I disabled notifications and blocked social media apps until 8 pm. Yet, I still cannot stop looking at my phone, waiting for the notification light to blink at me.
I know how social media is damaging me, but I am still not able to get it off my mind. I used to wonder why someone would accept tremendous health risks to smoke cigarettes. Now I am risking my mental health for short bursts of dopamine. It seems like we have wholeheartedly taken a drug no one can control.
Social media helps us suppress and avoid a vast area of problems. Not sure whether you can convey an argument through writing an article? Afraid of asking out your crush? Unable to understand a concept at your first read and therefore doubting why you even enrolled in this course? Forget the trouble and numb yourself with a feed of posts and videos.
Let future-you take care of it.
My future self cannot even be angry at me. It’s not like I had a choice. Not a real one, at least.
Being a GenZ-er, I lived through the glorification of social media. And it still can be a fantastic tool. But, as the documentary “the social dilemma” also pointed out: It stopped being a tool. We aren’t using social media when we want to. We use it when it wants us to use it. Constantly.
“How much attention does it want?”
“All of it.”
But what does it really matter if you and I are addicted to social media? Two people, living their lives as mindless zombies. No one will even notice it.
Your actions — and inactions — are not only impacting your own life. But also the lives of all people that you come in direct and indirect contact with.
Not taking on responsibility for your own life will, therefore, impact humanity as a whole. Now imagine no one taking on responsibility. Society would stop functioning. It is already happening.
We know about the problems. Climate change is here, but we don’t want to bother. Plenty of people are falling prey to conspiracy theories and their ideologies. Our children are more likely to be depressed and commit suicide than ever before.
Yet, we don’t act.
We are getting a taste of how catastrophic life can be if people neglect their responsibility.
Not gaining back control over our lives is ruining our shared future. Some people argue that it’s even a good thing to let humanity become extinct. With all the problems we brought to earth, let that be our lesson.
But that’s not how our story should end. Not as long as we can still grab back the pen and start to edit it.
So how can we save the world?
Talking about saving the whole world is an easy endeavor since you won’t get instant feedback. I can tell you exactly how to overcome climate change, world hunger, and the power complexes of particular leaders. Everyone can do that. And we won’t know for a few decades if what I said was correct. The feedback is too delayed.
I also won’t necessarily have to act. With problems that big, no one can expect me to change them by myself. Telling someone how to change the world on the highest level is an easy way out. It may seem productive and helpful, but it seldom reaps any results.
Instead, one has to act on a level that provides them with instant feedback.
"Clean up your room."
- Jordan Peterson
This phrase became quite a meme on the internet. But it’s profoundly true.
How can someone dare to tell us how to change the world if that person cannot even keep their room clean?
It’s easy to tell other people what to do. But we won’t be able to solve vast problems by doing easy things. Instead, we have to tackle our own lives first.
By getting our own lives in order and in accordance with solving the problems, we will then be able to reach out to our family and friends and help them set their lives straight, too.
If everybody did this, we might be able to change humanity’s course for the better.
A great way to start with this is to get rid of addictions first because you will instantly know whether you succeed at it or not. Instant feedback on tasks we are performing can be scary. It acts as an ultimate judge: Were you able to follow through with your plan, or did you fall back into bad habits? In my case, that addiction is social media.
I couldn’t expect people around me to take on responsibility for their lives — and don’t fall for every conspiracy theory they’d encounter — if I too was clinging onto social media and neglecting my physical and mental wellbeing.
I tried to limit my social media use, but it didn’t work out. Once you delete one app, another one will take its place. As I got rid of Instagram, I just scrolled longer through Reddit. No access to Facebook anymore? I shall check LinkedIn instead.
Taking a complete break enabled me to get a grip on the problem.
Some actionable tips to decrease the addictive features of your smartphone (from easy to dedicated):
1. Disable the notification light as well as banners on your lock screen,
but be careful. You may find yourself unlocking your phone constantly to see if someone reached out to you. At least that’s what happened to me.
2. Put your smartphone under your bed
This works quite well if you have enough distance between the place you are working at and the hiding spot. With your phone out of your immediate reach, you will be less tempted to check it all the time.
3. Change the color scheme to black and white
Enabling the monochrome mode on my smartphone revolutionized my relationship with social media. The addicting, saturated colors faded, and the real world started to look precious again.
Bonus: Selfies will almost always look better in monochrome colors.
4. Install an app blocker
That’s the stage I settled for. Make sure that the app blocker cannot be uninstalled or disabled during your productive sessions. Not being able to access apps or websites frees you from continually negotiating with yourself. If there is no possibility of watching a cat video, there also won’t be any temptation to do so.
I am currently using Freedom since it works across platforms. But there are plenty of other options available, too.
Pro-tip: Block your AppStore to prevent you from downloading different browsers.
5. Buy a “dumb-phone”
Enough with all the addictive smartness. There are several phones out there providing you only the most basic functions. Luckily, most of the time, this is all you need. It is quite normal nowadays to get a basic phone for work and to leave the smartphone at home.
You may have to adjust to your dumb phone. But there is no more effective way to get your mind off your phone than physical distance.
If it is a specific social media platform that you are struggling with, one easy step to take is to delete the app on your phone and only use it via your browser.
I don’t know if I am addicted. I can block social media out of my life with the help of apps. But how healthy can my use have been if I need apps to get it under control?
I think control matters most in this case.
Take inventory of your life. Figure out what it is that you are addicted to. And yes, scrutinize your relationship with social media, too.
Is it hindering you from doing something you want to do?
Is it feeding your dreadful thoughts?
Is it only numbing your pain?
Just enough that you won’t face the problem beneath?
We can still save our world. We can make the adjustments necessary to leave us with at least some chance of success in the face of climate change. We can protect our democracy. We can even create a world in which the following generations won’t have to face depression from their childhood on.
But to do all of this, we have to take on responsibility, first and foremost, for our own lives.
We have to educate ourselves. We have to experiment.
We have to act.
This story was originally published here.