Addictive

Every morning started pretty much the same way: my phone alarm rang, I hit snooze at least twice (even though the night before I was determined not to), and eventually turned it off for good. Then, before I was even out of bed or awake enough to open both eyes against the bright screen, I opened my Facebook app. What’s everyone been up to since the last time I checked my newsfeed (which was probably less than 8 hours ago)? I usually spent at least a few precious kid-free morning minutes scrolling social media, before I got up to start my daily Bible reading.

And if that doesn’t expose my priorities, the rest of the day unfortunately didn’t get better. Any time I had more than 5 seconds of downtime and didn’t immediately have another task to attend to, my finger automatically went right to my Facebook or Instagram apps. I don’t even have to think about it. Pick up phone, open Facebook. It’s like breathing. 

Social media addiction is a recognized issue. The website addictioncenter.com has a page concerning this*, and includes the following statement: “Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized as being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.” Social media (SM) usage and the rewards of attention via likes, comments, and retweets light up the same area of our brains that is triggered when using addictive substances. 

As many as 5-10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction, but most of us aren’t truly addicted. Still, habitual use of SM negatively affects our mental health and relationships. I can’t count the number of cumulative hours I’ve spent doing absolutely nothing productive while scrolling Facebook, comparing my life to everyone else’s perfect-looking (but filtered and edited) lives, ignoring my kids and housework. 

In fact, SM can quickly become an easy go-to when I want to check out of my reality as a stay-at-home-mom of two active and high maintenance kids. I choose my phone over playing outside with them, asking if there’s something they’d like to do together, or taking the time to teach and train them when there are quarrels or attitude problems. And often, the only real result I get from time spent on SM is a distracted, discontent mind. Not a great trade-off when I could’ve been investing in relationships with my kids, doing something productive around the house, or using my free time in a more beneficial way, like reading, working out, or even going to bed earlier!  

I’ve begun to ask myself some questions and pray before opening SM apps. For a long time now, SM has had far too strong of a grip on me. Before I open Facebook, I’m getting in the habit of considering what my reasons or motivations are, and praying about three things: Is this a good use of my time right now, or is there something else more productive or important I should be doing? Am I looking at SM out of a desire to escape what’s really going on in my life (like dealing with my kids)? Am I prepared to deal with the possible frustration and distraction it might cause? 

I also think there is great value in doing a SM fast. It can start off small- for those of us who are used to opening SM apps dozens of times a day, maybe even one whole day without any of it seems hard. Try half a day, or just a few hours without using any SM, and every time you’re tempted, pray instead. Pray for God’s help in not letting SM control you and dominate your free time. Pray that you would manage your time wisely and not use SM as a way to tune out of the demands of real life. Pray that you will be more focused on investing in your relationships with family and God. And don’t get discouraged if you slide back into bad habits. I still open Facebook first thing in the morning sometimes, and I still choose my phone over more productive and meaningful activities. But I’ve acknowledged the battle, and I’m working towards victory.  

In the end, the only things that will matter are those with eternal significance- people’s souls, the time we spent serving God and others, and our own love and knowledge of God and His Word. SM can be beneficial, and it’s an important way of staying connected and informed in today’s world. But we can’t let it be THE most important, time-consuming part of our lives. Let’s not waste the little time we have on earth mindlessly scrolling SM, comparing our lives to others, being sucked into online arguments, and posting things for the validation we get from the likes and notifications popping up on our phones. Life is so much more than that! 

Do you struggle with spending too much time on your phone? Have you felt any negative effects on the rest of your life because of it? What strategies do you have for managing your SM usage?

*To read more about social media addiction, this is the website I referenced: https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/social-media-addiction/

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