The last couple of months I was totally overwhelmed. I was having trouble every time I tried to comprehend school tasks and information. I had difficulty concentrating and most of the time I felt as in my brain was in overdrive. I had too many social sites to update and maintain. The social media feeds were too many for me and took almost my free time. It was difficult for me to stay focused and keep up with my daily activities. I had no personal communication with my friends and I realized that I had reached a tipping point. I needed a change as soon as possible and this meant reducing behaviors that caused distractions in my life. The third day after the realization that I was addicted to social media, I started figuring out how I spend my free time when am away from school. I concentrated on the activities that caused me anxiety and stress. Social media had ruined my life and now I have no friend to talk to since I was doing all my communication on social media.
After a week of self-evaluating, number factors became clear to me. I discovered that I spent three to six hours a day on social sites. Every time I got a free second I reached my phone to check my Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp or Instagram. I never had time for my friends and family. Social media introduced me to digital clutter where I met new people to engage, articles to read, follow celebrities and other companies that I caught my interest. I always had fear of being left out when my friends post something on the internet. I kept on continuously checked my feeds every time and sometimes during class sessions. These social sites got me out of the present moment and I stopped following my dream. I separated myself from my family and I would rarely note if a member is missing, sick or other activities that occur in our family.
Sometimes during class sessions when a teacher was be teaching, I was thinking of the next post that would earn more "likes" and comments. I got stressed if a post gained few of them because I felt that they did not appreciate it. I cared about making others happy regardless of whom I would hurt. In The Wall Street Journal, Neil Strauss says "So let's rise up against the tyranny of the "like" button. Share what makes you different from everyone else, not what makes you exactly the same" (Strauss). I tried to make my post unique so that I could get more followers. I made my post interesting and this was not an easy time since I had to sacrifice the time I would be reading and doing my assignments to research what is trending. I would stop having any conversation with a friend or a fellow student to take a picture so that I could upload it to the social sites. I lost my friends because they felt that I did not care for them. According to them I was ignoring them and paid attention to them on the internet. The worst part is that I used Facebook and Twitter to feed my ego (Blackwell, et al. 70). I bullied my friends and got away with it and with this, I felt like being the best one in my class.
Excessive social media has adverse effects and I researched some studies and found out that I am not the only person affected by the usage of social media. According to Statista, 81 percent of American use social media and 33% of this population are addicted. The researchers at the University of Salford also prove that there is a correlation between social media addiction and mental problems such as depression. Around 51 percent of the participants who use Twitter and Facebook felt that their lives changed negatively. Around 45 percent of them feel uncomfortable and worried when they cannot access social media. 75 percent cannot stay without accessing these sites since they feel incomplete. (Sriwilai, and Peerayuth, 480)My personal experience and results of these studies prove that are slowly becoming addicted to social networks and smartphones.
On Feb 2017 I work up with a major breakthrough. I was seated in Washington Square Park meditating about my life and suddenly a shocking feeling occurred to me. I felt that I do not have to let others validate my pictures, opinions, ideas and other things I post on the social network. At this specific moment, I felt free from my reliance on social networks to feel creative, smart, witty and other ego issues. Moreover, all the negative feelings, behaviors and all clutter no longer pulled me down. On this day I had managed to reach the objective I was seeking when decided to do away with social media addiction in my life.
Studies suggest that one take exactly 28 days to break a practice. I can confirm that these studies are valid because I was on social media within one month. It was not an easy experience for me because I was used to discovering new information and share ideas on the social networks. I missed engaging with my friends online and in few instances, I felt like starting a conversation but I occupied my mind with other activities. At the end of February, I was completely over the addiction of social media but sometimes I felt like going back to Facebook and Twitter. I had a lot of questions for example, how will I use social networks to avoid addition? How can I control their usage? I hesitated before starting over again because I wanted to develop healthy measures of using these networks.
On 1st April it was time to introduce myself to the social network in a healthy way. I crossed my fingers and downloaded Facebook and after installation, I took time evaluating how I could respond to feeds. As soon as the app opened the feeds were intoxicating and overwhelming at the same time. At first, I was amazed by information from images, quotes, infographics, ideas, and articles. Within the first few minutes I had consumed all the information and it was exhilarating. I only responded positively to few ideas that brought positive change in my life. I slowly took time contemplating how I feel after exposing myself back to Facebook. I did not check my feeds for three days to reduce any chance of dependence. After a week, I reinstalled Instagram and remembered how much I enjoy sharing photos and checking what my friends and other celebrities share their lives. This time around, I made sure that I only spend thirty minutes a day on social sites. I occupied my mind reading and doing assignments to avoid being tempted to check feeds or post anything. It took me two days to post my first photo on Instagram. The photo was showing the beauty of a sunset in Santa Monica. Once again in my life, I felt attached to the world.
I am happy that I manage to overcome my social media addiction. Since the end of this detox, I have to build good habits such as posting just the necessary information. I am also trying to moderate my usage but sometimes I cannot lie I do not find myself returning to an old habit and tries by all abilities to control it. I noted that addiction is caused when on spend the most time on social networks and this is what I have been trying to avoid. I now spend large chunks of my time doing productive activities such as reading and having personal communication with my friends. I briefly check my apps and keep my phone away to avoid being attempted because most of my online friends begin a conversation whenever they note am online. To successfully avoid these sites I had to set some limits on the number of times I would upload photos or tweet every week. This has worked for me because every time I want to tweet I remember I have exhausted my limits. Despite these best intentions and protocols is set to avoid social network sometimes I find myself falling back into old habit without noticing. I can blame my ego for this since I love being appreciated and recognized. I am also afraid of taking some hard decisions in life and I ask my friends on the tweet if taking a certain action is right or wrong. Sometimes I find searching what is trending because I hate feeling left out especially in politics. When am free and bored I also check my phones for feeds or take photos to upload on Instagram as I did when I was addicted. Often I question if my social media detox changed me or just reduced my addition. Maybe I am just a social person and cannot resist connecting with others online. Well, all I know is that I did change from the person I used to be and that was my main objective. I know that I cannot avoid social media completely since I need important information from it.
Blackwell, David, et al. "Extraversion, neuroticism, attachment style and fear of missing out as predictors of social media use and addiction." Personality and Individual Differences 116 (2017): 69-72.
Strauss Neil: The Insidious Evils of 'Like' Culture (2011). Web https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304584004576415940086842866?mod=WeekendHeader_Right
Sriwilai, Kanokporn, and Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol. "Face it, don't Facebook it: impacts of social media addiction on mindfulness, coping strategies and the consequence of emotional exhaustion." Stress and Health 32.4 (2016): 427-434.
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