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21 ways to break social media addiction

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Social media had a great start. It was fun. It connected us.

But now, for some at least, it may have gone too far.

In different ways social media can impact people’s lives negatively — possibly even dangerously….

On the extreme end, people who are lonely or vulnerable because they’re shy and have a hard time making friends in person, may obsessively depend on Facebook and other social media as their sole social outlet. This can cause gradual development of psychotic symptoms like delusions, anxiety, and confusion.

According to researcher Uri Nitzan of Tel Aviv University, some people get entangled in intensive virtual relationships that can lead to feelings of hurt, betrayal and invasion of privacy. He recently studied three people whose psychotic episodes were linked to Internet communications.

“All of the patients developed psychotic symptoms related to the situation, including delusions regarding the person behind the screen and their connection through the computer,” Nitzan says. Two patients began to feel vulnerable as a result of sharing private information, and one even experienced tactile hallucinations, believing that the person beyond the screen was physically touching her.

Nitzan notes that some of the problematic features of the Internet relate to issues of geographical and spatial distortion, the absence of non-verbal cues and the tendency to idealize the person with whom someone is communicating, becoming intimate without ever meeting face-to-face. All of these factors can contribute to a patient’s break with reality and the development of a psychotic state.

On the other end of the spectrum some people may suffer from a Facebook addiction disorder…

According to Dr. Brent Conrad, clinical psychologist for TechAddiction, “Some people spend far too much time on Facebook, having difficulty cutting back, and that this may cause problems with real world relationships, family, school or careers.”

If you think you might be in danger of developing Facebook addiction, but need help stepping away from your computer, smart phone or tablet, Dr. Conrad suggests these 21 steps — including a quiz to help you determine if you really have a problem or not:

  1. Admit that Facebook addiction disorder may be something you need to address. Although “admitting that you have a problem” definitely qualifies as a cliché at this point, it remains true that you must recognize that a problem exists before you will be motivated to do something about it.
  2. Not sure if you are addicted to Facebook or if it is causing significant problems in your life? Complete the 30-item Facebook Addiction Test right here at TechAddiction to find out.
  3. Keep track of just how much time you are spending on Facebook. Keep the list next to your computer (take it with you if you are on Facebook at work, school, or other places). Take note of how often you log on, how long you stay connected, and what you are doing (e.g., posting, commenting, reading news, games, etc). If you want to beat Facebook addiction you need to know just how much of a problem it is.
  4. Ask significant others (close friends, family) how they feel about the amount of time you spend on Facebook. Ask them for honest feedback, be prepared to listen, and try not to be defensive. Do they believe that you are addicted to Facebook? Would your relationship with this person improve if were able to cut back on the time you spend on Facebook?
  5. Set a predetermined amount of time allowed for Facebook per day. For most people, 60 – 90 minutes per day is more than enough time to catch up with others, read your news feeds, and make few posts yourself. You may choose to break this time up throughout the day (e.g. 30 minutes in the morning, 60 minutes at night) as long as you stay within your limits. As you attempt to beat Facebook addiction you may find it helpful to slowly reduce your permitted time over the course of a month until you reach your time goals.
  6. When you log on to Facebook, set an external reminder for your allotted time. This may be a timer on your computer, a reminder from a friend or family member, or a physical timer sitting right next to you. When your time expires, log off – no exceptions!
  7. Limit the number of automatic feeds and status updates you receive. Do you really need automatic updates from that person you haven’t talked to in ten years and really have no desire to ever see in person again?
  8. Purge your Facebook friends as appropriate. After signing up for Facebook most users go through a period in which they try to accumulate as many friends as possible. At some point though, you need to ask yourself if having 200 friends is more work than it is worth. Is quality over quantity something that you could apply to your current list of Facebook friends?
  9. Make one day per week a “Facebook Free” day. Worried that your friends will think that you are ignoring them? One day really isn’t very long, but if absolutely necessary just let them know ahead of time that you will not be checking Facebook for the day and that they should email or call if they must reach you.
  10. Do you spend hours playing games on Facebook, know that it is excessive, yet can’t seem cut back? If you believe that video game addiction via Facebook is a problem, you may find it helpful to download The Computer, Internet, and Video Game Addiction Workbook.
  11. Turn off email notifications. Receiving constant notifications every time someone sends you a message only serves to (unnecessarily) pull you back to Facebook. Ask your friends to use traditional email, text, or phone if they have an important message. Comments on photos, general status updates, and results of compatibility tests do not require your immediate notification!
  12. Step away from the computer (and no one will get hurt). How many hours a day do you spend at your computer for none-work related reasons? Honestly ask yourself if there are other aspects of your life that you are neglecting. On a related note, what happened to that promise you made to “start exercising” or “get back in shape”? Is there anything that is really stopping you from taking action? Adding other activities to your life that you find rewarding (it doesn’t have to be exercise) is a very important component beating Facebook addiction disorder.
  13. Make a list of the things you no longer do because of Facebook. Who do you neglect because of Facebook? What hobbies, interests, sports, or other activities have you lost interest in because of the amount of time you spend on Facebook? Ask yourself if you are truly happy about all the sacrifices you have made just to spend more time online.
  14. If you are really serious about defeating Facebook addiction, consider blocking your access to the site itself. You can do this from within your browser, by editing your “hosts” file (ask a computer-savvy friend how to do this), or by installing parental content filtering software. A software solution may also allow you to access Facebook only during specified times – which is a nice feature if your plan is to continue using it in moderation.
  15. Related to the previous point, you can use also use the program iFreeFace to block access to Facebook (and other time-killing websites), set daily limits, block access to games, and much more.
  16. To learn that your life does not depend on Facebook, give yourself an entire Facebook-free weekend as a starting point in developing healthier habits. To help you with this self-imposed abstinence, change your password to a long, unmemorable sequence of letters and numbers. Write this password down and leave it in a safe place that is not easy to access during the weekend. It may be tough, but you will make through the weekend without logging on to Facebook. Continue your progress by slowly reducing your time during the next week (see point number 5 above).
  17. Remove the Facebook app from your smartphone. Again, if people need to reach you ask them to send a text message or call you. Remove the Facebook temptation wherever possible!
  18. This may sound crazy, but if faced with Facebook addiction it is possible to deactivate your account. Many people have done so without regret – you can too!
  19. Clarify the value of Facebook in your life. Make two lists. One lists outlines how Facebook adds to the quality of your life (e.g., staying connected with family in another part of the country, meeting new people, promoting your business, etc.). The second list describes how some aspects of Facebook detract from the quality of your life (e.g., excessive gaming, wasting time hatching eggs or competing surveys, etc.). Facebook can certainly be a part of a well-balanced lifestyle when used appropriately – make a conscious decision to only use Facebook in ways that add to the quality of your life.
  20. Reduce how often you change your status. It probably isn’t necessary to broadcast your random thoughts and changing emotions multiple times throughout the day. Set a goal of only updating your status once per week as you slowly decrease your time on Facebook.
  21. How many applications do you have installed on your Facebook account? How many are productive and how many are pure time wasters? Hint: If they involve gaining points, receiving gifts, taking tests, or watching things grow they are probably time wasters. Go ahead and keep a few of these if you like (life isn’t always about being productive), but delete most of your applications that are pure time wasters – especially if they tend to keep you logged on for hours at a time.
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