By Dr. Samantha Rodman

Research shows that social media use actually releases dopamine in the brain, just like food, sex, or drugs. It is no wonder that so many people feel that they are “addicted” to social media, and feel antsy or anxious when they try to stop checking Instagram, Facebook, or other sites for more than a few minutes. If you feel that social media is controlling you, instead of you controlling when you use it, then you may want to think about how to better integrate your social media use within your day-to-day life.

Understanding Your Social Media Habits

If you find yourself thinking that you can’t cut down on social media use because social media comprises your entire social life, then it is important to explore the consequences of this assumption.

Many people, especially introverts, find it easier and more convenient to scroll through some pictures and “like” them, instead of the hassle of going out and engaging with friends face to face. However, while this may in fact be easier in the short term, there can be harmful ramifications of choosing to socialize primarily over social media.

In the long term, social media interactions are far more superficial than having a face-to-face conversation with a friend. People generally only share the best things that happen to them on social media, and you may be missing out on what is really going on behind your friends’ carefully curated social media façade. You, yourself, also have a curated social media image, and over time, you may start to consider this as your actual self, which can mean that deeper parts of your personality don’t get as much play.

Additionally, social media can take you away from family members, hurt your work performance, and make you appear rude to friends (when you’re posting and liking instead of engaging when you do meet up in person). For all these reasons and more, moderating social media usage is probably a healthy goal.

How to Balance Your Social Media Time

However, as anyone who has tried dieting knows, any sort of restriction can be difficult to maintain. Telling yourself that you can’t do something only makes most of us crave it even more, and social media use is no exception. Instead of restricting the amount of time you allow yourself to use social media, why not take the opposite tack and increase your non-social-media related activities? This is a much healthier and more easily maintained way to moderate your use.

For example, try scheduling an exercise class, asking a friend to come over, planning a date with your significant other. All of these are real-world activities that can greatly enrich your life, and make memories you wouldn’t have if you had spent the same amount of time scrolling through your Facebook feed. If you schedule activities so that you aren’t able to use social media, then you are getting even more of a jump on cracking your social media addiction.

Introspecting about what you like about social media can also, ironically, help you cut back on your use. If you think deeply about why you’re so obsessed with Instagram, for example, and it’s because you love seeing pictures of other people’s travels, then maybe you need to conclude that it’s time to save up for an exotic trip of your own. If you’re drawn to food photos, then maybe you can take a cooking class. If you check your exes compulsively on Facebook, it could be time to devote more of your time and energy to moving on and meeting new potential partners — online and offline.

If you are trying to meet certain needs through your social media use, then figuring out other ways to meet these same needs in healthier ways can be very enlightening.

Regain Control Over Heavy Social Media Use

Social media is not the enemy, but it can feel that way when you’ve recognize that it consumes far more of your waking hours than you’d like.

If you’re interested in specific ways social media affects our daily lives, we recommend reading the following pieces:

Getting back some control over your social media usage can make you feel strong, confident, and ready to take your real-world life in new and exciting directions!

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