How to curb your addiction to news

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a behavior that becomes compulsive or continues despite negative consequences. In 2017, 43% of Americans reported checking social media constantly, and 20% said social media is a source of stress.

In addition, interacting with social media can trigger a dopamine response in the brain, similar to that triggered by drug or alcohol use. That response can leave you wanting more and feeling addicted. Here’s how to fight it.

How to break social media addiction

In 2018, people with internet access worldwide spent an average of 144 minutes on social media every day. Yet research indicates that limiting social media use to 30 minutes a day is optimal for mental health.

Abstinence is often recommended for treating drug or alcohol addiction, but for social media addiction, the ideal psychological outcome is controlled use of the internet. It’s not necessary to give up social media entirely, but it is important to have strategies for setting limits.

Lin Sternlicht, a licensed mental health counselor at Family Addiction Specialist, recommends that people who are concerned about social media addiction take the following steps:

  • Go on a social media cleanse: Challenge yourself to go a certain time without checking social media, whether it’s for a few hours or an entire week. One 2019 study found that some students who went for five days without social media experienced a “sense of serenity,” although others were afraid of missing out.
  • Delete apps, or disable notifications from social media: Most people check into social media mindlessly, so put a small barrier in the way by turning off notifications. If you don’t see a social media icon or alert every time you pick up your phone, you’re less likely to spend time there.
  • Set limits and stick to them. Most phones and tablets allow you to see the time you’ve spent on certain apps. Set a limit for your time spent on social media and stick to it, or use an app that blocks social media after you’ve hit your limit. For teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that social media use not interfere with activities like family meals, exercise, or “unplugged downtime.”
  • Dedicate time to hobbies or activites. A hobby or new activity can help curb your desire to check in to social media. “The idea here is to fill up your free time with things that you enjoy that are good for you,” Sternlicht says. “Naturally you will find less time to be on social media and more time to be present in life, and hopefully even socialize in person instead of through a screen.”

Accountability is more important than abstinence

Going on a digital detox — or totally abstaining from social media for a certain period of time — can be effective for some people, but not others, says Neha Chaudhary, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

“For some, it may break a cycle that has started to feel toxic or have negative effects,” she says. “For others, stopping altogether may lead to craving its use and not being able to sustain the break, or might keep someone from accessing the beneficial parts of social media, like a way to stay connected and reach out for support.”

Rather than relying on a total detox, Chaudhary recommends setting limits and recruiting some of your friends and family to join you.

“Accountability plays a big role in trying to make any change,” she says. “Maybe decide with a friend that you want to both reduce use, or tell your family member your goals so that they can check in with you about it. Whatever it is, find a way to have someone help keep you on track — breaking habits alone can be difficult.”

In severe cases, someone who is worried about social media addiction should also consider seeking professional help from a therapist or mental health specialist.

Feel stuck in a loop of social scrolling, negative headline inhaling and, well, feeling quite down? Yep, that’s 2021.

If you’re constantly reading negative news, scrolling Instagram, 0r seeing triggering content on Twitter at the moment, know you’re not alone. It can be draining, but, while locked down, also one of the only ways of staying connected with the outside world.

Knowing how to stop a phone addiction, or even identify one in our locked down (and increasingly digital) world, can be tough. As above, it’s one of our only ways of keeping in touch with friends and family. But, it won’t come as any surprise that Harvard research has found too much screen time can negatively impact your mental health.

According to the Harvard Health site, “besides the simple fact that screen time is sedentary time, too much time in front of a screen effects behaviour – it can affect mood, making [you] anxious or depressed.”

That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of two experts, an author and a psychologist. Here, they break down the main warning symptoms, the affect it can have on you and your mental health, and the easiest resources to have to hand if you or someone you know is struggling.

News flash: constantly scrolling social media and negative news is actually really impacting your mental health—and not in a good way.

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So, what is a phone addiction?

What is says on the tin, essentially. According to doctor Becky Spelman, psychologist, Private Therapy Clinic, a phone addiction can be pretty hard to spot. “You can normally tell someone is addicted to their phone if they keep compulsively checking it, to the extent where it actually impacts their quality of their life,” she explains.

We all use our phones so much that, often, this excessive usage is passed off as normal. It’s become even worse during the pandemic, she adds, sharing that “the relentless stream of negative and dramatic news has been draining, and impacted many people’s mental wellbeing.”

How do I know if I have a phone addiction?

Long and short of it, we probably all do, to some extent. We rely on our phones, now more than ever before, to connect us to the outside world.

But there are different types of phone addiction to be aware of, Spelman explains. “It can take the form of constant addiction, where the individual is consistent in their phone-checking behaviour,” she shares. “For others, the habit worsens during times of stress or emotional upset, whereby the phone acts as a distraction.” That could be particularly relevant now, mid a global pandemic where many might be catastrophising, struggling with a third lockdown, or coping with re-entry anxiety.

