Overcoming Online Temptations

Do you ever feel like your will power is on vacation when it comes to grabbing your phone to check Facebook or your work email again for just a few minutes? Turns out that Twitter, email and other online activities might be harder to resist than other cravings, including sex and cigarettes, according to a study earlier this year.

Photo by BuzzFarmers, Creative Commons license.

Photo by BuzzFarmers, Creative Commons license.

Study author Wilhelm Hofman theorized in an interview with the Guardian that:

“Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist.”

Social media and email are such a powerful way to connect with other people, but it so easily gets out of hand and becomes a source of disconnection, avoidance and wasted time. Resisting the strong inner compulsion to frequently check these sites is an issue many of my productivity coaching clients have struggled with.

My personal theory about social media use and online time is that a little can be fun and positive, but if you worry that you are online too much it’s probably true. Smart phones are especially dangerous to our will power in this area. It’s so easy to whip out our phone wherever we are and immerse ourselves in its screen.  Turning to social media can quickly become a mindless habit rather than a mindful choice of where our time and attention are going. The costs of these constant small choices can and do add up to impact our other priorities and our quality of life.

If you’d like to dial back on online time in 2013, you need to:

  • Identify the needs social media meets for you,
  • Notice the triggers that prompt you to turn to social media when it’s not a choice you feel good about,
  • Find some other activities you can substitute that will fill those needs more effectively, and
  • Create routines and boundaries around work email use (if that’s part of your challenge).

Read on for part two of my social media series, in which I’ll talk about the unmet needs busy parents have that we cover up with social media and email checking… and the allure of distraction versus seeking fulfillment. In the meantime…

How would you describe your relationship with social media and other online activities… healthy, obsessive or a bit of both?

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