How Social Media Hijacks Your Time (and your Mind)

How Social Media Hijacks Your Time (and your Mind)

First, if you are reading this post through Facebook or Twitter, with gratitude for taking the time

In yoga, there is a principle called ‘Asteya’, a yama, that relates to the practice of not stealing or having the intent to steal another’s property through action, speech and thoughts. In the context of your time being a valuable commodity, being conscious of other people’s time is a virtuous quality. Not so when it comes to social media…

So, it goes something like this if you are into social media or have been given some advice on how to “do social media”:

Post once or twice a day on Facebook, 2-3 times on Instagram and as often as possible on Twitter”. Other platforms, probably much the same. The latest I read on “how to do social” is applying the “1/3 principle”:

– sharing curated content (1/3);

– promoting your business (1/3); and

– engaging and interacting with followers (1/3).

Which leads to not much time in life to do anything else. I often ask myself, what did we do before the age of social media? We probably read more, socialised more, were more productive. We were definitely more present.

Spending and wasting time on social media is one thing, but what about the very biological compulsion to post and the applications that encourage us to do so?

There are many apps now that can tell (and remind) you how much time you spend on your phone. Based on my recent stats, I’m rather embarrassed. I think any entrepreneur might feel the same.

In the quest to keep us fixated, social media companies and app developers have been very clever in the way they get us to use them. In fact, this is your brain whilst using social media….






It goes something like this:

1. Great Expectations

Every post, share, comment or like creates an anticipation that a sense of belonging and connection will be generated.

2. Getting stimulated

The ‘nucleus accumbens’, the brains’ reward centre, is activated as it responds to a variety of rewards including positive social feedback.

3. Chemical Reaction

Upon a positive interaction on social media, dopamine is released which reinforces the notion that a certain action will lead to potential rewards. This is seen as the method by which positive reward loops are strengthened, which are necessary to sustain life; re the more you post, the more you are totally consumed by it.

4. Double Shot

If your interaction on social media is related to a subject which naturally gives you a dopamine hit (e.g. food or yoga), then that additional post of smashed avocado on sourdough or unreal yoga pose is going to give you a second whiff.

5. Red Alert

Once that magic red number pops up on your social app, it becomes a conditioned stimulus for a future reward (i.e.. you’ve received validation for your cool post).

6. Positive Signs

The act of liking or following someone stimulates the same areas of the brain that are involved when someone smiles at you or you receive positive feedback or praise from someone at work. This acts as another mechanism which reinforces your use of social media.

7. Envious Glances

Whilst posting popular posts can result in temporary happiness and euphoria, the following of more popular accounts can result in envy, misery and loneliness. It has even been linked with depression.

Can you relate to this?

Just like sugar, social media has got us totally hooked. Literally. As with chocolate, consuming it is seen as totally ‘normal’ yet below the surface there’s something more biological and psychological going on.

In terms of ‘stealing’ your time, this is somewhat forgotten in the ‘bliss’ of being totally engaged and attracting lots of followers. After all, it’s not about how many followers you have as the modern social media marketer will tell you, rather it’s all about ‘engagement’. That’s right – more time of you and I. Online.

Don’t forget the ‘big data’ issue either. Who works for free in this world? You and I it seems, as we slavishly use ‘social’. Big data is watching you like a hawk and pimping you out to advertisers galore.

If ever there was a case for hijacking by stealth, then social media is the greatest hoist the world has ever seen.

What’s your opinion on social media: force for good, or something rather sinister?


ps thanks to the Big Issue for the inspiration and content for this post. A simple act of compassion for a seller sitting outside on Oxford St in the pouring rain with his cat was quite a revelation. For readers, their information was taken from various studies undertaken by several universities and professors around the world.


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  • CurlyMom

    This is definitely timely for me. Having just started a blog that I felt a deep calling from my soul to create, I have realized just how much time getting it out to the world through social media can steal. I really don’t know how to balance it all yet, I would be very interested to hear from other conscious bloggers about how they’ve hanlndled this! ❤

    February 12, 2018
    • I think you have to be very disciplined, not that I’m a good example! But, try and take a deep breath every time that urge to look at or check social arises. It goes away. Write lists and tick off things, and use social as a reward once you’ve completed your tasks. I agree, its a very challenging thing to do, especially in this uber connected world we live in now!

      February 12, 2018