Facebook Addiction? The 4-Step Blueprint for Overcoming an Addictive Social Media Habit

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Technology has had an amazing impact on our lives in the last decade—especially when it comes to “connecting” to the world and accessing information.

Never before has it been so easy for people from such disparate places as Jakarta, Indonesia, and Branson, Missouri to connect and share their opinions with one another.

With the advent of social media sites (like Facebook), people can form online friendships that can last a lifetime.  But for all the positive aspects of sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Linkedin, there is also a legitimate danger to becoming too connected on social media.

Like all good things, it’s too easy to spend too much time on sites like Facebook.

In this article, we’ll look at a few ways to tell if you may be spending too much time on social media. Then I’ll reveal a simple 4-step plan to eliminate this bad habit.

Are You a Facebook Junkie?

Often, we think of a “junkie” as someone who roams the streets searching for their next hit.  The truth is there are many types of junkies.  Often, you can be addicted to a social media site and still be a considered a functioning, well-adjusted adult.

The major problem with social media, specifically Facebook, is it’s easy to lose yourself in a world of friends and likes. We all love to hear good things about ourselves and social media is full of positive reinforcement.  It feels good to get positive comments, likes, pluses, thumbs up, and retweets.  It’s a great example of the operant conditioning experiments that have been done over the years—you press a button and get a reward.

Over the years I’ve learned an important truth:

So how do you know if you’re spending too much time on Facebook or other websites?

The answer varies from person to person, but here are 12 ways to find out.  You might be addicted if you:

  1. Spend more than an hour a day on social media. (This includes all sites: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.)
  2. Check social media before anything else in the morning.
  3. Have more connections with people via social media than in real life.
  4. Cancel activities with friends and family to be on social media.
  5. Get an anxious feeling when you log into your social networks.
  6. Like to chat online than call someone or even visit them in person.
  7. Get feedback that you should spend less time on social media.
  8. Check social media constantly when you’re out with friends and family.
  9. Share personal secrets on social media that you regret later.
  10. Announce personal events on social media before announcing it to real-world friends (engaged, pregnant, or “in a relationship”.)
  11. Feel agitated if you can’t go an hour without “checking in”
  12. Get extremely upset when your favorite social media platform is down

If answered “yes” to five or more of the above questions, then you’re probably spending too much time on social media.  Fortunately, there is a simple 4-step process for eliminating this bad habit:

How to Eliminate Your Facebook Addiction

Step 1: Track Your Social Media Time

Try this experiment for one week: Keep a daily log of the time you spend on the different networks.  This includes sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and LinkedIn.

One of the insidious things about social networking is you can easily lose hours without even knowing it.  The best way to break this bad habit is to determine how many hours each week you’re wasting.  That’s why it’s important to use one of these tools to track your time:

The tool you use doesn't matter, whether it’s a low-tech egg timer or a fancy app like Rescue Time, the important thing is to track your entire social usage for the week.

Step 2: Identify a Positive Habit or Hobby

Let's say you “only” spend an hour a day on social networks.  A great way to break this habit is to substitute it with a routine that improves your life or connects you with a personal passion.  The options are nearly limitless, but here are a few ideas to get started:

Idea #1: Set a writing block.

Use the one hour to create content. Write an eBook, create blog posts or work on the great American novel.

Not a writer?  That’s fine.  You can use this time to focus on an activity that taps into something creative that you enjoy: Painting, gardening, fixing up an old car or knitting.  As long as you’re doing something that’s enjoyable, it can become the pathway to minimizing a Facebook addiction.

Idea #2: Learn something new.

An hour a day is sufficient time to develop a new skill. Set aside 60 minutes, day-in, day-out and you’d be surprised at how much can be learned.  We all know that lifelong education is essential for success.  By taking an hour away from social media, you can use this time to start on the path towards dynamic self-improvement.

Idea #3: Take a daily walk.

The “daily walking habit” has huge health benefits. Just an hour a day will improve physical fitness, help you live longer, reduce stress and help spark creative thinking.

Idea #4: Read a non-fiction/educational book.

You can improve your mind by reading nonfiction books on a variety of topics. Take that hour of social media and use it to educate yourself daily is a wonderful way to “get more” every day from the same amount of time.

Idea #5: Be social.

I hate to sound snarky, but social networking really isn't social.  Your free hour would be better used to strengthen real social connections and form new relationships. Go out with friends. Join a club on Meetup.com.  Seek out new people and be truly sociable.

Idea #6: Work on goals.

I firmly believe that focusing on goals is one of the keys to success.  In addition, it can help you identify what you want from life and direct your actions towards positive outcomes.  All of this is possible when you use that one hour to focus on activities that bring you closer towards long-term goals.

Don’t have established goals?  Why not use this newly “free hour” to set new ones.   Then you’ll have something constructive to focus on instead of hopping online.

Idea #7: Volunteer.

