A Simple Way to Figure Out the Emotional Link to Your Social Media Addiction

Tool Used:
iPhone Camera & Photos

Duration:
7 days

Part of decluttering digital life, especially social media addiction, is figuring out why we have the addition in the first place. “Forming habits” is the gold standard in many product developments. And “designing a product that could link a user’s emotion to it to form habits” is key to a successful product. Social media, specifically, use this to gain sticky usage. Feel bored? Scroll funny videos. Feel frustrated? Brag about the latest weekend getaways. When you have a specific emotion, the product team wants you to link the emotion to their product.

Each person links emotion to different products. Some link boredom with Facebook feed, others link boredom with Youtube videos. Before you know it, you have a cheat sheet in the head that directs you to a specific app when an emotion emerges. To figure out which emotion corresponds to which app is the first step to quitting addition. And here is the way I figure out my cheat sheet using iPhone.

All the following steps are used to create a “Why?” image and set it as your lock screen. If you know how to do this, skip reading the steps.

Step 1. take a picture of a simple, ideally solid color wall. I took a picture of a wall in my bonus room.

Step 2. open up Photos, select the wall picture, and click on top right “Edit”

Step 3. click on bottom right “three dots” icon

a simple way to figure out the emotional link to your social media addiction

Step 4. choose “Markup”

a simple way to figure out the emotional link to your social media addiction

Step 5. write “Why?” on that picture and click “Done” on top right

a simple way to figure out the emotional link to your social media addiction

Step 6. open up Settings, choose Wallpaper, then click on “Choose a New Wallpaper”

Step 7. choose the picture you wrote “Why?” from Camera Roll, click on the bottom right “Set” and choose “Set Lock Screen

Every time you pull out the phone, the “Why?” image is the first thing you see. Why are you pulling out the phone? To work? To check Instagram? To respond to a notification? WHY are you doing this now? How do you feel now?

The Technique I Learned from A Retreat

This is a technique that some of the Buddhist retreat centers used. When participants heard a specific bell ring during the day, they stopped whatever they were doing. They will do mindful breaths and asked themselves “what was I doing right before the bell rings? Was I sad? happy? worried? How did I feel?” The purpose is being mindful of what you are doing. Being mindful and present is a big part of Buddhist practice. It can be used to figure out many aspects of your life. I used it to figure out the emotional links to social media addiction. The “Why?” picture is the bell rings.

Don’t judge your answers. Judging is not helping, and it will not provide ways to quit social media addiction. Answer the “why”, don’t judge, and move on. Be honest with yourself. You could scribble it down if you couldn’t quite remember them. Soon you will have a list like this:
Facebook: bored (was waiting for the build)
Facebook: frustrated (was checking the number of registered users, same as yesterday)
Twitter: bored (was waiting for deployment)
Twitter: bored (was waiting for unit test results)
Facebook: frustrated (was checking google analytics)
Facebook: worried (was checking emails)
Twitter: bored (was waiting for deployment)
Facebook: frustrated (was checking emails)

For my case, when I feel bored, I obviously look for Twitter feeds to fill up the fragmented time. Facebook is associated with negative emotions related to my work (why is my business going nowhere??)

Figure out the emotion first, and coming up the solution is easy. For example, to reduce Twitter usage (which I associate with boredom), there are plenty of non-social media activities I could try. Reading is one of them. That’s why in my social media decluttering week, I read books in the library and bought a couple of books to bring home, just in case. Because I know the reason I want to hop on Twitter feeds, I can read books instead and get the same boredom relief. When I feel frustrated with work, I don’t spend time on infinite scrolling anymore. I listen to upbeat music, or podcasts, or talk to potential customers. All of them are valid alternatives to bring relief to my frustration.

You would argue, this is not an improvement. I still feel bored, frustrated, worried, and I am still looking for relief. We are humans, not Vulcans. We have emotions, and we need relief. The key is: you should not rely on a single source of relief. If you did, that’s an addiction. For many people, unfortunately, that single source is social media. If you felt you’ve spent too much time on social media. Perhaps invest in 7 days of “Why?” image practice, and try to answer the “why” first.

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