Do you ever get the feeling you may be spending a little too much time on your phone? Like the constant quick checks whenever you have any spare moment may be becoming a little too frequent? Maybe when life gets stressful, boring, or after a long day, scrolling is your outlet?
Me too. Let’s change that.
It’s actually critical that we change to save our brain, creativity, mental health, and connection with God.
These questions, exercises, and tips come from my own experience and journey towards living life fully in the present. On the path to interacting with those who are right in front of my face, not behind a device.
Why You Love Social Media
You are Being Played
First off, you must know that you are being played. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter—they’ve all been designed to make you repeatedly use them and check back in.
Very smart people who understand how your brain works design these platforms and their goal is to get you to spend as much time as possible on them. Obviously, it’s working. For every screen you are looking at, there are 1000 people trying to get you to stay there. They make money off you spending as much time as possible on their app. so it’s intentionally designed to get you addicted.
More Likes = More Dopamine
“When it comes down to it, dopamine is the reason why most people are obsessed with social media. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that motivates us to seek out experiences that make us feel pleasure. It also plays a major role in reward-motivated behaviour. Recent research shows that your brain’s opioid system is what causes you to actually feel the pleasure that dopamine is encouraging you to seek. This could turn into an endless cycle: dopamine causes you to seek pleasure, you get rewarded when your opioid system is activated, and then you want to seek more pleasure. Hence the cycle of posting a picture of Instagram, getting a high number of likes and feeling acknowledged by others, and later posting more pictures so you can get the same response and feel the same pleasure. This cycle is what keeps us from becoming bored with social media and motivates us to continue using it”
When you are bored, stressed, or anxious you may notice you reach for your phone, because you are seeking that dopamine hit to feel better, it’s just what your brain is wired to do. Dopamine is addictive. Seeing likes, comments, and new pictures and information every time you go on your phone is training your brain to seek that high 24/7.
We are Wired for Connection
Have you ever thought how strange it is how we are so interested in what is going on in other people’s lives? So much so that we look forward to seeing what they are going to post each day, even if you have never actually met them?!
This shows how we were created to connect with people every day, but just watching other people’s lives does not fulfill what you were biologically wired to do. So instead of leaving us fulfilled, it leaves us lonely, full of anxiety, and wishing for a different life.
What Social Media Does to You
I’ve been there. I didn’t think it was a problem that I checked my phone 1092 a day. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I did pick it up often, mostly just for a second or two to get the quick dopamine hit.
It did make me ‘feel’ more connected, and I looked forward to doing it, so I didn’t even really think I needed to put some boundaries in place.
Then, I learned what the constant checking and screen time was doing to me. . .
Taking Away Your Ability to Focus & Connect with God
Where you place your attention and for how long determines your reality.
What seperates succefull people with not-so-successful people is the ability to put your focus on what you want, for how long you want, when you want. It’s a 21st century super power.
With our smartphones acting as handheld slot machines, we are checking it over and over to see what’s ‘new’. Our focus is rarely held on one thing longer than 5 minutes anymore.
This is a problem because it’s our ability to focus on God for periods of time that allow us to receive the wisdom we need in life. Not only are we spending more time on our phones than seeking God, but then we try to seek him, we lose attention and interest in 2.5 seconds.
If that’s not bad enough, the constant checking is also training your brain to have less self-control and to be reactive to people and circumstances you face each day.
Social media taking your power away because it is training your brain to seek technology, and nothing else.
When distractions disappear, ideas come.
The constant input of information is blocking our ability to create ideas worth sharing and receive solutions to the problems we are facing.
The solutions are there, the problem is, we are not.
We are 20 pictures deep into a complete strangers profile.
We are not in a state to receive that creativity that can change the world. It’s in that space of stillness you can see things you couldn’t before and create things that can’t come from staring at your screen.
My culprit was Instagram. Wayyyyy too many hours on Instagram.
Hours that I could have spent creating, reading, or connecting with real people in real life.
What You Focus on You Find
What you focus on, you get more of. This is scientifically proven to be true. It’s amazing and scary at the same time because most of our focus is going to social media.
If you want to experience more of God and have an encounter with him, you need to focus on God. If you need wisdom, you need to focus on wisdom. If you need ideas on what to do with your time to solve your own problems or world issues like sex trafficking and poverty, then you need to focus on that.
Imagine if you focused on seeking wisdom one of the areas above every time you would normally be checking your phone. . . dang, who knows what you would created or discover.
God gave us the ability to choose our focus and that focus creates. But instead of intentionally and consciously choosing to hold focus on something for long periods of time, we are unconsciously scrolling and wasting time that could have been spent getting a step closer to doing something great that literally only you were created to do. That’s what matters.
Technology addiction is as real as alcohol, food, or any other addiction. You think you can stop, but often times you don’t want to.
Think about giving social media up for 3 months. . . what kind of feelings come up?
The more you use and look at your phone, the more you will need to look at it to get the same ‘hit’ you used to get.