Interestingly, the psychologist shares that many rely on excessive use of their phone as a coping mechanism. “Those truly addicted to their phones tend not to be able to regulate their emotions as effectively as others,” she explains, adding that they use their mobile as a means of escaping or suppressing their emotions.

5 symptoms of phone addiction

Want to establish your own reliance on tech? Try the following, she reccomends.

1. Being on your phone more often than not

Become aware of how much time you actually spend on your phone. Ask yourself: if you don’t check it for a while, do you feel nervous or on edge? If so, this may be a sign that you’ve become dependent on your device.

2. Brushing off excessive screen time as ‘normal’

How many waking hours do you spend gazing at your phone, and when others touch on it, do you merely pass it off as a necessity?

3. Consistent unproductive days and unfulfilled daily tasks

Are you managing to fit in your workload, daily activities and spending quality time with loved ones? Or do you find that hours can easily pass when you’re on your phone?

4. Comments from others

If you start receiving comments from others about how much you’re on social media or on your phone in general, there may well be a problem.

5. Starting to feel low or down about things you see online

As above, excessive screen time can lead to mental health problems, so if you suspect that you may have phone addiction, now is the time to create new habits and begin to set boundaries for yourself, Spelman shares.

Whether smartphone overuse constitutes a true addiction is still up for debate, but experts say there are ways to scale down.

Credit. Aileen Son for The New York Times

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  • Published Feb. 8, 2022 Updated Feb. 9, 2022

Q: I have my phone with me at all times and check it hundreds of times a day. Are there any proven ways to treat screen addiction?

Our work, social lives and entertainment have become inextricably tied to our devices, and the pandemic has made matters worse. One Pew Research Center survey conducted in April, for instance, found that among the 81 percent of adults in the United States who used video calls to connect with others since the beginning of the pandemic, 40 percent said they felt “worn out or fatigued” from those calls, and 33 percent said they’ve tried to scale back the amount of time they spent on the internet or on their smartphones.

Not all smartphone use is bad, of course. Sometimes, smartphones “make us happier, enriched and connect us to other people,” said Adam Alter, a marketing and psychology professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. But many people want to cut back, and experts say there are effective ways to do it.

Is it really possible to be addicted to a smartphone?

Smartphone overuse can manifest in many ways. Maybe you regularly stay up late scrolling through Instagram or TikTok. Or the allure of your smartphone makes it difficult to be fully present for yourself, your work or those around you.

Phone or screen overuse isn’t officially recognized as an addiction (or a substance use disorder, as experts call it) in the American Psychiatric Association’s official manual of mental disorders. But “there is a growing number of mental health specialists who recognize that people can get addicted to their smartphones,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, an addiction expert and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

Dr. Lembke noted that an addiction is partially defined by the three C’s:

Control: Using a substance or performing a behavior (like gambling) in ways that would be considered out of control, or more so than intended.

Compulsion: Being intensely mentally preoccupied with and using a substance (or performing a behavior) automatically, without actively deciding to do so.

Consequences: Continued use in spite of negative social, physical and mental consequences.

Many of us can recognize some of these behaviors in our own phone use.

Dr. Alter, on the other hand, doesn’t consider smartphone or screen overuse as a true addiction, and both he and Dr. Lembke noted that there is disagreement within the health community about this. “I don’t think it rises to the level of a medical addiction,” Dr. Alter said. “To me it’s more of a cultural malady than anything.”

Regardless of how you define it, both experts say there are ways to reduce your phone use.

Take a ‘screen fast.’

One approach Dr. Lembke has found to be highly effective in her clinical practice is to completely avoid using all screens, not just phones, for anywhere from a day to a month. This strategy hasn’t been formally studied in screen overuse patients in particular, she said, but the evidence for its use with other types of addictions, like alcoholism, suggests it can be effective.

How long you decide to fast will depend on your level of use, Dr. Lembke said. The average person might start with a 24-hour fast, for example, while someone with a more severe case of screen overuse may want to avoid screens for longer. Of course, a true fast may not be practical for many people, whether because of work or personal reasons, but the goal is to get as close to full avoidance as possible.

Dr. Lembke warned that many people — even those with milder screen overuse — may notice withdrawal symptoms initially, like irritability or insomnia, but that over time they’ll start feeling better. In her 25 years of seeing patients, Dr. Lembke has noticed that by the end of a one-month fast, the majority of her patients usually “report less anxiety, less depression, sleeping better, more energy, getting more done, as well as being able to look back and see in a more cleareyed way exactly how their screen use was affecting their lives,” she said. Those who fast for less than a month will still see benefits, she said, though they likely won’t be as dramatic.

