The struggle is real, I know. For years I’ve loved to be “online”, moving from one social media platform to another like a digital nomad. Thus getting addicted to Social Media was inevitable. In some ways it did me good, I was able to learn how to use it to make money. That was how my digital marketing career actually began. However, the urge to be “online” became too much. Social media was the last thing I do before I go to bed and it’s the first thing I do immediately I wake up. I couldn’t control it, it seems I had no real power over my own addiction. I was getting sloppy at work, failing to deliver projects on time. I was always following the trend, wanting to know the latest buzz. I had the FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome. It was pathetic, I was pathetic.
Luckily I have a challenging spirit, I like to change things I don’t like. So I began to experiment with ways to curb my social media addiction. I started by switching off internet data for three hours and then switching it back on for another three hours. This was to regulate the amount of time I spent online. It looked effective at first until I began to break my own rules. I began to unconsciously extend the time I switched on data, slowly crawling back into the doldrums of social media addiction. Looking at my woe, I resolved to try again but this time with a different strategy. I would no longer switch off my data, in order to win this war, I must willingly ignore my urge. So I decided to identify some of the things that could help me in my quest. One Saturday afternoon, I was in a meeting with a client when I received a WhatsApp notification. My client and I were drawn to the sound made by the phone. We both paused briefly, while I reached to put the phone on silent and that was when it hit me, the “notification”.
As you may have guessed, I realized that for most people notification is all that it takes to pull them back into the vicious circle. So I disabled notification for WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I allowed notifications however for Gmail, SMS, and Hangout. This little act was my first real taste to victory. Suddenly I wasn’t always reaching my pocket to get my phone. I started becoming present in the real world. The last time I received a notification from any social media platform was over a year ago. After this great milestone, I discovered that while I no longer rush to check my phone, I still wasted a significant amount of time online. So I decided to mindfully study how I use each of these apps. On WhatsApp for instance, I noticed that I respond to a lot of chats even those that are irrelevant. I also like to post and watch people’s status updates. My resolution to this was first to uncheck my WhatsApp “Read Receipt”. This way no one will know if I read their message or not, it also meant I wouldn’t know if they read mine either but I was fine with it. The idea was to be in control by ignoring messages from groups and random people. I also did the same for my WhatsApp status, I wouldn’t know who have seen my status updates and people wouldn’t know when I view theirs. That was a win on my ego but I was totally okay with it.
While experimenting and making some progress on WhatsApp, I was tinkering with how to approach my Facebook usage. Now, this platform was by far more valuable to me than the others. I wanted to manipulate it in such a way that allows me the flexibility and benefits I enjoyed. One of the first things I did here was to turn off my “Chat Active Status” this way the green dot in messenger will turn to grey, this shows that I’m offline all the time. With Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn I controlled how often I post. This allowed me to use the apps as information mining platforms for my personal advantage. It was like being a crowd in the real world, but instead of talking and sharing stuff about yourself, you pay attention to what others are saying and sharing. That way a lot of opportunities open up and you come across things you may have missed in the past.
I eventually reached a stage where all my social media serves me and each with its purpose. Even though I applied some of my digital marketing knowledge, I was able to break free from addiction which was the goal all along. For example, I now use Facebook and LinkedIn purely for professional purposes. Instagram for personal and social purposes. I also started to use Twitter the way it was designed for, noise making (Sorry Tweeps, pun intended). Fun fact, till date all my notifications are still off and I use Hangout to chat more than any other platform. I believe you can also conquer your social media addiction, it may not be exactly the way I did it but if you can figure out what works and your relationship with each platform, I’m confident you can design a strategy that will allow you to finally break free from the digital prison that is social media addiction.
I would like to hear about your progress. I’ll be glad to assist in any way and if you also like making noise then lets connect on Twitter, follow me @hi_ahmedin I always follow back.