Thought Catalog
November 20, 2013

An Earnest Guide To Breaking Your Social Media Addiction

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What is the issue?
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Shutterstock

Social media is a drug. Get over it, it’s the truth you already know.

We’re dry swallowing invisible, self-prescribed tablets every morning. Check your Facebook to see if someone “liked” your photo, open your Instagram to see where your friends are, scroll through Twitter trying to find something to favorite. This is a part of your life, you are the one thinking about opening these apps. No one is telling you to do this.

Your brain is pleasured by information because you’re a human being. You’re like every other addict, getting upset when someone leaves the junkie circle, when someone deactivates one of their six social media accounts. Your friends think: “You fucking think you’re above this?! Well you aren’t!” or sarcastically pout “What a hipster! Going against the mainstream.”

“The kids are in danger, they’re all getting habits/ Cause from what I can see everyone’s at it…” – Lily Allen

It’s an addiction. Don’t you remember how it all started? You had a life before this. You didn’t always have an audience.

I’ll refresh your memory.


FACEBOOK, 2006

“You have to make a Facebook account. You can message people, post pictures, it’s like email but about yourself and your friends. Totally make one.”

TWITTER, 2008

“You can follow actual celebrities and hear what they’re saying, and it’s like posting your status updates over and over again except like everyone else is doing it too! You have to get it, so I can follow you.”

TUMBLR, 2009

“It’s seriously the greatest thing ever. It’s like so inspiring, it’s so creative. It has so many creative things and like there are so many rare pictures of Kurt Cobain and really cute literature quotes. I learn everything on there. Please get it, I want to see what kind of things you’ll reblog. This is the next big thing.”

INSTAGRAM, 2010

“It’s cool. It’s just like photos of landscapes and things you want to remember. You just snap pictures, like an endless photo album. Everybody has it, get it.”

VINE, 2013

“RIFF RAFF is so fucking funny. You need to look at his Vine. I’m laughing so hard, check out his ‘I’m a real boy…’ posts. Oh my god, it’s just so amazing. Obsessed. Download it!”

SNAPCHAT, 2013


“Dude. Get Snapchat. You can get more nudes because the girl can see when you screenshot something, so they are more comfortable and feel safer, which means more tits for you.”


Ok so like now that we’ve established how you became addicted…

How is this not any different than the first time a friend told you to try ‘shrooms, ecstasy, or weed? Or when a psychiatrist first suggested you Prozac?

You’re on drugs! Virtual drugs. Free virtual drugs.

But why? What’s so exciting? Aren’t drugs so lame, and aren’t you so above that?

Let’s try to figure this out. Here’s the Virtual Drug Addict Diagnosis Questionnaire:

1. ARE YOU AN ARTIST THAT NEEDS TO BE INFLUENCED BY THE THINGS YOU SEE ON SCREENS IN ORDER TO SATISFY YOUR MUSE?

2. ARE YOU JUST ADDICTED TO TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF 24/7?

3. ARE YOUR FAVORITE CELEBRITIES/INTERNET CELEBRITIES/ARTISTS GENIUS TWEETS MORE EXCITING THAN READING A FULL-LENGTH NOVEL, BIOGRAPHY, OR INTERVIEW LONGER THAN 140 CHARACTERS?

4. IS GETTING FEEDBACK FROM PEOPLE, FOR EXAMPLE, ASKING TWITTER: “SHOULD I BUY THIS ONE OR THIS ONE” EASIER THAN JUST MAKING YOUR OWN DECISION?

5. IS LIVE TWEETING YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW WHILE EVERYONE ELSE ON YOUR FEED IS WATCHING IT GOING TO MAKE YOUR EXPERIENCE IN FRONT OF THE TV ANY DIFFERENT?

6. IS A VINTAGE PHOTO SHOOT SCANNED FROM A MAGAZINE OF SOMEONE YOU LOVE ON TUMBLR MORE SACRED THAN COLLECTING ARCHIVE MAGAZINES FROM EBAY?