After abstaining from screens for a period, she recommended reflecting on how you want your relationship with your devices to look like going forward.

Set rules around your daily smartphone use.

Besides a screen fast, Dr. Lembke and Dr. Alter recommended finding other, less stringent, ways to distance yourself from your phone each day. That might mean allotting times of the day or days of the week when you don’t use your phone at all, such as before and after work. It may also mean leaving your phone in the other room, keeping it out of your bedroom or putting everyone’s phone in a box outside of the kitchen during dinnertime.

“It sounds trivial, like an old-fashioned analog solution. But we know from decades of psychology that things closest to us in physical space have the biggest effect on us psychologically,” Dr. Alter said. “If you allow your phone to join you in every experience, you’re going to be drawn to it and you’re going to use it. Whereas if you can’t physically reach it, you’re going to use it less.”

Make your smartphone less appealing.

You can also make your phone less visually engaging, by changing the screen to grayscale or turning off notifications, for example. Dr. Alter suggested periodically rearranging the apps on your phone so that they become harder to find and less likely to lure you into a mindless loop of checking and rechecking simply out of habit.

Both experts advised deleting certain types of apps — especially the ones you know that you have a hard time avoiding (or if you don’t want to delete those apps, you can move them to the last screen on your phone to make them less accessible).

“Use apps that enrich your life, that add value and meaning or that you need for work, not ones that take you down a rabbit hole,” Dr. Lembke said. And if the apps that add value to your life are the same ones that you feel addicted to, Dr. Lembke recommended creating some space using the tips above.

“The big question to ask yourself with screens is: ‘What else could I be doing right now? Is there something I could be doing that would be better for me?’” Dr. Alter said. “That’s important now more than ever because of how much time we’ve been forced to spend on screens during the pandemic.”

Annie Sneed is a science journalist who has written for Scientific American, Wired, Public Radio International and Fast Company.

Social media use is linked to depression and anxiety — here’s what to do to reduce your risk.

Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She’s written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women’s Health, Business Insider, and among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.

Love it or hate it, social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram have profoundly changed the way we think, communicate and socialize as a society. Instagram is even beginning to change features ( by hiding likes, for example ) in response to studies linking social media usage to increased rates of mental health issues like anxiety and depression . Given that mental health experts, researchers and other pros are voicing concerns on how our social-media obsessed society can more cause harm than we may have guessed, you may be wondering if it’s affecting your own mental health.

Now that more people are talking about the negative effects of using social media too much, it’s common to see friends on Instagram announce they’re doing a “detox” or taking a break from the apps for a period of time. But is quitting social media (even for a few days) a good idea and can it really help you in the long term?

According to Dr. Logan Jones, psychologist and founder of NYC Therapy + Wellness, it depends. While taking a break from social media can be helpful in some cases, according to Jones, there’s a lot more to be said surrounding why you’re taking a break in the first place.

Keep reading to find out why taking a break from social media is not enough to change your health, and how to make your social media use better for your mental health.

In our age of social media, it’s easy to get sucked into checking every app.

Chesnot / Getty Images

Why simply quitting social media isn’t enough

First, it’s important to keep in mind that social media is literally addictive. Just like a drug, it’s designed to trigger reward centers in your brain every time you see a notification on your phone or a like on your latest Instagram post. And this is why the cold-turkey approach sometimes won’t cut it (or will be so tough you’ll give up).

“On a deeper level, these social media companies know exactly what they are doing [from] a neurological perspective. What they’re doing is called intermittent reinforcement — it’s what casinos do too with slot machines. And it’s the same with swiping on Tinder or checking your Instagram. The addiction is the reward pathway, it’s a dopamine hit,” Jones said.

Instead of totally quitting your social media, Jones recommends taking smaller steps to mitigate your habits. “I think it’s a problem when people start too big. Start somewhere, where there’s the least resistance,” Jones said. Examples of small steps to help break your addiction include turning off notifications, turning off vibrate, and using a feature on your phone that monitors how much time you spend on social apps .

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Something I’ve personally found helpful with creating better boundaries around my own social media use is implementing “cut-off” times for my phone. Starting around 9 p.m., I won’t check social media and I won’t look at it again until after 7:30 or 8 a.m. the next day. While I’m not totally avoiding using it, I feel like this time frame helps me feel much more centered and positive, not reactive and distracted.

Consider why you check social media

While checking your phone and social media throughout the day seems normal, it’s a habit that we sometimes don’t realize may be compensating for something else. According to Jones, people often use social media as a form of escape from an uncomfortable feeling like boredom, loneliness or another negative emotion.

