Dry-Fi January: why limiting your social media activity is a good idea

Forget ditching the booze — it’s social media that we really need to detox from. But how?

14 January 2018 - 00:00 By Yolisa Mkele and Pearl Boshomane
Social Media is like taking a drug. As far as your brain is concerned, it's a very similar experience.
Social Media is like taking a drug. As far as your brain is concerned, it's a very similar experience.
Image: iStock

For some, the urge to turn over a new leaf this year is manifesting not in yet another attempt to lay off the booze, meat or chocolate - but social media. Like other addictive pleasures, receiving validation in the form of "likes" on social media triggers a dopamine rush in users.

As Adam Alter, author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, notes: "It's a little bit like taking a drug. As far as your brain is concerned, it's a very similar experience."

Indeed, the University of Chicago found social media even more addictive than cigarettes. Perhaps one day constant browsing will be equally frowned upon as a dirty habit doing damage to our health.

Last year's #StatusOfMind survey, published by the UK's Royal Society for Public Health, found a link between social-media use and increases in anxiety, depression and lost sleep. Even Jack Dorsey, Twitter's chief executive, felt the need for a 10-day break at the end of the year.

Two of our writers explain why they have joined (or will not join) those attempting to have a Dry-Fi January.

YOLISA MKELE, FEATURES WRITER

For the sake of my sanity, Twitter and I had to have a mini break-up. What started out as a light and airy relationship, filled with banter and innocent recklessness has turned into something ugly, tedious and self righteous.

In and of itself there is nothing wrong with Twitter aside from the fact that it is literally designed to encourage distraction (ever noticed yourself opening Twitter 100 times a day for no reason? That's on purpose).

The real problem is that Twitter, like a lot of social media, is a mirror that rewards some of our worst impulses
Yolisa Mkele

The real problem is that Twitter, like a lot of social media, is a mirror that rewards some of our worst impulses. Going on Twitter now sounds like standing in a room full of people shouting and letting off fireworks. Sure, some of them are shouting out about important things, others are shouting jokes. But one can only stand so much of that.

Twitter is also the perfect space for posturing. Twitter thugs of all shapes and sizes stalk timelines peacocking their self righteousness or their commitment to some kind of bigotry. Bump into the vast majority of those people in real life and they are the meekest, most mild mannered civilians you've ever come across.

Pulling back from Twitter, which still can be fun, came from a realisation that if I wanted to experience how shitty human beings are all I'd need to do is walk out the door. Watching Pornhub seems a better use of data than bringing all that mess into your bedroom at night.

PEARL BOSHOMANE TSOTETSI, LIFESTYLE EDITOR

One's reasons for going on a digital detox depend on what one hoped to get out of social media in the first place. Like any relationship, if your lover no longer fits and you've outgrown him/her, it's only natural that you would want to get stepping.

Why haven't I quit Twitter? Because it still has the occasional moments of infotainment and on rare occasions, magic
Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi

When I joined Twitter eight years ago, I didn't know what to expect. But with time I began to appreciate the brevity and wit of the network. Twitter became the smart, clued-up, cool-as-hell cousin to Facebook's baby pictures and banal, lengthy statuses.

But over the past two years, Twitter has lost its spark. It's become a place where trolls rule and where individuality (and difference of opinion) has become the enemy. It's not as informative or interesting to me as it used to be - I mostly just scroll past posts on my timeline without reading them.

So why haven't I quit the network? Because it still has the occasional moments of infotainment and on rare occasions, magic. It's like being in a toxic relationship: you know you should leave, but maybe you're addicted to the small acts of worthiness your lover displays. That occasional rush is enough to keep you around, even through all the BS.

Instagram feels pointless, so I have no trouble quitting that. But I like Facebook in the way I like my third cousin that I see once every two years. I could give that up.

But Twitter? In the words of Robert Plant: "I can't quit you, baby."


FIVE-STEP TECH DIET

Here are some easy ways to limit your social media usage:

1. Change the way that you unlock your phone

You do it on autopilot. But change the passcode and then every time you feel the need to scroll you will be forced to think twice about it.

2. Remove — and move — apps

Social networks, even email, can be accessed via a web browser. It just takes a bit more effort. Leave the first page of your phone for useful tools such as maps, calendar or notes.

3. Turn off notifications

App and email notifications are on by default, often making a sound, pushing an icon and vibrating your handset. You can “mute” distracting Whatsapp conversations, too.

4. Install blockers

Applications such as Freedom can limit app and website usage, but also allow you time windows in which you are permitted to make use of them.

5. Charge your phone outside the bedroom

We all know why you have it in there, but there’s a simple answer — buy an alarm clock. - The Daily Telegraph


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