I’m at that stage now where I can discern the reason behind my restlessness. The symptoms that previously used to confound me can finally be attributed to a source and countered with practical solutions. I say this with pride because discovering the cause of any turmoil is always the first step to recovery.
The reason for my dopamine going out of whack and my feeling a flurry of erratic emotion? Social media.
I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Because of social media, I found my voice. Because of social media, my introverted self learned to be a tad more expressive. I could post online, and there would always be someone to listen to my endless thoughts, view my never-ending selfies, and validate my existence. As much as I enjoy the platforms, I often find myself getting lost in engaging with the myriad of interesting content while also feeling bad about someone close not liking my photos or reels or videos, wondering if everyone had a life far superior to mine, wanting to go on the same expensive trips that others do even if it’s not what I want. Social media can be draining. It takes away your mental resources and leaves you with very little to deal with the everyday complexities of life.
When you feel like a puppet in a system with no say over your actions, you know it’s time to take back control. It’s time for a dopamine detox. I turn off my notifications, log out from social media, and take a break from doomscrolling. What I get in return is an incredible sense of relief and calm.
My dopamine detoxes help me connect with myself, reflect and refocus my energy. I enjoy the stillness and the ability to engage with my work, family, and thoughts without being bombarded with external distractions.
I find such dopamine detoxes more valuable at work. When you’re neck-deep immersed in tasks, the last thing you need is a distracting WhatsApp chat demanding your attention. Turning the wi-fi off helps me in cutting down on unwanted noise. To combat my Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), I remind myself that I’m just a phone call away from those who need me. Sometimes, when I need 100% me-time, I enable the flight mode on my phone. It has been a life-changer.
Enough people don’t realize what staying connected 24×7 does to your brain. If they did, everyone, including myself, would have attempted to disconnect more regularly. I know what social media does to me, and I try to step away, but it’s not long before I turn delusional again and turn a blind eye to the side effects. I relapse and restart doomscrolling.
The irony is that I have to experience the dreaded symptoms again for my brain to knock some sense into my dopamine-hungry system. The symptoms being — feeling angry about nothing, annoyed over everything, and mentally and physically empty. These symptoms are my wake-up calls to step back. The moment I do, I feel refreshed. It always astonishes me how forgiving our bodies tend to be. They are quick to spring back to life if you give them a chance. A few hours of downtime is often all it takes.
I wonder how many people must have mistaken mental overstimulation for depression and continued using social media without understanding its negative impact on them. Overstimulation is not depression, but it may lead to depression. Prolonged use of social media can result in your body crying SOS in the form of a nervous breakdown, loneliness, and anxiety. If you feel irritated when your internet is down, even though you have nothing important to finish online, you are addicted – no second thoughts about it.
If you are interested in the studies shown in the above image, here are the links:
- Taking a One-Week Break from Social Media Improves Well-Being, Depression, and Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial
- Psychological Responses Of Tunisian General Population During COVID-19 Pandemic
- Problematic Social Media Use And Depressive Outcomes Among College Students In China: Observational And Experimental Findings
We can see the symptoms but somehow fail to attribute them to social media. Even if we understand the negatives, it doesn’t stop most of us from endlessly scrolling through our feeds. It might be similar to how drug addicts feel. They know the side effects of the drugs they consume and how it physically and mentally affects them, but it doesn’t stop consumption.
I was at that stage again recently, ignoring the fact that it’s time for a digital detox, when I stumbled upon the book Dopamine Detox by Thibaut Meurisse on Prime Reading. The book is available for free if you are an Amazon Prime user in India. After exhausting my monthly budget for books, I decided to give it a go. It’s a quick read. It takes about 30 minutes or less to finish but is jam-packed with information.
The book helped as a reality check. Somehow I had conveniently forgotten what social media could do to my mental health and had started overusing it. I even attributed my increased irritability and lack of energy to sleep deprivation, vitamin deficiency, or lack of exercise. I fixed all these issues but turned a blind eye to my social media usage. Eventually, from a state of surrender, I accepted that disconnecting from social media was the best way to resolve my problem. So, dear readers, if everything fails to lift up your mood, try logging out from your social media accounts.
I have cut down my usage, but I have no idea when things will go down south again. For now, I enjoy being wide awake, in the present, and the temporary freedom from negativity. I have set up social media time restrictions on my phone to prevent doomscrolling, but how long before I disable them and return to my old ways? Only time can tell.