“Addiction is anything you do to escape a feeling that has a life-damaging consequence. So a lot of people will turn to social media to escape a feeling of boredom, loneliness, wasting time — whatever feeling they want to escape. The life-damaging consequences of social media addiction are that you are not present and as engaged with life,” Jones said. To see this IRL, just look around next time you’re out at dinner and chances are you’ll see a table of people staring at their phones and not talking to each other.

It’s tempting to open Instagram when you feel lonely, but it can ultimately make you feel worse.

Besides lack of engagement and presence around family, friends and coworkers, Jones says social media creates feelings of envy, which is also negative for mental health. “People are displaying filtered versions of life, which is not healthy, it’s very unrealistic,” Jones said.

Since social media can be a quick or easy fix to avoid negative feelings, you can ask yourself the following questions to evaluate what you could be avoiding and may need to address in another way in your life.

  • What are you potentially avoiding or using social media to escape from?
  • How is being on social media making you feel? Are you comparing yourself to others or using it to judge others? Does it make you feel inadequate?
  • Do you rely on social media for your self-esteem? If you only feel good about yourself when your posts gets a lot of likes, this could be you.

Use positive reinforcement to build better social media habits

Like Jones suggested, using an app or Apple’s Screen Time feature on your phone is a good first step for being more mindful of your social media usage. You may be surprised how much time scrolling Instagram can add up. According to Jones, it can be helpful to evaluate this time and choose something more positive and intentional you’d rather fill your time with (like reading, workout out, or spending time with friends IRL).

If you decide to fill your former social media time with a new activity, like say reading, it will take a few weeks for the new habit to set in. It’s totally normal to sit down to read and feel the urge to check social media for a while. But, it’s best to commit to your routine and try not to break it (even if it’s just “no social media after 9 p.m.”) for at least three to four weeks, according to Jones.

“From a behavioral point of view, doing something for three weeks or at least 21 days will allow you to form a new habit. You really are rewiring a certain part of your brain when you try it,” Jones said. And Jones said it’s helpful to add in a positive activity, instead of just telling yourself or others that you’re cutting down on social media.

“The best way to reinforce behavior is to do more of it. So instead of saying, ‘I’m not going to do social media’, you can say ‘I’m working on being more present.’ So you want to be affirming healthy, positive things that you’re doing,” Jones said.

In this Article

  • The Traits of a TV Addiction
  • The Cycles of Addiction
  • Positive Effects of Watching TV
  • Negative Effects of Watching TV

Watching TV is one of the most popular things to do throughout the world. It only takes a quick look at the ever-growing amount of content available to see why. While there are a few beneficial features of watching TV, such as increasing your opportunities to learn and communicate with other, many negative effects can come from overwatching.В

The Traits of a TV Addiction

Addiction itself can be defined as an excessive behavior or dependence on a substance or action/activity. Addicts use their addition to feel predictability, control, and to lessen tension. For example, being addicted to TV, which is a behavioral addiction, has been found to provide effects similar to other types of addictions.В

There are different levels of addiction to TV. There still needs to be more research to define the categories of normal amounts of TV to watch versus problem levels of viewing. One study used categories that are common facets of addictive TV watching: ‌

  1. Heavy viewing
  2. Problem viewing
  3. Craving for viewing
  4. WithdrawalВ

Different studies have argued for different amounts of time spent watching TV per day. However, these studies are mostly based on the average person in America. In one study, the average amount is 2-3 hours per day. Another study claimed that 4-plus hours is regarded as heavy viewing. Yet another study did not base TV viewing/addiction on hours but on how or if it takes over real-life experiences. Ultimately, an addiction is thought of as a psychological dependence.

The Cycles of Addiction

The American Psychiatric Association lists seven parts that make up an addiction:

  1. Tolerance, where you need more of an action to get the same feeling.В
  2. Withdrawal, when you feel unwell if you stop an action, and need to continue to feel well again.В
  3. You will continue an action for a longer time or do more than you had initially planned.В
  4. You always feel the need to do the action and have often tried to stop unsuccessfully.В
  5. You spend a lot of time using and recovering from an action.В
  6. You stop spending time on important things and people in your life.
  7. You keep on doing it even though it isn’t making you feel good.В

While most of these symptoms may be experienced throughout an addiction cycle, only 3 are needed to be officially classified as an addiction. However, many of these symptoms have been found in people who are struggling with a TV addiction. ‌

That being said, more research needs to be done to determine whether a TV addiction can be classified as a genuine addiction, which has the same symptoms as clinical psychological dependence. Also, potential solutions to help people with TV addictions need more research as well. ‌

A recent study on TV addiction found that addiction is more common with people who are divorced, widowed, or are not married. However, this study also shows that you are more likely to develop a TV addiction as you get older and the longer you are married. Also, the more people there are in your household, the less likely a TV addiction is to happen. ‌

This study also repeats what has been shown in previous studies. Excessively watching TV is often used to help take your mind off of something distressing and to help with moods and situations that are unpleasant.В

Positive Effects of Watching TV

Although there is little proof about the positive effects of TV addiction, it is worth mentioning. One finding is that TV may help turn college students away from partying and substance abuse and help promote religious beliefs. TV has also been found to encourage bonding moments, such as families or groups of friends getting together to watch a show. Watching TV also can act as a form of education for people, including topics on health and social relationships. ‌

As there are two sides to a coin, watching TV is no exception. Therefore, it is important to make sure that watching TV works for your benefit and not the other way around.

