I Cured My Social Media Addiction by Reading Books
I woke up yesterday at 8:15 a.m. and instinctively reached for my MacBook. I checked my emails and how many people had liked the article I wrote yesterday, on which someone had commented that they wanted me to kill myself. I climbed out of bed, showered, brushed my teeth, and made a cup of tea — though not before checking social media again and sending my girlfriend a meme.
At my desk, I spent half an hour scrolling through my Facebook feed, skimming information I have little interest in, like someone with a life sentence reluctantly reading every book in the prison library. Someone I went to school with (we never spoke then, never would now) is getting married. I read a think piece about effective time management, and three pointless articles: an egg exploded in a microwave, a woman lost weight for her wedding, and someone was arrested for punching a police horse. It’s now nearly 11:15 a.m., and nothing in this vortex of irrelevance has helped me pay my rent.
Social media sucks the productivity out of me like this every day, half my time consumed by digital procrastination. I need the internet to work, of course. But my rampant web use doesn’t feel healthy, and certainly isn’t productive. As I write this, I have 27 browser tabs open and only four are related to my work. None of these tools help users to manage their time effectively — quite the reverse.
I’m aware I may have an “addictive personality,” and can be excessive with anything from drugs to Netflix and Pringles. I’m also aware that this susceptibility can be channelled in a positive way; I knew someone who was addicted to crack but got clean, and subsequently became addicted to library books — taking out the maximum amount before borrowing his wife’s library card to get his next hit.
So I decided to quit social media for a month, and when I felt the urge to login, I’d read a book instead. It could be glorious, I decided. It had to be better than where I was.
Day Two: By the second day of my experiment, I’d noticed my muscle memory urging me to type Facebook.com into my browser, like an athlete with a body finely tuned to perform the same motor movement over and…