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How to avoid social media addiction

Social media is like drug addiction, in fact in many cases, worse. In conventional drug addiction you know there is something terribly wrong and you need to seek help. Social media on the other hand is considered to be a totally normal activity in which everybody from a teenager to an aged housewife indulges in. According to a recent survey an average middle-aged woman spends 81 minutes every day on Facebook (according to this article in Huffington Post). Every device, every smartphone these days not only allows you, but also encourages you, to log onto this or that social networking website. You constantly want to know what is going on with your friends and followers, and you constantly want to post updates about what’s going on in your life.

A desire to share and socialize isn’t unnatural. What’s unnatural is worrying more about your virtual friends and less about your real friends and family members. Since most of the social media and social networking services are totally free of cost (irrespective of the fact that you have to purchase the devices that you use to hook onto these websites and you also have to pay for the Internet connection) it’s just a matter of going to that particular URL. Most browsers and user interfaces these days give you one-click access to all your favorite social networking websites and plug-ins.

Normally what happens is, you just log onto Facebook or Twitter to check just a single message and before you know you have scrolled through scores of messages and have spent more than 30 minutes checking out cute videos and awesome images. What have you gained? Practically nothing. The chances are you ended up feeling depressed after seeing all those great things being done by your relatives and friends. The above article also references a survey in which 70% of the participants check their Facebook updates the moment they turn on their computers in the morning. Constantly checking messages on Facebook takes a big toll on your time, on your emotions and also your sense of privacy. No wonder many organizations have totally banned the use of social networking websites at their workplaces.

But what if you are self-employed or simply trying to be productive without a supervisor or someone to keep an eye on you? Then you have to self-supervise. If you think you are suffering from social media addiction, you can take the following steps to get some respite and consequently, get some work done.

  • Block these websites while you are working: There are many add-ons and software applications available that allow you to block websites and URLs for a specific amount of time. Most conventional antivirus software applications these days let you add URLs that should be blocked. You can check out FocalFilter that lets you block URLs across different browsers with just a single interface. Of course these URLs are not permanently blocked. You can remove them from the blocked list whenever you want to.
  • Carefully track your time: In the absence of any tracking mechanism it is often difficult to keep track of your time. An application like RescueTime runs in the background and monitors all the websites and applications you spend your time on. This way you will get to know exactly how much time you are spending on wasteful activities such as watching videos and images on Facebook.
  • Assign money to your your time: You must have heard people saying “time is money” and this is totally true. If you are supposed to be working when you are browsing Facebook updates you are actually losing money. You could be spending that time working on your business, your skills and your abilities. Not just these, you could have been doing something that improves the overall quality of life of your family members. So you shouldn’t just track your time you should also assign some sort of monetary value to it so that you can actually calculate how much you are losing by not controlling your urge to check Facebook and Twitter messages.
  • Shift your computer where everybody can see your screen: A sense of privacy also makes us less accountable. At your workplace it is difficult to access social networking websites because everybody will be able to see you (unless you have your own room or cubicle). If your computer or laptop is placed in such a manner that nobody can accidentally look at your screen, readjust it so that everybody can see it. When you’re conscious of the fact that people will be able to see exactly what you are doing on your screen, you will be less inclined to again and again check your updates.
  • Involve another person: Do you know that a person actually hired someone from Craiglist to slap him the moment he started ignoring his work and started browsing social networking websites? Below is the video of the slap.

    Of course extreme situations call for extreme measures, but if you wouldn’t like to go that far, you can involve your partner, or anybody close to you and seek help. Ask to be monitored unexpectedly so there is always a danger of getting caught while wasting your time. You can also decide on a punishment every time you ignore your work and waste time on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Delete your social media accounts: If nothing else works, what stops you from deleting your social media and social networking accounts? Also it may seem like abandoning your phone when all the communication happens via telephones and mobile phones, social networking websites don’t solve any solid purpose. If you want to keep in touch, there are many other ways you can do that. You can call people up, you can visit them if they live in the same city, you can e-mail them, you can have a Google hangout, a you can use something like WhatsApp that allows you to exchange messages and images/videos without crowding your timeline.

Social media and social networking is not as evil as it may seem after reading the above text, but overdose of everything is bad. Take for instance television; whether you realize it or not, it has totally altered social dynamics. Just imagine, before television, people used to have ample amount of time and they could socialize, read books, organize outings and parties and spend lots of quality time with each other. On the other hand, television keeps us informed and we get lots of useful information from it.

Similarly social media empowers us. It only becomes problem when we don’t know when to put a stop to it and focus on our priorities.