I’ve never had a problem with a substance.
I’ve never felt so controlled by something that it became my default activity. But that’s what tech use became for me.
I wasn’t deciding how my days went — technology was. I thought I was a disciplined person who couldn’t fall prey to things like this, but I was wrong. Media became my pacifier and my wound soother.
YouTube videos were my cigarettes, and Instagram was my roulette.
A Day in the Life
I’d wake up and grab my phone. Because that’s what everyone does, right?
Grabbing my phone was my way of dealing with the pain of getting up. I would check social media, get just a little bit upset about something, and then start my day. For me, the pretty blue light was more appealing than the sun.
In my spare moments at my job, I would be thumbing down feeds. In the bathroom, I would check Facebook and get pissed off at the Minion memes and rotten opinions.
I would come home mentally exhausted. Then, I would sit on the couch and watch YouTube videos until I went to the gym.
I would come home, and during dinner, I would watch more YouTube videos. Afterward, I would have some free time, but instead of doing something fun, engaging, or productive, I would lay in bed. The only sensible thing to do when you’re laying in bed is to watch more YouTube videos.
This would continue until the moment I fell asleep. I was trying my best to spend as little time as possible sitting with my thoughts.
And that was most days for me.
How I Felt After Media Consumption
The media I was consuming, more often than not, made my life worse.
It was things that provoked me. It was politics. It was difficult ideas. It was Instagram pages that were meant for someone else but were too pretty to look away from.
I was consuming mountains of content that reflected my anger, my fear, and my morbid curiosity. The algorithms were not delivering things I was thankful for, although I would occasionally find something I genuinely liked. The entertainment and the awfulness blended, and I had to take one with the other.
I was frequently pissed off and anxious. I had problems for sure, and I knew I was numbing them with media. I needed and hated it at the same time.
After hours of consuming, I would feel used. I would feel like my time was stolen from me. I was always being entertained, distracted, angered, terrified, and soothed. It was taxing.
But it was my life, and my media consumption undermined all the things I would normally enjoy. If I wasn’t consuming media, then it felt like something was missing. It wasn’t something I chose to do — it was just what I did.
I hate the word content. It’s so dry and meaningless. Saying, “I’m a content creator” is like saying, “I make stuff.” It’s not like saying, “I’m a filmmaker,” or a writer, or a designer, or an artist. I’m a stuff maker, and you will consume my stuff. Please remember to like, comment, and subscribe.
The internet is designed to deliver content to you. It no longer waits to be discovered. It “serves” you by making you addicted to the things you’re interested in. Your attention is someone else’s profit.
A close friend of mine is also a frequent internet user, but he has no problem with it. His relationship with content is exactly how he wants it. He has tailored his algorithms to be only what he likes, and his mental health remains rock solid. How is it that he can do that and I can’t?
Do I have a more addictive personality? Are my interests more incendiary and emotionally charged? I can’t say for sure. But I believe that for many of us, the relationship we have with media has become unhealthy and life-controlling.
How I Recover From Media Consumption and How You Can Too
You have to remember that, in the end, you don’t have to do any of this. You don’t have to participate in any sort of media, even if you feel pressured to.
I’m not saying you should reject technology and live a monk’s life. All I can tell you is that my life was hijacked by tech habits. I was locked into an endless loop of media consumption. That’s what the technology was made for, after all.
Why would you not look at something interesting when you’re bored? Why would you not want to be entertained? Why would you not give your kid something to distract them while you do your work? It’s all too damn easy.
Recovering from tech addiction requires more than just discipline. It’s not just one habit you need to break. It’s a lifestyle change. The key is to be deliberate with when and how you entertain yourself. You choose how you interact with media before it chooses for you.
For anyone who feels like their media consumption is out of control, here are some practical ways I’m designing my lifestyle to not be ruled by tech:
- I’m buying a dumbphone, and I’m excited about it.
- I’m going to use almost no social media except for LinkedIn and Instagram. Both will be for business only.
- I use a Chrome extension called Distraction Free Youtube to remove YouTube’s infinite feed on my PC.
- I’m going to more actively participate in real life. I’m going to plan events, have face-to-face interactions, and make memories.
You should have a right to be bored. Creativity comes from boredom. Personal reflection too. Undistracted moments with people around us are the moments that matter. I don’t want them to be degraded by technology and media consumption.
I’m still going to enjoy the amazing things people make online, and I’m still going to use technology to make life convenient, but it’s going to be on my terms, not an algorithm's.