Negative Effects of Watching TV

Ultimately, being addicted to TV is proven to be a real issue. Some issues that have been found with watching a lot of TV include a negative body outlook among women, problems with sleeping, possible contribution to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and a sedentary lifestyle. What’s more, children (between 8-16 years) are found to have a higher body mass index and body fat when watching 4-plus hours of TV per day, as compared to their peers who watch less than two hours.В

If you think you may be struggling with a TV addiction, talk to your doctor about your TV watching habits, and they will work with you to figure out how best to help you.

Show Sources

American Psychiatric Association: “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM:IV.”

‌Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry: “Television addiction: Implication for enhancing media literacy for healthy use of technology.”

‌Journal of Behavioural Addictions: “Hidden Addiction: Television.”
Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media: “Measuring Television Addiction.”

Living in the 21st century means that we are glued to the internet on our computers or phones. We are checking our social media accounts, the news, playing games, surfing the web, etc. By learning how to overcome our internet addiction, you will be able to expose yourself more to the world outside of the screens and have real experiences.

Emotional Health Linking to Addiction

In order to treat your internet addiction, it is important to understand why you feel so glued to the screen. It could be that you are feeling lonely and have trouble making friends in the real world that it is much easier for you to connect with others online. If you do not acknowledge that you are having a problem such as anxiety or depression, it will be hard for you to get past your computer or phone screen. That way when you go for treatment for your internet addiction, you will be able to treat yourself for your mental health as well.

Turn Off Notifications

If you get notifications on your computer or phone about any new updates or new comments you receive from social media, it is best to turn them off. You should tell yourself that the time to check any news with your social media accounts should be during a certain hour in the day. Otherwise, every time you receive a notification, you will never be able to take your eyes off the screen. You will reply to a comment and then it will be another notification when you receive a reply back. Check the app settings on your phone or computer to stop receiving immediate notifications.

Account Management

You may have subscribed to a bunch of websites where you can get news and updates that would interest you. The problem is that you may feel like you have to stay glued to your phone or computer to make sure you receive important emails. The problem is that the emails you may receive could be ones that you glance at for a second and then delete because you really do not care about receiving news from them anymore. Look at each email you receive and unsubscribe to the ones you hardly go onto anymore or go on websites like to instantly unsubscribe from many websites at once. You should also look at how long you have been on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and see if you should delete your accounts or deactivate them for some time until you no longer have a dependency.

Make a Plan

Quitting the internet cold turkey can have serious health consequences just like when you quit drugs or alcohol cold turkey. You should instead make a plan of how many hours to be on the internet a day so that you are not overwhelmed when you no longer use it. For example, you can tell yourself that you will set your timer for using the internet for three hours today so that you can eventually reduce that down to one hour. Keep reducing your amount to half an hour until you reach your goal.

Healthy Distractions

If you do not know what to do with yourself now away from the internet, you should spend that time with healthy distractions to use your mental power on. If you are in school, continue with your studies. If you work at the office or at home, focus on that. This will be a better way to improve your results and increase your healthy productivity. If your work involves being on the internet, make sure to shut down all of your windows and tabs and only use those that are related to your work.

New Hobbies

You should be telling yourself that the computer and your phone is for your work and to communicate with your friends and family when you cannot see them in person. This can mean exercising at the gym or going for walks. You can also join a club whether it is for books, knitting, cooking, sports, chess, etc. The point is to get out of the house and find other ways to enjoy yourself instead of feeling like the internet is the only way that you can feel good.

See a Therapist

When going on the internet is interfering with your life, you should speak to a therapist so that you can figure out where the stem of your addiction is coming from and what you can do about it. Even though internet addiction is not in the DSM-5 yet, it does not mean that this is not a serious addiction or that it is not treatable as it would be considered to be a behavioral addiction. A therapist can teach you how to wean yourself away from your dependence on the internet and how you do not need to rely on it for happiness.