We often think of ourselves when it comes to managing time.  A different option is to help others through volunteering.  Not only does this give you a chance to be more social, it also makes your small corner of the world a slightly better place.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding “stuff to do” instead of using social media.  If you have additional ideas, why not share in the comments below what you would do with an hour a day saved each day.

Step 3: Unplug from Social Media (Optional)

This can be a tough one for some. You have to reflect on whether or not social media provides real value to your life. Does it make it better in some way?  If the answer is no, you might want to step away from it entirely for a few days.

Quitting social media cold turkey isn’t for everyone, but doing it for a brief period can help bring more perspective into your life.  A social media detox will help you discover that it’s not as important as you once thought.  If you’re having trouble making that separation, then I recommend doing it as part of 30 Day Habit Challenge.

Step 4: Limit Social Media Time

Maybe you enjoy spending time on social media as a way to relax at the end of the day. That’s perfectly fine.  My goal isn’t to tell you to not do something for fun.  Social media usage can be a way to unwind like watching movies/T.V., playing video games and reading a good book.  All are great activities that can reduce stress. What I do recommend is to limit the amount of time you spend on social sites.

The simplest solution is to create a habit where you plan and limit your time.

If you love Facebook, but spend too much time on it (more than 1 hour a day), you should create time blocks where you’re only “allowed” to go on it.  Once that time is up, you’ll get off the site and do something else.

Easier said than done, right?

In the hot/cold empathy gap article. I talked about how plans often go awry when the lure of temptation becomes too strong.  So while you might say you’ll “spend less time on social media,” it’s hard to stick with this promise when you feel that urge to check Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

The good news?

While technology can often be the cause of a bad habit, it can also become its solution.

Useful Tools to Help Limit Your Social Media Usage

There are many tools you can use to limit social media usage.  Some block Internet access to the social media sites you love (too much). Others create reminders to stay on track of your current projects.  And a few track the time spent on these sites.  Here are a few of the better tools:

  • Self Control (Mac): Set blacklist sites and times.  Then your computer will block you from accessing these sites during this time.
  • Anti-Social (PC and Mac): Blocks social websites for a preset length of time.
  • Leechblock (FireFox): Same functionality—you set a time period that blocks specific websites.
  • Stay Focused (Chrome): Like Leechblock, but for Chrome
  • Minutes Please: Uses a simple website interface that generates a popup when a predetermined social media time is up.
  • Facebook Limiter: Like the name says: This tool is designed to limit Facebook usage.
  • Rescue Time: Not only does this software track time spent on social networks, it can also help you regulate and control these distractions.

Break Your Social Media Addiction

Social media has had a huge impact on the world we live in.  While most of its outcomes are good, there is a dark side to spending too much time on it.  For some people, social media can become life instead of a small part of it.

If you find yourself spending more than an hour a day on Facebook (or similar sites), then you should take time to decide if it’s really the best of your time.

First, you should figure out how much time you’re actually spending on these sites (step #1).  Next, identify a good substitute activity that adds value to your life (step #2).  And finally, decide if you’d like to completely unplug (step #3) or limit your social media time (step #4).

If you're looking for inspiration, check out this post on our favorite songs about recovery from addiction.

If you're a visual learner, check out this post on vision boards to help with addiction recovery.

Now on to you…

Do you spend too much time on social media?  How much time do you think is too much?  Are you living a “healthy” life if you spend hours a day on social networks?  What would you do with an extra hour a day? Comment below and let me know what you think.

Finally, if you need help with building habits, then check out this nine-step blueprint that walks you through the entire process of creating lifelong habits.)

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15 thoughts on “Facebook Addiction? The 4-Step Blueprint for Overcoming an Addictive Social Media Habit”

  1. What a great article. You made me curious about my own social media usage, so after I read your post I fired up RescueTime to check how much time I spend in SM every day. I definitely spend too much time on twitter.

    Last week I logged 5 hours on social media, but that figure doesn’t include my mobile usage, or the productivity I lose switching between social media and other stuff. Social media is essential for my day-to-day work (it’s integral), but I’d definitely benefit from compartmentalizing it, and doing it in a couple of bursts throughout the day. I’m in with the other folks in the “over an hour a day” category.

    Thanks for the post! I’ll definitely have to change up a few of my workflows going forward.

    • Chris,

      Glad to see I made you think about social media. Like you SM is essential to my work. I have to do it daily to keep things going. But I do try to automate where possible (real SM takes interaction and engagement, as you know, but a “little” automation works) but doing it in the “burst” fashion you described is the best way to go about it, IMO.

      5 hours SM for business related stuff isn’t bad though. It shows you are not getting sidetracked by LOLCatz. That is about what I spend each week.


    • Haha, I would ‘like’ to be in your situation Chris. I have developed such a strong aversion towards social media that I am having A LOT of trouble getting used to using twitter as a daily habit despite wanting to.

      My mental anti-virus program is too strong to overcome in the short-term.

      Rescuetime is awesome.

  2. I do spend 2 hours a day on SM, but I don’t think I am addicted (I used to be….addicted to Farmville and stuff. Now that I look back, I regret wasting a lot of my time on silly games).

