Media Overload

What are your favorite media you access every day? How many times a day do you check your phone for messages or other content? Do you have an addiction? What is an addiction and how do you know if you’ve got one?  

There was a study done several years ago, (which is a mega amount of time in the social media research world), that showed that school age kids were checking their phones about 150 times a day - during school. Think about that for a moment. 150 times a day, your kid is checking messages, responding to messages outside the classroom, taking pictures, or scrolling through some social media.

How has our social media use changed our brains? Our relationships? Our way of life? How many times do you as an adult check your phone? What content do you check, and why?

I remember back in the day when everyone was beginning to get cell phones, trying to coordinate picking up my kids from an activity, and wishing I had the convenience of a cell phone to just talk with them directly. That wish was granted and eventually I got my first cell phone. It was SO convenient and helpful being able to make a call or receive a call anytime anywhere to coordinate the many activities of family life. But now I wonder - has it become too much of an overload? Has it impeded our relationships? Has it only increased the busyness of life instead of helping us coordinate our lives? And we are all familiar now with the detrimental effects it has had on our kids’ self esteem. 

Do you feel overloaded at times, burnt out with the media? I mean, do you look at a tragic news story and simply scroll past it feeling nothing for the people in trauma? Has the overabundance of information numbed us to feeling empathy and support for others?  

I think these are good questions to ask ourselves. And of course, they are good questions to think about in making decisions for our children.  

The answer to the addiction question is a yes, you are addicted. We are all addicted. Research has shown that scrolling through social media or checking messages gives us the same type of dopamine drops to our brains that any other substance of abuse would do that hooks us. Have you had that experience of just checking your phone, and then twenty minutes later, noticing the time flew by? That is addiction. Every new thing that pops up gives you a drop of dopamine, so you scroll and scroll, check and check, and your life literally wastes away before your very eyes as you scroll through your phone.

Have you tried a social media fast?  

I know that most of us now have very important data, events, and connections saved in our phones and have a NEED to use them for these important uses. But what about those things that could wait until maybe once a day - check your email, answer calls or texts, look at facebook posts. What if you fasted from social media for a day, a week, a month?

It takes approximately a month for our brains to begin to heal from addictive urges. So if you do take the challenge to fast from social media, you may find yourself itching to scroll, check, look at it strongly for the first few hours and days - this is your brain withdrawing from addiction.  

But if you persist, and instead spend your time connecting in person with friends and family, working on a hobby, making something with your hands, cleaning, studying, learning something new, working on projects, doing something productive, you will certainly find a breath of fresh air. You will feel like a new sober alcoholic. Your brain will become clearer, you will be more mindful of your own emotions, and the people around you. This can be a scary experience as we may not know what to do with ourselves and our time! But it can also be a more peaceful, exhilarating experience.  

Try it and let me know what you find out!

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling


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