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5 Psychological Reasons You Are Addicted to Facebook and 5 Ways to Break the Habit

5 Psychological Reasons You Are Addicted to Facebook and 5 Ways to Break the Habit

Hi. My name is Daniel and I am a recovering Facebook addict. Whew, it felt good to admit that out in the open. With that confession out of the way, I’d like to help you understand why you are addicted to Facebook. I’ll even provide some easy steps that you can take today to break the habit and be more productive.

The first step to breaking any bad habit is to understand the psychological triggers that made you pick up the habit in the first place. Below are five common ones that I know very well.

1. Facebook scrolling is a symptom of procrastination.

Facebook capitalizes on your tendency to procrastinate by incorporating a news feed with an infinite scroll. No matter how far down you go, there will always be more memes and status updates to keep you distracted from whatever you should be doing. Thus, it might be helpful to change your perception of Facebook. Instead of looking at it like a place to be social or kill time, frame Facebook as the enemy of your productivity and purpose. Doesn’t sound as tempting now, huh?

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2. Facebook over-sharing is a symptom of loneliness or indecision.

Facebook resembles a boring reality TV show that is on full display during every hour of the day. Do you really need to tell everybody what you ate for lunch? I doubt it. You don’t share such trivial details to add value to people’s lives. You’re doing it, because you’re lonely and desperate for approval. Seeking opinions from your friends could be a sign of indecision or low self-confidence. If you get a bad suggestion, then you can conveniently blame somebody else, thus protecting your ego.

3. Facebook creeping is a symptom of misplaced affection or unhealthy self-comparisons.

Facebook makes it easy to be a creeper. There are two primary causes of creeping and neither of them are pretty. If you’re creeping the profile of your ex, then you’re probably living in the past. Seek professional help if you are struggling to let go. If you’re browsing the profile of a crush, then you’d be better off actively pursuing them. Send them a thoughtful message to get a conversation started. If that goes well, ask them out on a date. Creeping could also be a form of self-inflicted misery. It’s already hard to resist the human urge to compare ourselves to other people. Facebook makes this convenient to do.

4. Obsessive checking of Facebook notifications is a symptom of impatience or people-pleasing.

Facebook takes advantage of your desire for instant gratification. Your brain receives a dopamine hit every time you see that red notification light up. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that causes you to seek pleasure from things like food, sex, and drugs. Pleasure sounds nice in theory, but dopamine is responsible for self-destructive behavior. Thus, becoming a slave to your notifications can destroy your self-control in a hurry. If that wasn’t bad enough, the human desire to be liked and accepted is at play, too. Every time you get a “Like”, your brain decides that means somebody likes you. Keep this up and you’ll turn into an addict desperate for another “hit.”

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5. Obsessive refreshing of your Facebook feed is a symptom of a fear of missing out (a.k.a. FOMO).

Facebook wrecks your focus by preying on your fear of missing out. You check your feed during a date, because you don’t want to miss any interesting updates. You check your messages while you drive, because a friend might have something exciting to share. Never mind that you might turn off your date or wreck your car and die. The possibilities are endless, so it’s totally worth it. That was sarcasm if you didn’t notice. I’m being dramatic to demonstrate how reckless these behaviors are.

If you’re ready to break your addiction to Facebook, follow these five steps.

1. Admit you have an addiction.

You can’t fix a problem if you deny it exists. Don’t beat yourself up, but do try and be honest enough to admit you’re a Facebook addict. If it makes you feel any better, I’m a recovering addict myself. There is no reason to be ashamed. Telling a trusted friend might help you stay accountable, especially if they share your goal.

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2. Be mindful of the triggers that provoke the habit.

Every psychological trigger I discussed here won’t necessarily be relevant to you. That’s okay. Focus on the ones that are. If you’re not sure, here’s a reflection exercise that might be helpful. It will reveal why you’re having such a hard time breaking the habit. Record the following details in a diary or journal until you identify some common trends:

  • What did I do? (scrolling, over-sharing, creeping, notification checking, or feed refreshing)
  • When did I do it? (down-time at work, as soon as you woke up, right before bed, on a date, etc.)
  • What happened right before? (if a stressful or upsetting event occurred, that could be significant)
  • How did this make me feel? (use a descriptive adjective to describe your mood before and after the incident)

3. Consciously acknowledge the habit for what it is.

This step will break Facebook’s hold on you as long as you can be consistent. Every time you feel the urge to update your status or check your feed, recognize that impulse for what it is (a habitual behavior — NOT a conscious decision). This is especially powerful when you complete step #2, because you’ll be able to make a mental note of the specific psychological trigger at play.

4. Practice self-compassion during the process, no matter how frustrated you might get.

Facebook is an epic time-suck, but that doesn’t mean you should criticize yourself every time you log-on to your feed. Psychologists consider procrastination a misplaced coping mechanism. Beating yourself up will make you feel bad about yourself, which will ironically cause you to be even more tempted. Self-loathing can only lead to failure. You might end up deciding it’s hopeless, because you are “too lazy.”  If you want to break your addiction for good, then you need to be self-compassionate.

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5. Replace the habit with a positive alternative that you can track or measure in some way.

It’s a lot easier to eliminate a bad habit when you decide on a good habit that you would like to replace it with. I applied this idea by choosing to pick up a book every time I was tempted to check my feed. The result blew my mind. I read over a hundred pages in the first day! Trust me when I say those “few minutes of down-time” can add up to an obscene amount of waste. Having a specific metric to track is important. If you want to stay encouraged, you need to have compelling evidence that your time would be better spent elsewhere.

This is going to sound ridiculous given the subject of the article, but…

Would you please pass this along to your friends on Facebook? I don’t mean to demonize the website entirely. It’s a great place to stay in touch with the people we care about. Even so, it’s time to break our addictions so we can achieve our purpose and enjoy the company of the people right in front of us.

Featured photo credit: Girl Using Her iPhone Outside/Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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