    I use one hour for my professional networking activities, and one hour for my personal activities – not too bad 😉

    And I do use blocks – skills block, reading block and so on (I have to admit though, I haven’t followed Skills block in a while, 2-3 weeks now. I have to get back to it).

    I use Rescue Time, so no problem with accountability – 70% productivity per month (Not too bad, at least for now. I am working on improving it).

    Anyways, thanks for the article, Steve – especially the tools; I love testing new tools 🙂 Thanks!

    • Jeevan,

      Glad you like the tools! Hope you find one or two that work great for you. I have too say 2 hours certainly does seem a bit “much” -at least to me. I understand the “professional” needs of SM. But perhaps there are things you can do to streamline the process.

      Anyhow, great job on caring about your productivity and working on it! 😉


  3. First time commenter, S.J. I enjoyed this post. I do think one of the benchmarks of “social media addiction” is when you substitute actual relationships and experiences for ones you get vicariously. The friendships can be real. Or they can be a way to hide from real life. If someone can honestly answer that for themselves, they have a good start to break their addiction.

    • Larry,

      Glad to have you, and hope you will swing by again! Great point! I totally agree. SM can be a way to augment your real life friendships (keep in touch with friends who live far away – perfect example_. Perhaps even a way to build new friendships. But it should never take the place of these friendships!

      [begin rant] I think the perfect example of that would be things like, “Not now honey, I am on [facebook, pinterest, G+, etc]”, deciding NOT to go out with friends because you would rather do Social Media OR being out with firneds and spending more time with you nose buried in your cell… I could go on and on. [Endeth the rant] Yeah, that should be a certain sign of addiction and show that you need to spend FAR LESS time on SM


    • Laughing…how many addicts end their habits because they sense it might not be healthy for them? There’s always a hole that needs to be filled, and social media fills that hole…or at least seems to. If it’s a true addiction (vs. a nonproductive habit), there’s a lot of personal rebuilding that has to be done

  4. I’m a lot like Ludvig. I’ve had to literally be shoved into opening Twitter and Facebook accounts just to take part in a pair of learning programs. I still don’t have much use for either of them outside of those programs. As a freelance writer, I’m “supposed” to use them, but I don’t like them (TMI that I didn’t need to know in most cases). Doesn’t help that, because of my intense dislike, I’m not particularly disposed to learning more about them.

    I’ll admit, however, that my downfall is the time I use in reading and responding to emails. I’ve three I use consistently:
    -one thoroughly private, takes about 6 minutes (unless a family member is having a “day”)
    -one for general emails, takes up to 30 minutes
    -one for business emails, takes over an hour

    • Kendra,

      Like you I am not a fan of SM in my “personal” life. I use it because of business, and therefore really try to streamline the process, while being more than a “bot” on the SM platforms. It can be a balancing act.

      Email is something I struggle with too. As many people who have a lot going on may do too! Currently I am working the “in box zero” philosophy. It does seem to cut down my email time a bit. I think I will have some more in depth stuff on that coming down the pike, once I figure it all out and get a good process myself.


  5. I’ve been trawling through a LOT of unhelpful articles on the subject of Social media addiction, for about the last hour.

    I just had to comment & say Thank-you for writing a useful post with very usable tips & ideas!

    I have no idea how old this post is (no date shown on mobile) but I still thought I’d comment.

    I almost laughed at the idea of 1 hour a day being considered an appropriate amount of time to spend on social media… Which is exactly how I know I have a problem.
    I have no idea how long I spend on all sites combined (I’m going to install one of the time trackers you mention, even though it will make me anxious, because I’m so intrigued to know my real truth) but I spend at least an hour just on Twitter every day!
    It had been worrying me, which is why I sought out advice today.

    I’ll stop rambling now,
    Thanks again – seriously so helpful!

    • Jessy,

      Glad you liked the post. I think you are far from being alone in this boat of social media addiction. Many may see me as being TOO STRICT in limiting my time to an hour, but I think that most people spend far too much time online. It is fine to spend time doing something you enjoy, but these things need to have limits or they can effect the rest of our lives. You are doing awesome monitoring your habits first to see how much time is really spent on these sites!

  6. Hello,

    I am a school counselor and one of my goals this year is to challenge my students to limit time spent in front of the screen. I work in a K-12 school. I really liked your ideas and hope to use them to foster this challenge. My self- I gave up my Facebook account in February ’18 and don’t miss it. I get a lot more done, and have actually had time to read books. I do use Pinterest for my job, but I do not use it at home. My thinking was that I could not present this challenge until I got hold of my own habits and made them better.

    Thank you for a great article.

    • Sarah. Glad you liked the post. I would be interested to hear how it goes if you present it to your students. I wonder how they could handle limiting any social media. It is such a part of the lives of our kids these days.

  7. Instagram is part of Facebook and they don’t care about addictions, they just want to look good to make more money. Google up ‘Instagram and Facebook is making people crazy’ and you will be motivated to quit them.

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