The more you do something, the more it get’s wired into the neural networks in your brain. I bet often times you find yourself looking through your phone without even consciously deciding to do so. It’s now a habit. It’s wired into your brain. It’s something you do without thinking AND it’s something you want to do because those are the pathways you have now.
So ‘not’ checking your phone most likely makes you feel very uncomfortable.
Destroying Mental Health
You may think social media is bringing you happiness because of that good ol’ dopamine. Especially after you post something. Receiving the likes and comments is like pure cocaine to your brain. It makes you feel seen, acknowledged, loved and almost high wanting more and more.
The truth is, social media is causing serious anxiety and depression. The constant comparison, judgment, and paying attention to everyone’s life but our own is causing intense mental chaos.
We begin to judge our worth by how many likes we get or how many followers we have and compare those metrics to others.
Our brain and spirit were not created to think like that, and this incoherence is putting our body in a state that turns off our immune, hormonal, and digestive system and we wonder why we have so many autoimmune, hormone, and digestive problems. . .
If you are struggling with anxiety or feelings loneliness, shame, or low self-esteem, examine how much you are on social media and you may have found the root of your problem.
The Present Moment is Everything, and You are Missing It
Our ability to be fully present in anything we are doing is the number one practice for creating health and a life you love. Your phone is not only teaching you to constantly think about the past or future (anxiety is the obsession with the future and depression is the obsession on the past) it’s also taking you away from experiencing the movement you are in right this second with your friends and family.
The present moment is the only place where healing, creation, and freedom happen. It’s where we choose to create the life we want, moment by moment. It’s where we receive the wisdom we need to handle whatever problem we are facing. It’s in that time of stillness, wisdom comes through. It’s in that time of directing your focusing that you begin to see things you could’t before. It’s in that time of calming the body that fear can’t inhibit your healing any longer. It’s in that time of letting go of the story you are believing so the new one can begin.
It’s like there is this whole other world that is available to us, and we are missing it becoming obsessed with everyone else’s life.
Awareness is Everything
How much time are you spending on your phone?
Do this right away:
- Go to your ‘settings’
- Hit ‘battery’
- Scroll down and you will see which apps you use the most and how long
- Hit ‘last 7 days and the clock button’ to see how many hours you have been on your phone
WARNING: It may shock you. If you are brave, commenet below what you find:)
Why do you reach for your phone?
When do you reach for your phone most?
How to Do Social Media Well
Unless you plan on moving off the grid and giving away all technical devices, then you need a plan for how to use them well.
There are many upsides to social media, heck I run a blog! Great information, connections, and inspiration. But too much is where it starts going downhill.
When first trying to install boundaries around social media, I failed. Telling myself ‘no phone before 12 and no phone after 9’ lasted about one day.
The pull to be connected is stronger than the pull to disconnect. That’s how we are wired.
So I had to take more extreme measures.
Install apps that help track and limit
I really like the moment app.
- It allows you to set how much time a day you want to be on your phone
- Allows you to create time blocks you don’t want be on your phone. Example: after 9 or before noon.
- Tracts how much time you are spending so you can see week after week. It will give you little notices each day with how much time you have been on your phone already.
Even with the moment app., sometimes I found if I was going over my limit for the day and the alarm was yelling at me to get off, I would just go turn it off and increase my time allowed (facepalm). Aye.
With that, the thing I have found most helpful by far is just deleting facebook and Instagram from my phone. All day once a week and then every night after a certain time.
Because I had such a strong HABIT of checking, I had to make it so there was not anything to check. By doing that, I found some days I didn’t even install them again for a while.
Take 1 day off a week
I take a weekly Sabbath. This day is not for working or technology but rest, seeking God, and family. I try to limit technology use as much as I can.
Our brain desperately needs times where we are doing nothing in our go-go-go, consume-consume-consume- fill-every-moment-of-our-time world.
It’s in those moments of boredom and stillness that insights and connection with God come through.
Leave it in the Other Room as Often as You Can
Another game changer for me. If my phone is always with me, it’s habit to look at it. When it’s out of sight it’s out of mind.
I try to leave my phone on airplane mode until AFTER our morning routine and work are done. I also leave it in another room at night to prevent the dangerous ‘scrolling and consuming when I should be sleeping or reading’ problem.
I try not to have it with my daughter either, that little brain is taking it all in and if she see’s me on it all the time, that is her future.
Have a Time Block
I like to set a time block of only using my phone between 1pm and 9pm. This allows me not to be distracted during working hours and not to get sucked into the never-ending stimulation late at night.
The tips above help me actually do that.
If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It
Just like any other habit or addiction, you might find it ridiculously difficult at first. You may feel like you are missing out on life without being constantly updated or ‘involved’ in people’s day to day life.
But the less you do it, the less you will crave it. You will slowly break down the neural pathways that cause that crazy urge for you to check your phone and replace them with ones that favor the present moment, real people, and creativity.
Give yourself grace. You won’t be perfect every day, and that’s okay. With constant awareness, things will change. With practice being in stillness, unlimited possibilities begin.
I have been really liking Cal Newport’s work: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. His Ted Talk “Quit Social Media is also aweseome.
Dr. Caroline Leaf Switch on Your Brain