Mind & Body

If ‘The Social Dilemma’ scared the bejeesus out of you, here’s how to nix your phone addiction


The Social Dilemma exposed what most of us kind of knew already: that we’re addicted to our phones. What we perhaps didn’t know is that they were deliberately designed that way. If you’re wanting to reduce scroll time, life coach Mark Carter has some tips. 

The recent Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma tackled the addictive nature of social media. The discussions are compelling, given insights and evidence are from industry leaders with first-hand experience, even responsibility, for tools now used by approximately half the world’s population.

Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook VP, is among them. For several years, he’s expressed feeling guilty for helping create tools “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

Insiders expressing similar and even worse fears include inventors of features like the endless scroll or those three wriggling ellipses; the typing indicators keeping you glued, anxiously or eagerly, to screen awaiting an instant reply.

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If you find your moods or emotional states are altered, slightly or significantly, based on how much or how little others comment on your posts, you know this to be true. Or if you’re tangled in turmoil over which filter or hashtag is likely to gain a greater response, AI’s and algorithms are winning.

The good news is the simple weapon to combat the very tools designed to manipulate is your own mind and two hands:

1. Minimise screen time

Even if you were to go on a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream binge bender it’s unlikely you’d go back and forth to the freezer every two minutes for the course of hours each day. The same is true here. Set limitations, slots or pockets of time each day.

2. Curate contacts

Science highlights that our brains are not hard-wired for unlimited connections or relationships of substance: Robin Dunbar’s research churns out 150 as the magic number for meaningful relationships.

If you’re chasing vacuous popularity from people who, let’s be frank, are fickle and barely notice if you’re around or not, chances are it’s at the expense of real friends. Curate close contacts on all platforms. Anyone treating you like spam or as easily disposable isn’t really a friend.

3. Be where you are

When you’re out with friends, even on holidays or visiting new locations, remember your history is your memory. Your history isn’t filtered photos or status updates of your past.

Your internal senses and brain are more sophisticated in the long run than any smartphone or recording device. Live in the moment, soak it all in.

4. Uninstall or delete

Ask yourself better questions regularly: Will specific platforms, tools or excessive social time help you achieve your own goals or increase quality education?

Or is stressing out so much, worrying about comments or what strangers think, really worth it? Perhaps some platforms, as Jaron Lanier suggests, are prime for deletion.

5. Choose content, don’t be spoon-fed

Why go down rabbit holes digital companies have designed to tap into your addiction for the benefit of their own goals?

Curate content to nurture your mind, news sources or be more selective with whom you choose to see as credible enough to follow. You choose your own food don’t you? This is the same only nourishment for the mind.

One overarching question

Ask yourself how does this add value to my own life or the lives of others? So much social media is vacuous, empty fairy floss that’s about as relevant in meaningful or purposeful value as ice cream mirrors or chocolate teapots.

Mark Carter is an international keynote speaker, trainer and coach. He has over 20 years’ experience as a global learning and development professional. His TEDxCasey talk Paws and Effect: how teddy bears increase value perception was the movie trailer for his latest book Add Value.