My Social Media Addiction is Real: Getting Off the 'Gram

BREAKING: I powered my phone OFF to write this.



Turning my phone off feels like a pretty radical action. I rarely ever turn my phone off. Airplane mode every night -- yes, that’s a thing that I do. But off? Rarely ever.



I was in the hot tub with a new friend in Palm Springs a few weekends ago. We were both there attending WELLSPRING -- an epic convention by Wanderlust. He asked me what my addiction or vice was and I sat in silence for several seconds.


I’m a pretty moderate to non-user of all of alcohol, drugs, food, sex, all of the things.



“I’m not really the addict type,” I thought in my head.



Then I remembered and instantly blurted out, “I’M ADDICTED TO MY PHONE!”



I started using an app called MOMENT that measures how much you are on your phone each day, and it reported to me gently that I was averaging 8-10 hours of phone time per day.



That’s 60 hours per week.


Of course, I justify it. I run my businesses online. I use Facebook for work, I post my deepest truths on Instagram, I’m connecting the with the #GratefulUnicorns in the 100 Days of Gratitude FB group. I’m checking my e-mail. I’m texting.



Don’t you understand?



I need to be on my phone because I am an important person.

I’m doing meaningful work in the world.

I’m inspiring people.



This is my belief about myself in my head. So are those 60 hours per week spent working? My guess is I could cut that number in half - at least. I could probably spend 2-3 hours on my phone per day and get my work done. So what’s happening in those additional 5-7 hours?



I wish I could tell you.



Maybe an hour here or there is calculated from the use of Google Maps while driving.

Since I’m committed to being radically and wholeheartedly honest with you (what the f*ck else would be the point of writing this if I wasn’t?), I’m usually re-loading my Instagram and my Facebook feeds, checking e-mails, and looking at texts at red lights.



Sometimes I’m even peeking at these things while I’m driving. I’m literally risking my life to stay connected to you on social media. It feels like I can’t stop myself. I’m craving that hit of dopamine.



Did you like my latest post?

How many people are seeing my IG story?

Did that person text me back?

Did the coaching payment notification come through my email?




It’s almost like these apps are designed like slot machines - keeping us “engaged” and addicted.



Oh wait, they are!



Facebook literally deployed the mental strategy behind slot machines to create the “swipe down to reload” feature that brings a fresh new hit of dopamine, new posts, new content, and new information right into our brains. The system is literally designed to keep us scrolling and reloading as Facebook profits from charging it’s advertisers for views, clicks, and conversions.



But I’m not here to talk to you about Facebook. I’m not here to put the blame on a power system outside of myself so I can remove the responsibility from me.



I’ve done all the things to try and curb this addiction.



I have my phone set up to receive NO NOTIFICATION -- not a single one. I do not get notified about text messages, my phone does not ring or vibrate when someone calls, my e-mails do not get pushed through, and I have literally ALL “push notifications” turned off.



I thought this was smart when I did it about 3 years ago. I felt that I was really hacking the system. I remember thinking, “I refuse to be barked at any longer. You don’t tell me when it’s time to engage. No sounds. No vibrations. No messages. I’ll tell YOU when I’m ready to check the app.”


Yep. I felt sophisticated and elitist.



I am a conscious consumer of technology.

Other people are so addicted.

WE have a problem, but I don’t really.



What actually ends up happening was this:

When I’m in those little gap spaces between doing something (some people call it life), I check my phone. I’ve had actual moments where I’m standing by my sink knowing I need to do dishes, but I can’t. How can I do these dishes? I’ll get my phone wet. I wish I could have a third arm to be dry and scroll while I do my dishes.



I’m on my couch after a long day. I think…



I had a great couple of coaching sessions.

I posted an Instagram post that is totally resonating with people - almost 1000 likes. F*ck yeah.

I led a call for my online course.

I connected with friends on some phone calls.

I had a good day. I deserve to sit on my couch and just tap out.



I have to be honest, it feels good to be on my phone. It feels good to be guided. I can just sit back and consume. I can binge on the noise, the trauma of the world, the woundedness of others, the inspiration from my rich life coach friends. I can just absorb other people’s lives and get a little numb from my own.




What’s the harm? It’s just a cell phone. Everyone is doing it.



Fast-forward a 60 minutes. 90 minutes. 2 hours. 3? Who knows how much time went by? What even happened?



But I’m important.

I’m reading this article about Trump.

I’m writing this quick post about Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. I’m supporting women.

I’m supporting the LGBTQI community.

I’m speaking up and learning about issues people of color face.



Maybe, just maybe I can write-off my social media cell phone addiction as social justice… as work… as connecting with friends… as caring about the world.




Yeah, that’s right!

I’m so fucking important.

I NEED to be on my phone 8-10 hours a day!!!




So I’m sitting in a hot tub in Palm Springs with a new friend and he suggests that I get off social media for 40 days.



Psshhh.

Doesn’t he know how important I am?

I mean, yes he has more IG followers than me, but I’m important.

I thought he knew this. LOL.




This suggestion both excited and scared me. As someone who runs my own businesses, I instantly think…



Will I be able to make money?

What will happen to my Instagram account?

Will I get to 30K followers -- will I be delaying the achievement of this goal?

I love my posts on Instagram and Facebook…

Who will I be without social media?



I literally had that thought.



The sad and honest truth is, I have no f*cking clue.

I’ve built an identity and an ego-system around a world that isn’t even real.

I’m like that Pavlovian dog. When I go to post on Instagram, it’s like I hear the bell. My mouth starts watering. They’re going to start liking me soon. It’s coming.



Then your likes come through. Instagram has made them the perfect orange, red-ish hearts. Sometimes there’s so many of them. I am loved. I am important. I’m making a difference.



It’s like the scene in the movie Hook with Robin Williams when they eat the fantasy food at the big long dinner table in Neverland. Like a fiend, I feast on the fantasy of being liked -- and the addiction to the dopamine fakely mimics the genuine human connection and a sense of belonging in community.



I must take a moment to say I know I’m not alone, and I also know that there is nutritional value to the online connection -- especially when it leads to deeper connection like the connections I’ve formed with people I’ve met around the world at speaking events, retreats, workshops, and through courses and coaching. I am not against the online world, and yet I see firsthand the danger it presents to us.



It’s not wrong to be online, but it is detrimental be a boundary-less consumer of constant noise that distracts us from our creativity, truth, clarity, and power.


I create a boundary today. I accept my friend’s challenge. I am taking 40 days off social media. I am going in to Shannon and reconnecting to who I am without the instant gratification and the noise. I will read. I will write. I will connect with real humans in real spaces. I will focus on my education, healing practice, coaching and heart.





If you’re inspired by this, thank you for supporting me. I’m excited to share with you what I learn when I get back.


I hope my experience is an opportunity for you to reflect on your own connection to social media. Please answer one or all of the questions below.

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I’d love to know:


  1. What habits do you notice within yourself around social media?

  2. What boundaries have been helpful for you?

  3. What boundaries would you like to set moving forward?