Use the "Stopping Rule" To Break Your Social Media Loop
You pick up your phone, glance at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, then peek in on your email. By the time you're done with that, it's time to see if anything's new on Facebook again. Then, you realize an hour has passed. Researchers call this a "ludic loop." Over at Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker digs into Adam Alter's Irresistible for a solution.
The "ludic loop" is best known as the mental quirk that keeps you in front of a slot machine, but it's also what keeps you addicted to a game like Candy Crush. Essentially, the "ludic loop" happens when you're lulled into a state of near tranquility by doing the same thing over and over.
For many of us, that loop is simply checking in on your smartphone, which quickly becomes a loop of also checking email, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever else. Adam Alter suggests using a "stopping rule," which is basically giving yourself a hard ending. Here's how Alter describes it with television:
It's a rule that says at this point it's time for me to stop. It breaks the reverie and makes you think of something else; it gets you outside of the space you've been in. The best thing to do is to use a declarative statement like, "I don't watch more than two episodes of a show in a row, that's just not who I am."
So, in the case of your phone, the obvious solution is to set a timer before you go down that rabbit hole and force yourself to quit looking at your phone when the timer goes off. That still requires a bit of willpower and foresight, two things that are pretty tough to maintain when it comes to the distracting apps on your phone, but it might be enough to break you of the habit.
An alternate approach to dealing with bad habits is to replace the bad habit with a better one. In the case of your social media loop, that could mean deleting the most time-consuming apps entirely, then replacing them with a more productive app. For example, Barking Up the Wrong Tree suggests reading a book through the Kindle app instead of looking at social media for the millionth time.
Personally, I have a collection of short stories saved in Pocket for this same purpose. While I enjoy reading short stories, it's always a struggle to get the ambition to start reading them. Those moments where I'm waiting for someone or just dinking around wasting time are the perfect time to catch up on all those stories. The point is to either delete the apps that trigger that ludic loop or at least bury them in a folder somewhere off your home screen. Either way, head over to Barking Up the Wrong Tree for a few more ideas on breaking that loop.
This Is How To Stop Checking Your Phone: 5 Secrets from Research | Barking Up the Wrong Tree via BoingBoing