Have you ever noticed that short-term fixes never work?
Using duct tape to hold your license plate to the rear bumper of a car or gluing a piece of your shoe to keep it in place might help for a while.
Eventually, what you need is a long-term solution.
Social media can be the same way.
Some experts have called for a “social media detox” as a way to deal with obsessive usage. There’s some value in this as a way to see just how obsessed you are with Facebook or some other platform. The problem is that, like any productivity hack, it’s not really addressing the root cause or providing a solution that works all year long and into the next decade.
Usually, it goes something like this.
The idea is to quit Facebook for a month or even longer. You can’t check your feeds, can’t post any new content, can’t even use the Messenger app. You quit…for a while.
It feels good at first. The brain science behind compulsive social media use is clear. We receive a dopamine hit when we notice a large number of likes on a post. Experts say this slot machine approach to social media keeps us hooked, because we all like positive feedback.
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We like these detox periods because it reveals what we’re missing (namely, reality). We can live a normal healthy life again, minus the likes and comments. We learn to adjust quickly to the new normal. Yet, there’s something not quite right. We know we’re just taking a break.
Another problem is that the social media platforms themselves are not actually to blame. You might think they are, because they do encourage obsessive use. Facebook and Twitter know we like to see positive reinforcement, and they do make money when we use their apps constantly. However, they also add value. I like seeing trending topics on Twitter to help with research. I use Facebook to keep up with family members, and I like seeing posts from friends.
A detox is a Band-Aid fix. The reason it works is because we secretly know we will be going back. Some people do a detox and then never do start using social media again, but I’d say they are missing out. Also, the detox teaches you to not obsess over social media but it doesn’t actually uncover why you are clicking, liking, and sharing so much in the first place.
What usually happens is that people do a detox for a while, then they go right back to being obsessed again. What I recommend is something completely different. It has to do with using social media for only short periods so they are useful and beneficial, but then to stop and not keep scrolling, clicking, and sharing for hours on end.
This is better than a detox because it helps you identify the compulsions to use social media, and then take control.
A detox is a light-switch you turn off for a while, but when you flip it back on, you are still scrolling just as much. Controlled usage is different. It’s more like a dimmer switch you use to adjust and throttle your usage, which leads to healthier habits.
If you are curious how to control the usage, ping me by email and I can give you some extra tips on what to do to make sure you are not merely doing a short-term detox.