I was flipping through one of my (many, MANY) notebooks this morning and found this note on the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman:
Self-control and cognitive efforts are forms of mental work. Studies have shown that people who are simultaneously challenged by a cognitive task and by a temptation are more likely to yield to temptation.
This must be why, when I’m working on a complex piece of writing, I have the overwhelming urge to get on social media!
Well, I’m sure there is more to it than that — Social media apps are also carefully designed to deliver dopamine hits to your brain as you’re using them, feeding the neurological mechanism of addiction — but it did seem like a tidy explanation for a compulsion I am not proud of.
Spending my time on social media is not a good thing. There’s a lot of misinformation, sensationalistic news, and wildly unbridled outrage floating around on most social media platforms today. Instagram is the only remaining app where I don’t feel absolutely bombarded by negativity. (So yeah, if you want to find me on social media, Instagram is the place to go!)
Yet with all the negatives, like many people, I still felt (feel) drawn to social media. To battle my compulsion to check my feeds when I should / want to be doing anything else, I’ve had to go to extremes.
Facebook and Twitter are particularly toxic to me, and while Twitter feels so vile these days it’s easy for me to stay away, so many of my friends and family are on Facebook, using that platform been a hard habit to break.
About three years ago, I took the Facebook app off my phone. That was a huge step forward. Still, though, I found myself checking Facebook in the browser on my phone and throughout the day on my computer. So I took another extreme measure and downloaded the Freedom app to block me from accessing the platform during working hours. The compulsion to check Facebook didn’t disappear overnight, but it diminished over time. After about a year, I was able to stop using Freedom.
Unfortunately, the compulsion has slowly returned. Much of that is because so many groups and organizations I want to stay in touch with only communicate through Facebook. So I need to go there to check for updates and messages. I try to close that browser tab as quickly as possible, but half the time I tell myself “I’ll just check out the top three posts” … and then I’m scrolling for 20 minutes and behind on work.
So, I’m back to blocking myself from Facebook for the time being. Probably a good idea since we’re heading into a presidential election during a pandemic and the worst economic disaster in generations. (This is gonna be painful.)