Digital detox: Confessions of a social media addict

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2010/07/07 · 20 comments 8,792 views

in white papers checklists,white papers research

Have you measured your workers’ social media use or monitored their social media consumption? Right now, they are probably online, using the internet for email or to participate in social networks.

Social media addiction can be defined as the inability of individuals to control their use of digital devices, resulting in marked distress and/or functional impairment in daily life.

Addiction is fundamentally a condition of substantial and prolonged disease (suffering), accompanied by significant degrees of physical, social or vocational impairment (incapacity).

So is it possible to achieve balance or is detox, meaning successfully unplugging from social media, the best option?

We discuss these issues in more detail below, but first we offer some irony: sign up with your email to be among the first to get our next blog post.

    Digital detox step 1: What is the point?

Whatever we do we have to describe and define the purpose of social media or smartphone use. It seems perfectly fine to send text messages or tweets whilst commuting to and from work on public transport using a smartphone.

Also, one might enjoy spending several hours most evenings using online social networking sites (OSNs) such as Facebook or Xing.

Nevertheless, users have to separate private and professional use of the Internet.

    Rule 1: Distinguish between private and work-related use of OSNs and technology gadgets. Too much of a good thing really is bad.
    Digital detox step 2: Stick to your routine!

Checking email three to four times a day at the office is part of a productive workday, just like having three meals a day is part of a well-balanced diet.

ComMetrics weekly review: Sponsors get kick out of World Cup – read about how using Facebook lowers performance at university in the Saturday section.

    Rule 2: Things are generally not as urgent as they seem, which allows 24 hours to answer questions and ensuring the client is still satisfied. Otherwise phone or instant messaging should be used.
    Digital detox step 3: Time is finite – budget accordingly!

Like chickens making a lot of noise but failing to lay eggs, always checking OSN messages keeps you busy all day, but also keeps you from completing critical tasks.

Of course, what people do during a coffee break is their business, but in our office we have an unspoken agreement that we do not use smartphones in the lounge (i.e. picking up the phone, checking email is frowned upon). Instead, we socialize and interact with others over something (non-alcoholic) to drink and/or some food.

Roberts, D.F., Foehr, U.G., & Rideout, V. (2005)  Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8– to 18-year-olds – Kaiser Family Foundation

    Rule 3: Our social media policy states that digital media use or consumption cannot lower job performance, and unless absolutely necessary (e.g., helping a client) it should not be done during business hours.
    Digital detox step 4: Stop interrupting yourself – see your productivity soar

Tools like Tweetdeck allow constant monitoring of Xing, LinkedIn, Viadeo, Facebook and so forth, but getting an alert every few seconds interrupts the task you are trying to focus on completing.

Interrupting an important task to check one’s email or Twitter feed necessitates time to get back into the task you interrupted – not effective! It might be more useful to step away from one’s desk and take a break instead.

And even though the workplace is a multitasking social system, one person’s information need is an interruption to colleagues. So we should refrain from sending messages to colleagues unless it is truly necessary… Otherwise ask during a break.

ComMetrics –  libraries, doctorates and Web 2.0

    Rule 4: Don’t believe that switching back and forth between different tasks makes you more effective and will ultimately result in a better research report, strategy paper or marketing plan. On the contary, such work interruptions guarantee you will take more time to produce the final report than otherwise needed.
    Digital detox step 5: Take a break, for your family’s sake

Incessantly checking email and using electronic devices is turning us into novelty-seeking zombies. In fact, some suggest that our bonds with these devices work through the same brain mechanisms that govern addictions to drugs, food, and many other things (e.g., Russell Poldrack – Multitasking: The brain seeks novelty – research is showing that such immersion can cause more fractured thinking in multitaskers and trouble shutting out irrelevant information – many Americans feel stress from juggling too much incoming information.

Moreover, your girlfriend will not be amused if you check your BlackBerry or iPhone for incoming messages during a romantic dinner.

    Rule 5: Focus on doing one thing well. Remember that people do not appreciate you answering emails while you speak with them on the phone (they hear your typing)… it sends a signal that you do not value their time.

Bottom line
Image - small timetable gives me all departures and arrivals from my favorite train station across Switzerland - beats iPhone SBB app hands-downAt the beginning I asked if a mix of abstention from and use of social media and computers was possible, or whether detoxification is necessary.

In short, yes. Sometimes having a miniature printed timetable in your pocket instead of using an iPhone app can save you time, grief (in case the app does not work right now) and make you less likely to waste time by checking other apps while looking for the next train or plane (see right).

Be mindful of how you use social media and devices. Exert some control over the technology and don’t give in to that itch during downtime. Instead, spend time with your loved ones.

Using multitasking because new information attracts you or because watching TV is boring suggests that some changes in your social media usage and device habits could be helpful.

While we can define social media addiction as the inability of individuals to control their use of digital devices, resulting in marked distress and/or functional impairment in daily life, measuring this concept is another story altogether.

=> Ronald Pies (Feb. 2009). Should DSM-V Designate “Internet Addiction” a Mental Disorder? Psychiatry (Edgmont). Vol. 6(2), pp. 31–37

Have an opinion on this? How do you manage best?  Please share in the comments; I love to hear what works for you!

Article source: ComMetrics – Digital detox: Confessions of a social media addict

o2010-07-08 you can listen to the podcast – ComMetrics University – Coffee break webinar: Social media addiction: Steps to Facebook and Twitter detox

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