In my previous article, The Truth About Living An Authentic Life, we took a deep dive – and I mean deep! – into accepting and forgiving ourselves for the addictions that plague our lives. One of particular interest to me is social media addiction, particularly since Missouri Senator Josh Hawley proposed the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) bill this week.
So over the past 6 months I’ve developed a 6-step process that marries mindfulness and technology, drawing inspiration from Shinto practices of Japan, The Law of Attraction, and Tibetan Buddhism. So buckle up, brahmins. We’re goin’ in!
1. Set Yourself Up For Success
Sean Parker, co-founder of Facebook, admitted in 2017, “You’re exploiting vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors […] understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.” Event the early architect of the internet as we know it echo the addictive nature of social media. (Jarod Lanier has a great TEDTalk on the subject that I highly recommend.) And don’t even get me started on how Facebook has undermined our democracy.
The good news in all this information being made public is that new resources are being made available to free ourselves from scrolling our time and self worth away. Here is the one that worked for me:
Quality Time (Download for free on Android devices*)
With over 1 million downloads, this app is my current reigning time management king! Not only can you track your app usage from day-to-day, but the user interface is also paired down enough for even the most technologically un-savvy user. Oh, and it’s free.
My favorite features:
- Scheduled Breaks: Selectively block all apps (or just your social media apps) in the morning, during meal times, work hours, vacation, or anytime you want to focus and be present. For those of us who work through meals, Scheduled Breaks also serves as a great reminder to get up and get nourished!
- Take A Break: Find yourself in over your head stalking your ex or Facebook? Press the Take A Break feature, set your desired break length, and get back to the life that matters most: yours.
- Set Usage Limits: If you already know you spend way too much time on certain apps, setting usage limits will generate pop-up notifications that tell you how long you’ve actively using the app and remind you to take a break.
* Quality Time is only available on Android devices. However, a great alternative for iPhone and iPad users is Moment (https://inthemoment.io/). With over 7 million users, Moment allows you can set breaks, measure your usage, and you even gives you a virtual Moment coach. Check it out and let me know how it works in the comments.
Take control with The Center For Humane Technology’s tips. (5 min read)
Listen to What Is The Cost Of Infinite Distractions? featuring Tristen Harris, founder of The Center For Humane Technology. (10 min listen)
2. Mindset On You
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To mindfully free ourselves from addictive behaviors, we need to rewire our brain to think differently. For me, that starts every time I pick up my phone. I take a deep breath, pick up my phone, and before I unlock it or look at the screen I ask myself 3 questions:
- Am I picking up the phone as an impulse or because of a conscious desire to connect?
- Does this person or company deserve my time and attention right now?
- What needs and desires of my own am I neglecting at this time?
Remember, when it comes to social media and media in general, your time and attention is your personal power – and it’s your responsibility to reclaim it. No one else can do that for you. Decide with clarity and conviction who and what you want to give your power to. Try this for 21 consecutive days to turn your behavior change into a healthy habit of mindfulness. But remember, there’s no pressure to be perfect here. Even after 6 months, I still have to catch myself. It’s okay. Forgiving yourself is part of the process.
3. Call Forward More Of What You Love
In the ancient Japanese Shinto faith, there is a tenet known as Imi. Imi means abstinence or taboo, and is characterized by avoiding that which is abnormal (magakoto), imperfect (tsunami), and polluted (kegare). Shinto practitioners believe that avoiding something taboo is akin to praying for its opposite to present itself.
Similar to the Law Of Attraction, what imi suggests is that the more attention we give to what we don’t desire, the more it expands. And social media algorithms are no exception. By mindfully avoiding Liking, reposting, sharing, and commenting on content that inspires hate and fear, we are retraining not just our minds but the app itself.
So next time you want to attach an “ANGRY” face to an article about some alt-right white supremacist, think to yourself, “Do I want to see more white supremacy in my feed?” If not, re-think that anger and invite in it’s opposite. Remember, anger and fear call on us to heal, not feed into it.
4. Cleaning House
Over time, you’ve likely followed people you wouldn’t necessarily characterize as friends. All of these content creators, influencers, companies, brands, family members, and acquaintances are all vying for your attention, making connection with your actual friends near impossible. So why aren’t you seeing your best friends posts in your feed? Because social media algorithms are built for people who consistently and garner the most popularity. The algorithms are not programed for quality, they’re programmed for quantity.
Spend some time going through your Friends lists. Ask yourself, “Is this a person I want to see multiple times a day, everyday?” If not, Block, Mute, or Unfriend. It’s that easy. There’s no shame in giving yourself some room to breathe.
You can set some time aside to do this in one fell swoop, or you can do it little by little. The results will amaze you! You will see content from all the wonderful people you actually miss being around, which will allow you to experience actual connection with your real friends.
5. Reclaim Your Bandwidth
When we make room for more ease, meaning, and peace in our lives, we are creating new neural pathways to renew our mental and emotional bandwidth. It’s this bandwidth that will allow us to bear witness to anger, hate, violence, and brutality, without over-identifying with it*. This is the sign of true liberation.
But freedom from social media addiction is not just a process of subtraction. Following and Sharing educational resources that demonstrate a spirit of openness, acceptance, and transparency, will further offset the overwhelming amount of misinformation, fear-mongering, hate, and deceit on social media. And if you insist on following resources that post both fear-based content and optimistic content, simply notice when you’re being used to believe someone else’s point of view. If it doesn’t resonate with you, it will literally lower your body’s electromagnetic frequency and you’ll feel a shift in your body, hearts, and mind. These are your tools to distinguish when you’re being informed and when you’re being baited.
Keeping your emotional and mental bandwidth intact is not the price you pay to stay informed, it’s a state of ease that deserves to be nurtured.
* Many of us are still healing and can often find ourselves triggered by content that profiles acts of racism, violence, sexual misconduct, and so on. If that sounds like you, this step is all the more important. Respecting your own personal, psychological, and emotional boundaries is an essential part of self care. Listen to your own personal barometer for what they can hold space for and when. And don’t let anyone shame you into re-traumatizing yourself because they think you should “wake up.” Be a peace advocate for yourself, first and foremost.
6. Joy To The World
According to Buddhist teachings, Muditā is a scared principle belonging to the Brahmaviharas, otherwise known as The Four Immeasurables. Translated from Pāli and Saskrit, Muditā means joy, but more specifically it means empathetic or vicarious joy. As the Buddha explains, sharing in the joy and good fortune of others accelerates our path toward enlightenment, bridging the connection between love and wisdom.
But Muditā is not reserved for the enlightened or master teacher, it’s available to all of us. We all have the ability to express enthusiasm for the moments of joy others share. And social media is built for it, we just aren’t using it that way. Instead, we let jealousy and envy take hold and forget that connections established from a state of openness, happiness, and bliss, are the connections that matter to us most. With new opportunities presenting themselves every time we log in, we can practice Muditā without even leaving our couch.
In the process of disengaging for thoughts and feelings that lower our frequency and replacing them with positivity, we are also letting the algorithms know what we care about most. So let someone know that their joy has put a smile on our face from 3,000 miles away. Let someone know they provided you with the first laugh of the day. Celebrate someone exciting news with them. It seems counterintuitive, but it will bring you closer to your own happiness than envy ever could.
We all have our own path to freedom and our own addictions to work our way out of, this is just what worked for me. Take em or leave em, that’s up to you. But if you think anyone else might get something out of this, please Share. And while you’re here, Subscribe below for future articles, book recommendations, and inspiration.