Support Group

You are not the only one spending too much time on the internet and drifting away from the real world. You can find support groups in your area such as Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous. You can also find support groups for anxiety or depression as your internet addiction may be a symptom of those mental health conditions. By treating your mental health and finding healthy ways to spend your time, you will learn to use your time on the internet more wisely.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Every year, for at least the past four years, I have resolved to spend less time on Twitter.

This year, after trying and testing many different ways of avoiding the site (including an electric shock bracelet ), I think I’ve finally got it figured out.

If you also want to stay off Twitter this year, here’s what I’ve learned—and what I can recommend.

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In other words: Twitter is a place you go to send tweets, not to read other people’s tweets.

Apps like Twizzle allow you to tweet directly from your menubar without opening the Twitter app and getting distracted by the feed; you can also tweet directly from your Twitter profile page without having to see anyone else’s tweets.

These days, my Twitter experience is conducted entirely through my profile page. I can tweet, view notifications, and reply as necessary—and although Twitter still shows me tempting distractions like trending topics, I am obstinate enough to open a new tab and search the topic keywords if I really want to know what’s going on. (It’s better to get my news from reputable sources, after all.)

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Follow Twitter feeds through your RSS reader

If you want to spend as little time on Twitter as possible but still want to follow a few select Twitter feeds, you have a few options.

First, you could cull your follow list down to the only feeds you’d like to read.

Second, you could leave your follow list as-is and create/bookmark a private Twitter list of the people you’re actually interested in hearing from.

I’ve tried both of those methods—but neither work half as well as the third option I found, which was to load a handful of Twitter feeds into my RSS reader.

Viewing tweets through the bare-bones, black-and-white Feedly interface gives me the information I want, in chronological order (a huge plus), and removes the impulse to infinite-scroll. After all, once you’ve cleared out your RSS reader, there’s nothing left to read—and it’s time to get back to work.

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Batch and limit your social media time

Before I switched to reading tweets through Feedly, I tried a couple different methods of limiting my social media time.

I started by telling myself I got 15 minutes of social media (reading and writing) per day, tracked through RescueTime .

But when you can scan a Twitter feed in seconds, those 15 minutes can still take up a huge part of your day—so I still found myself in the “do a thing, check social media, do a thing, check social media” cycle.

Then I told myself I could only check Twitter in the mornings; once I started my workday, I’d have to stay off the site (unless I was using it for work purposes) until the next morning.

That worked a little better, since the boundaries around “when I was using Twitter” and “when I was not using Twitter” were clear—and I’d recommend it as a solution for anyone who’s also having trouble limiting their social media use.

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Let someone else aggregate the best tweets for you

If you want to keep up with breaking news without getting sucked into the infinite, anxiety-inducing speculation that social media can simultaneously provide, apps like Nuzzel can send you notifications when your friends begin tweeting about the same news story or trending topic. Nuzzel is also good if you want to keep up with the kind of industry conversations that might not make it to the major news sites—or, when they do, might end up heavily truncated.

And if you want to stay off Twitter but still want to keep up with the latest viral tweets and memes (for personal or professional reasons), go visit BuzzFeed every few days or so, and you’ll be caught up on anything worth catching up on.

Or, if you wanted to get just the “funniest tweets of this week” lists without being distracted by the rest of BuzzFeed’s quizzes, videos, and longform journalism, you could set up your RSS reader to collect all BuzzFeed posts that include the words “funniest tweets.”

Too much screen time not enough real time? These tools and apps can help …

Most of us would put our hands up to say that we spend too much time on our phones, and it’s becoming very clear that increased screen time can have negative effects on our mental health. Throughout the last year we have been bombarded with daily numbers of positive Covid-19 cases, ICU capacity and worrying statistics. It’s time to leave that behind in 2021. “Doom scrolling” is the act of consuming a large amount of negative news and it’s something we are all guilty of and it can be detrimental to our mental health.

To tackle phone addiction and limit screen time, Apple introduced a setting called Screen Time to the iPhone that shows users exactly how much time they have spent on their phone (and a breakdown of time spent on each app) at the end of each day. For Android devices, a similar feature was launched called Digital Wellbeing which disables apps after a certain time and has an option to turn your screen to grey at night to remind you to put your phone down. Individual social media apps including Instagram followed suit, offering users the option to see how much time they have spent using the app each day.

According to Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey 2020, the average Irish smartphone user picks up their phone more than 50 times per day, a third of people check their phone within the first five minutes of waking every morning and 70% within the first 30 minutes. A positive finding was that many respondents recognised that they spend too much time on their phones – if this is you, read on.

Whether you find yourself checking work e-mails out of hours or wasting time mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed, we could all do with a bit of headspace and a forced quitting time from our phones could be the answer. With our new work from home routines, the separation between work and downtime has decreased. Work has become even more accessible and harder to switch off from.

