messenger, and then Facebook since I started.

  • Total time on my phone from starting week to end of this current week went down by 10%. That even includes me having a new show running on my phone most of the day while doing some dull household chores today while I wasn't at work.

  • Strangely though, time on social media of the total time used went up. Not just percentage wise, but in minutes used. I'm still over my goal of 30 minutes total a day, and more than before starting. I guess consider it a dangling carrot I "can't have." We know restriction can be a trigger for scarcity mentality and binging. It felt, at times, that once I went over limit my brain said "oh well, try again tomorrow" rather than taking the hint to limit for the rest of the day. I need to work on this.

  • I posted around half or less of what I would normally post in a week on social media. Some of that may have been because I knew I "wasn't supposed to be on there" (shame can be a strong influence!).

So, onward and upward into this next week. I need to get a better handle on this before I even begin to consider potential impacts on attention and focus, and connectivity with others. I'm considering some helpful options to assist me in moderating better and will report back on those at my next update. Here's to more practice, and hopefully, getting closer to the goal.

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