Getting Off of Information Addiction (Part 1: Social Media)

If there is not enough time in your day to do all the things you wan’t to do, naturally you’ll start looking for opportunities to stop wasting time to have more time available for doing things which add real value to your life.

As I started looking for such things, I quickly realized that I wasted a ton of time with consuming (mostly worthless) informations from various sources across the internet. Checking various kinds of news feeds multiple times a day, sometimes even multiple times per hour, has become a habit for not only many digital natives but also regular people. Social media platforms are using algorithms to figure out how to make their users browser their site or open their app as often as possible.

Reading the news or checking the latest updates on Facebook makes us feel good. Staying up to date, or even better, sharing a post which receives a like or an upvote, triggers our brain to release dopamine which is also known as the “reward molecule”. In short: checking Facebook, makes us happy (for a very brief moment).

Because of this very short feel good moment we experience from the release of dopamine, consuming social media status updates or news feeds can become a severe addiction. Similar to smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, the positive effects of consuming those substances are often outweighed by many negative concomitant effects – especially if taking them becomes an addiction.

Being addicted to consume informations from social media, news feeds or instant messaging services, is not only time consuming, it can make you inefficient at work or at achieving your goals for life. Even worse: studies have shown, that people who are spending a lot of time on Facebook and other social media platforms, are often less happy with their life in general than people in the moderate and no social media consumption control groups.

Facebook

At the time I stopped using Facebook cold turkey, I didn’t think much about effective time management. But what I’ve observed was, that reading my Facebook feed often times made me angry or sometimes even sad.

If you’re “friends” with a lot of people on Facebook, chances are you also disagree with a lot of the opinions you’re exposed to on Facebook. It’s not a bad thing to challenge your own inner beliefs from time to time, but I’m quite sure it is not to the best of your mental health dealing with opposing world views on an hourly basis.

Even Facebook noticed this and created the infamous filter bubble. So as far as I know, in recent days people may do not get angry that often anymore by reading their Facebook feed. Instead Facebook is creating this warm and nice place where everybody thinks alike and all problems seem to be far far away. Facebook is basically becoming heroin.

Getting off of Facebook

Leaving Facebook for good has become a quiet controversial topic. Because Facebook has grown to become the de facto standard for staying in touch with friends and family who you otherwise would not see on a regular basis.

I wonder – is it really that important to your life how your former schoolmates (you did not meet with since you’ve graduated) spend their holidays? You did not bother to arrange a coffee appointment since years, but you think you must know personal details about their day to day life?

The answer is: it is not important at all. As you grow older, having stable friendships with just a few people is already hard enough. Focus on the friendships which really matter to you.

After acknowledging that it is not necessary to read about meaningless stuff from all the people you met at some point in your life, getting off of Facebook can be quite easy: delete your account.

But Facebook knows how to deal with addicts who want to get off their dose. They make it easy for you to comeback. When you delete your account, it is not really deleted. For some weeks it is possible to restore your account by just logging in again. They will email you about exciting stories you’re missing out on, geared towards loss aversion which is natural to most humans. So be prepared and don’t let psychological tricks fool you.

The benefits of leaving social media

Reading controversial stories can make you angry. Reading about the great time it seems all of your friends are having while you’re living a boring life can make you jealous.

Stories and personalized advertisement picked by algorithms can change the way you think. And I don’t mean in a positive way. Although the fog has not cleared entirely yet, there is a good case to believe that the algorithms of Facebook and other social media platforms have changed the outcome of at least two, maybe many more, democratic elections in the recent years.

Leaving Facebook and other social media platforms, is not only a huge time saver it will also make you more happy and more effective.

Staying on social media

If you’re not willing to leave social media yet, there are also ways of using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms in a less time wasting manner.

The best way to do this, is to limit the usage of those platforms to certain times of the day. How often you’re allowing yourself to check your news feed is up to you, but I suggest a maximum of two times per day.

The worst time for checking news feeds is in the morning. Often times your mood will not change a lot over the rest of the day, so if you’re starting with a bad feeling because of something you’ve read on Facebook, it is likely that this feeling is not going away during the course of the day. Follow your morning routine, go to work, do something meaningful and maybe then check your Facebook feed for the first time.

The second worst time for checking your news feed is shortly before you’re going to bed. You might read something that is really bothering you and we all know how deadly this can be for our ability to fall asleep quickly.

Wrapping it up

Leave Facebook. Have more time for meeting real friends or do other stuff which adds value to your life. Don’t care about people who are raising their eyebrows when you tell them you’re not on Facebook. Live a happier life.


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