Social networks addiction

It was when I quit social networks that I knew how they’re truly addicting. I felt something was missing from my life. I missed communicating with friends I made, I missed writing about whatever came to my mind, and I was opening the web sites randomly out of habit only to realize I no longer have anything there.

I signed up again a few times because I couldn’t tolerate the situation. I was too addicted to social networks to be able to function like a normal person. The addiction to constantly writing or reading about random things and being virtually and digitally social prevented me to do anything meaningful, like reading more books, long articles, or even get some shut-eye.

I was an addict. Just like a heroin addict, that can’t function normally in society, I was having problems in society. I couldn’t have a focused meaningful conversation with people, I couldn’t enjoy my environment, I couldn’t enjoy the company of people around me, and I was looking at a screen all the time, even though there was nothing for me there.

I sometimes borrowed my friends’ phones to consume social-networks posts. Even shuffling through Instagram for a while when they let me use their phones. I needed it. The urge of receiving random information, seeing random photos and videos, and zoning out of real world even for a small amount of time was too stronger than me to stop it.

I did stop eventually. I needed help but nobody, absolutely nobody, was experiencing what I experienced and people, addicts themselves, were telling me to just install an app start using it. So I cancelled my cellular plan.

My first step was to cancel my internet plan on my phone so I wouldn’t have a connection even if I wanted to check something. That made some inconveniences as I needed internet for many stuff such as checking on important emails or getting an article from Wikipedia but it was for greater good.

The second step was to clear tracks of social networks. I deleted the bookmarks left on my browsers, I deleted the snapshots of posts, and I made a filter on my computers and networks to prevent me from visiting specific web sites or connecting to specific networks. This also made some inconveniences because there were times that I needed to read a post for context matters, yet again I was fine with it as it helped achieving the greater good.

The third step was to set goals. I needed a system that constantly reminds me of the goal I’m achieving, and helps me through the way. Getting away from social networks meant nothing if I didn’t do anything useful and meaningful with my life and spare time made as a result.

So I set some goals for myself, such as finishing a book, contribute to some projects, helping my local community, and complete some personal tasks both online and offline. I didn’t want to be the guy that doesn’t use social networks, I want to be the guy who is too good to waste his time on social networks.

My fourth step was to ensure that I don’t go back. I had to get strong enough, and confident enough to stay positive where I am even if I were exposed to social networks. I had to practice. It wasn’t enough to just look away when you see an interesting post, I had to be able to watch a video or read a post without being persuaded. I didn’t knew how to achieve it except by practicing. So I practiced.

Whenever we sat in our favorite cafe, and my friends started to look at their phones, I would put my phone on the table, enjoy my coffee, and try to have a conversation about a matter. An accident one of our friends were in, the time our other friend realized how dangerous he was driving, the new workout routine one other friend received from her instructor, etc. Anything that could bring us closer together and further from our phones.

This was to avoid social networks. To practice not being persuaded, I had to look at the post my friends wanted to show me and when it was done, I had to continue what I was doing. No matter how interesting the post was, I had to get back to what I was doing instantly. This helped me to prepare myself to care less and less about social networks.

My fifth step was to be mentally prepared for the world in front of me. I had to treat my addiction to social networks in a way that it becomes so irrelevant to me, I never get bothered by it again. Social networks exist and can’t hide from that. I did manage to keep away from social networks for a time but did I get cured? Can I come back to normal life if I ever used it again? An alcoholic will keep as far as he can from alcohol but can he really get back to normal life?

If an alcoholic drinks alcohol after 5 years, can he stop again? I mean stop whenever he wants, instantly, not by doing all the steps again and again. I couldn’t get the answer for that unless I did what I had to do. I joined a social network again and I became somehow active and the amazing thing happened.

I didn’t like it. I was miserable and I couldn’t tolerate it. Social networking became undesirable for me. It was good news for me. Imagine an addict that tastes the drug after a year and finds it disgusting. I was relieved that I developed a feeling towards social networking that makes me sick of using it. I found it pointless, waste of time and energy, and ridiculous. I loved the users, they’re all very good people and I consider them my friends, but I hate the way I had to communicate with them.

Ask me to have coffee with you and talk about anything, I would free my schedule for you any time, that’s how amazing I find those guys but don’t ask me to communicate or socialize with you over like or reblog buttons. I very much prefer to send you an email and tell you my opinion or how much I liked your post rather than pressing a thumbs-up button. I would love to meet you in person and talk about it over a coffee or brunch rather than clicking on that favorite button.

I am free from social networks. I don’t use them, I don’t like them, I don’t tolerate them. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad or unethical, it’s just not for me. It doesn’t mean that every person who uses them is an addict or anything, it’s just harmful for me.

I’m done using them. I need a long long break from all the technology and manipulating techniques that are designed to fake the feeling of being social. It’s bad, at least for me.

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Ali Reza Hayati

Entrepreneur, hacker, cypherpunk.