7. DO YOU NEED INSTANT SYMPATHY WHENEVER YOU ARE SAD?

8. DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE EVERY STRANGE EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR TWITTER FOLLOWERS?

9. IS TWEETING PICTURES OF A CAR CRASH YOU JUST SAW REALLY IMPORTANT FOR YOUR FOLLOWERS TO SEE?

10. IS RECORDING A 6-SECOND VIDEO OF YOURSELF ON A RIDE AT DISNEY LAND GOING TO CAPTURE THE FEELING YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO GET ON RIDES? WILL YOU BE ABLE TO RELIVE THAT FEELING, INSTEAD OF REMEMBERING BY WATCHING THE VIDEO?

11. DO YOU CONSTANTLY FIND YOURSELF DELETING THINGS THAT NOBODY “LIKED” OR “RETWEETED” OR “FAVORITED” BECAUSE YOU FEEL LAME AND STUPID?

12. DO YOU FIND BOOKS BORING AND UNDER-STIMULATING BECAUSE IT JUST ISN’T THE SAME AS ALL THE PRETTY COLORS ON SCREENS?

13. ARE YOU JUST AFRAID OF MISSING OUT?


If you answered “yes” to at least six of these questions, congratulations. You are addicted to virtual drugs.

Now we know your diagnosis.

What does this all mean?

Ask yourself: Would you pay a weekly or monthly fee just to get your virtual drug (social media) fix?

What is this lifestyle choice doing for you? Is it positive or negative?

I’m a victim of all these things. I’ve done all of these things openly, I’m not ashamed. I’m proud to know I’m also trying to figure “all of this” out, with you guys.

It’s just too much information all the time and I don’t know what to do with all of it. Do you?

I am not above anything and yeah right, who the fuck am I to be the one saying all this?


I asked someone on Omegle. A teen. Speaking to just one was enough to give me the answer I wanted.

Me: Would you ever consider rebelling against Social Media or trying to live your life without it? You’ve done it for so many years before. I mean depends on your age.

Stranger: I’m 18. So, yea I have.

Me: Well?

Stranger: Why would I stop using it. Everybody does it. It would just be strange if I just deleted it when all of my friends are using it. I would look weird. It’s just not cool, man. It wouldn’t be normal.

Stranger has disconnected.

Sorry to get all Lena Dunham and Elizabeth Wurtzel on you, but growing up on social media with my OCD/ depression has been a hellish experience. Watching parties my friends didn’t invite me to via Facebook mobile uploads or tweets while I’m at home in my room. Wasting away what could have been creative splurges because I was scrolling through someone I hate’s Twitter. Being betrayed by friends screenshotting DMs and sending them to other people, then having those people show me. Tweeting things that should have been lines characters said in my book (which I totally believe was them speaking through me).

Intrusive images I’m exposed to without choice from all the unpredictable feeds we rely on to provide us with specific entertainment, even when humans have always been so unpredictable.

Why do you think you unfollow someone? It’s because they aren’t providing what YOU want to see anymore.

It was so crippling for my sensitivities, that I just had to stop. You might be sensitive too, so this is for you.



Here are some alternate choices for living without a social media, that might just give you the same satisfaction, release and escapism you get from these virtual drugs.

1. For the Facebook addict. Come on. Email is great! If you’re young, maybe your friends don’t use email. But can’t you just text these people? Do you want to be able to deny people’s friend requests, or watch your pending requests add up and laugh at how many there are? Stop. If you need Facebook for work or to contact family, do what I did. Make an account and just add the people you work with and message them, and download the Facebook Messenger app and unsubscribe from their feeds (if you don’t like them).