If you want to tackle the issue head on, there are certain tools and apps that you can activate that will notify you when you’ve reached your daily browsing limit and even ones that will lock you out of them completely.

Turn off notifications

For a start, you should turn off push notifications on social media apps. Do you really need to be instantly alerted when someone likes your Instagram post, retweets your Tweet, or pins something from your Pinterest board? Notifications for all non-essential apps (phone, message and maybe WhatsApp depending on how/why you use it) should really be turned off at all times. You’ll be surprised how much freer you feel without a barrage of notifications on your screen each time you pick your phone up.

Set daily limits

Once you’ve identified which apps are taking most of your time, set yourself daily time limits for social media apps using Screen Time on the iPhone or Digital Wellbeing on Android. Once you’ve reached your daily limit you will be notified by a pop up on your screen and you can extend this setting to lock you out of the apps completely once you’ve reached your limit.

Nightly wind down

Apple allows you to select apps that are always accessible – like phone and message – and after a certain hour (of your choice) greys out all the other apps to encourage you not to access them. On Android phones, Wind Down mode features a greyscale option which essentially turns your phone screen black and white. A gentle signal that it’s time to switch off.

Delete social media apps

If you want to take more extreme actions, delete social media apps from your phone completely. This will force you to access them through browser which is more time consuming and less user-friendly, and will prevent you from accessing them so routinely.

Replace with helpful apps

Mindfulness and meditation apps can make the practices more accessible to beginners. Both meditation and mindfulness can help lower stress levels and help you get a better night’s sleep. Headspace and Calm, which offer guided meditation practices focusing on breathing, sleep and relaxation, are two apps to look into first. As little as ten minutes a day can help.

Take time out

Sometimes the physical act of separation is what you need. Leave your phone at home while you go for a walk. Signal the end of your working day by switching off your laptop and putting your phone away, try reading a book or journalling to wind down. When you get your morning coffee, engage with the staff instead of standing in a queue of customers with their heads in their phones. You’ll be amazed what some time away from the screen can do.


Lecturer in Psychology, University of Strathclyde

Professor of Applied Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University

Researcher in Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Strathclyde

Disclosure statement

Simon Hunter receives funding from the Australian Research Council, Healthway, Police Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, and the Mental Health Foundation.

David James Robertson and Stephen Butler do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Glasgow Caledonian University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

University of Strathclyde provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

Social media apps are useful sources of information. They help us catch up with the activities of friends, news, current affairs, government COVID updates and the latest happenings in celebrity and sport.

But during the pandemic, you may have felt you spend too much time on social media. On occasion you may have seen the phrase “social media detox” posted by users who want to stop their social media use entirely for a period of time, presumably because they feel that it’s become excessive.

With concerns about the frequency of social media use, particularly among young people, allied with language such as “detox”, it’s no surprise researchers who work in the field of addictions have started to assess whether social media engagement might be an activity which could cross a threshold from frequent use to addictive behaviour.

In our new study, we investigated whether people who use social media a lot display one key aspect of addiction – something called an attentional bias.

Attentional bias

Addictive behaviours for both chemical substances (such as alcohol) and non-chemical substances (such as gambling) give rise to similar symptoms and behaviours. One of the most prominent of these addictive characteristics is an “attentional bias” to addiction related objects, images, and paraphernalia. Those addicted to smoking, for example, are more likely to have their attention captured by cigarettes and other smoking related stimuli.

In our new research, led by University of Strathclyde student Katie Thomson, we sought to assess whether this kind of attentional bias was evident in social media users. We presented 100 participants with mock iPhone displays, and asked them to detect a target app (Siri or camera) as quickly and as accurately as they could, while trying hard to ignore the other apps in the display.

On some of the experimental trials, the “distractor apps” were not social media apps at all. In others, one of the distractors was the social media app icon of one of the main platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat. In another condition, we overlaid these social media distractors with the red notification symbol.

The purpose of this was to assess whether users who reported the greatest level of use and engagement with social media were more likely to have their attention captured by the social media distractor apps – with or without notifications – compared to those who displayed more typical levels of use. This would have demonstrated an attentional bias to social media related stimuli.


However, our findings didn’t support the presence of an attentional bias – a key characteristic of addictive behaviour. We did not find, for example, that those who checked and posted on Facebook ten times a day were any more likely to have their attention captured by the Facebook distractor app – with notifications or not – than someone who only posted and checked their Facebook account once a week.

Research on the effects of social media on users’ health and behaviour is still relatively new. But our study provides some evidence to support the side of the debate which suggests that we must be careful not to “over-pathologise” social media use.

There are now several studies which have argued that there may be no, or at best a weak, link between individual differences in social media use and users’ levels of depression and anxiety, for example. In addition, there are studies which also show the positive aspects of social media use such as enhancing feelings of social connection and wellbeing.

