People have tried cold turkey and some people wean themselves slowly. After scandals and hacks and senses of betrayal more and more people are attempting to quit their social media accounts.
They’re finding it’s harder than cigarettes.
Psychologists have been deepening their understanding of the addictive qualities of social media in the less than ten years since Facebook changed the world. The power of algorithms to hook and retain the attention of users and the dopamine rush delivered by “likes” keep people returning for more, a recent survey finding on average people spend two hours and 22 minutes a day checking their social media. In the last 15 years, we’ve adapted to the constant-connectedness of always having internet-access cellphones in our hands and social media a swipe away.
“The phone is how many of us do our banking, the phone is how we’re taking pictures, and so this gateway into this social media world is always with us, even in bed,” says Houston social media guru and futurist Crystal Washington. “The majority of Americans who have a mate greet their phones before they greet their mate.”
Among those who have taken a stab at quitting, whether for a few days, or 30 or 60, most are amazed at all they are able to accomplish in a day when not checking in to Facebook regularly. There actually IS time to read a book. But as with quitting a smoking addiction, the temptation to return to old habits is almost unavoidable, and most found that within a short time that had returned to spending as much time on their platforms as they had before quitting. Positive feedback on social media has the same effect on the brain as a hug, and the need for a reassuring hug is central to the human condition.
“And so it’s very hard to turn off that social capability that gives us those hugs when we always have it in our hand,” Washington says.
The temptation is always there.