2. For the Tumblr addict. If you like fragmented quotes, buy art books, get into literature. Ask older people in your family/friend circle what books they like and find out what you love and read them. Go to style.com and look through the archive runways if you like fashion. Even FLICKR is amazing. Go to your local library and look at all the old magazines. If you like cinema, rent movies on iTunes or go to your local thrift store and buy some $1 VHS tapes or $5 DVDS. Met a friend on Tumblr? Ask for their number! They probably have iMessage. Just text them or send them gifts back and forth, it’s good to have pen pals. If you like obscure music, you didn’t know until you saw the band on Tumblr? Check out Fact Mag, Pitchfork, and Pigeons and Planes. Also HYPEM! (It’s like the Top 40 of Indie) Duh. Also collect: vinyl!

If you feel like you need a place to express yourself through images, make a desktop folder and put the images in there and look at that stuff to make you feel happy or when you need inspiration.

2. For the Twitter addict: Buy a journal and write down the things you did today. If you aren’t good with a pen, just open a TextEdit document and write “CONNER’S DIARY (November 19th, 2013), and whatever you want to tweet. I know, it must suck that no one’s watching and you aren’t getting any attention, but this is what people used to do “back in the day.” Reprogram your brain, start putting things you want to tweet into your phone’s notepad. I have over 3k notes and most of it became my novel! If you like the news, create a Twitter account where you only follow the news. That’s what I did. I follow over 140 news outlets on an anonymous account and I scroll through it everyday like I’m opening up the morning paper.

You don’t really need to be on Twitter if you don’t have a product/brand to promote and sell. At the end of the day, this fact applies to all these social networks.

3. For the Instagram addicts: You don’t need to rely on how many “likes” you get to judge how beautiful you are. You don’t want to make “Unpretty” by TLC be the song that describes your life. I’m not satisfied with what I see in the mirror and I’m ugly and I’m proud about it. There are so many other things to think about than how I look. It becomes uninteresting at some point. Everyone I know attacks me for this because they think I’m a huge narcissist for having such strong opinions but that’s just how some people were born.

If you like to document your life, you still can! Just don’t upload every picture. Keep some things for yourself. Also TEXT your closest friends your private moments you show Instagram! If they’re your friends, they will care, and would love to see what you are up to. This goes for: new clothes, books, food, anything you show Instagram. They will also share them with you.

If you stylistically use Instagram to express your identity and who you are, you can put that energy toward how you dress yourself.

4. For the Vine addicts: Vine is grotesque. I’ve seen people kick cats on there, seen parents throw water on their babies face because they thought it was funny, I’ve even seen a girl blow a Dildo attached to a Spongebob stuffy. It’s the dark side of human nature in six seconds.

There’s some funny stuff on Vine but it’s usually just people parodying the world around them for attention. Just watch comedies instead. You’ll get more laughs and less scars.

5. Snapchat: If you want to take selfies, or if you want to show your crush that you look hot, iMessage them. They will get to save it that way. Seeing your friends snap pictures of themselves or what’s around them isn’t really useful. It just WASTES time. You like to take nudes? Send them on iMessage and hope they aren’t lying when they say “I deleted them :),” because chances are, they didn’t.


If you’re a Mac user and you get tempted to go on these sites (not apps) when you’re trying to work, try selfcontrolapp.com.

It can blacklist these sites for a certain amount of hours. But be careful! Your addiction might tempt you to browse them on your iPhone. Try to have self-control.

I hope some of this stuff will help you guys revaluate your life. It might make your life a little less lonely or less gratifying, but isn’t everyone a little alone?

You might just get a little dinner table conversation out of this.


I like to say I’ve been clean and sober from virtual drugs for six months now. I’m much calmer, I feel less paranoid, more relaxed. I read so much more.

I’m less of a mutant.

I feel like my intimacy with art has completely changed. I’ve been buying art books instead of looking at pictures online.

I don’t feel so overwhelmed by the confusion of someone tweeting about a movie or book that I wouldn’t have discovered, if they didn’t post about it.

I gave someone I’m working with my Twitter password, and now they text me when someone DMs me, or I text them saying what to tweet and say “Is this ok?” first. They usually tell me “no”…

It’s good to have boundaries and limits. TC mark