Our new research adds to the current debate by supporting the view that frequent social media use may not, at present, fit neatly into traditional addiction frameworks.

By Robert Pagliarini

November 27, 2012 / 6:50 AM / MoneyWatch

(MoneyWatch) Alcohol, crack and heroin are known to be highly addictive, but can something as innocuous as shopping be addictive?

Having worked with more than one so-called “shopaholic” in my Orange County financial planning firm, I have no doubt shopping can become addictive and destructive. I’ve worked with people from vastly different backgrounds who have become shopaholics — from “sudden wealth” recipients who’ve come into millions of dollars, to the unemployed and destitute who cannot control their shopping addiction. Dr. Drew and I recently taped an episode on the Ricki Lake Show where we spoke to a young woman who was a self-diagnosed shopaholic. Her shopping addiction can provide valuable lessons for the rest of us.

First, it’s important to understand what doesn’t work. A shopping addiction is not a disease of intellect; it’s a disease of emotion. Unfortunately, most family members, along with mental health and financial “experts,” make things worse by focusing on the two areas that usually lead to even more shopping: shame and logic. What’s wrong with you?! Don’t you know better? How can you be so self-centered and selfish? Trying to use logic — if you spend too much, you won’t have money to make the car payment — tends to be just as ineffective.

Such “cures” don’t work. Shopaholics already feel badly about themselves, and they already know they can’t afford it. Criticism often leads to people feeling even more socially isolated, which they “treat” by shopping. So what does work?

1. Identify the shopping trigger. What activates a person’s urge to shop — boredom, guilt, shame, anger? Keep a written journal or electronic record and document what leads to the shopping.

2. Discover the need shopping fills. Excessive shopping doesn’t serve a functional purpose — you probably don’t need 15 purses — it serves a psychological purpose bu meeting an unfilled or under-filled need. For the non-shopaholic, it may look like “crazy” or irrational behavior. It’s not. The shopaholic is often entirely rational. They shop for a reason — it fulfills a need, so they keep doing it.

No matter what you do, if you don’t find an alternative and healthier way to fill this need, the shopping urge won’t fade. So the first step in halting compulsive shopping is to identify the psychological need driving it. Does the shopping provide pleasure, or does it help you avoid pain? In other words, do you shop to feel something you don’t feel anywhere else throughout the day (a rush, excitement, variety, stimulation, being in control, feeling naughty), or do you shop to avoid feeling something negative, such as anxiety loneliness or fear? Determine what part of the shopping provides the reward. Is it going with friends (social)? Is it being around others (community)? Is it searching for things? Is it feeling significant? Does the shopping create relationship conflicts so you get attention or a sense of connection, albeit negative? It takes an open mind and guts to analyze yourself like this, but it often provides the answer.

3. Replace shopping with something healthier. The shopaholic needs to find a healthier alternative to filling the need. Brainstorm how you could fill this need in other ways. Often you’ll find that someone with one addiction will trade it for another addiction. This is not a positive long-term solution. The goal is to trade in a negative and destructive addiction for one that is positive and healthy, or at least neutral. Sometimes it’s just not enough to replace shopping with a healthier habit. In this case, figure out what’s more important than shopping. What do you value more in life? Your children, spouse, security, prestige? Whatever it is, you must link how continuing to shop will destroy what you value most. If you value the love from your family and friends, it’s easy to see how that you will ruin these relationships if you keep borrowing and spending.

4. Change your environment. Our environment plays a huge role in our behavior. If you keep a bowl of jellybeans on your desk, it’s clear what you will snack on throughout the day. Use the environment to your advantage. It makes no sense for the alcoholic to “test” their willpower by having a snack at their local bar, and it makes no sense for the shopaholic to be in shopping malls. Create “no-fly zones” — places you can’t go, such as malls, stores and other shopping areas. You want to remove any ambiguity in your rules. If you don’t, then in the heat of the moment the shopaholic will rationalize a way to shop. Make a list of the places you can and cannot go. Eliminate any TV watching (at least in the beginning), and stay from magazines and newspapers. You basically want to remove any cues from the environment to shop.

5. Get support. Kicking an addiction is hard to do alone. Get some help from friends, family or others. Debtors Anonymous is a great resource, and they have groups in cities across the country.

Robert Pagliarini is obsessed with inspiring others to create and empowering them to live life to the fullest by radically changing the way they invest their time and energy. He is the founder of Richer Life, a community of passionate people who want to learn and achieve more in life and at work. He is a Certified Financial Planner and the president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors, a boutique wealth management firm serving sudden wealth recipients and affluent individuals. He has appeared as a financial expert on 20/20, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers and many others.

First published on November 27, 2012 / 6:50 AM

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