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Are You Addicted to Social Media, Email or Texting?

Take this 7-question quiz to find out


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When you know you have unread emails, texts or social media messages, do they tend to scream “Read me! Read me!” — with increasing urgency — until you open them?

Why is the attraction of e-messages so powerful?  They are a bit like the seductive lure of the sirens’ song in Greek mythology that lured sailors into destruction on the rocky shore of their island. Clicking that fresh e-message triggers a burst of the brain chemical dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. Put simply, opening an e-message is actually a quick hit of happiness.

Getting sucked into e-messages often distracts you from what’s most important to your success. Did you know that distractions can actually make you dumb? Here’s how:

  • Research demonstrates that it can take up to 21 minutes for your brain to 100% refocus on an important task after being interrupted.
  • Other research proves that your usable intelligence, or usable IQ, (the scientific term is fluid intelligence) can decrease as much as 20 points from when you’re sharpest during the day to when you’re stressed and tired. If you want to validate this, think of a time when you were tired and stressed — was your intellect at its peak performance?

So, just how much power do e-messages have over you? It might even be an addiction. According to the American Psychiatric Association, an addiction must meet at least three of the below seven criteria. Answer yes or no to the following:

  1. Significant time or energy spent. Have you spent a significant amount of time on e-messages [that are not critical]? Have you concealed or minimized your use? Have you responded to these messages during times you shouldn’t?
  2. Withdrawal. When you’ve been off e-messaging for extended periods, have you experienced physical or emotional withdrawal, including anxiety, irritability, shakes or sweats?
  3. Limited control. Do you sometimes e-message more than you’d like? Do you sometimes get lost in your e-messages or use them as an escape?
  4. Negative consequences. Have you continued to e-message even though there have been negative consequences to your health, job or family?
  5. Neglected or postponed activities. Have you put off or reduced social, recreational, work or household activities because of e-messaging?
  6. Tolerance. Are you spending increasingly more time e-messaging?
  7. Desire to cut down. Have you considered cutting down or controlling your use? Have you unsuccessfully tried to decrease or control your use?

How did you do? If you said yes to three or more, you may have an e-messaging addiction (not a formal DSM diagnosis). It might be time to take stock of your screen time habits. Becoming a successful entrepreneur, corporate leader, sales representative, professional or parent requires a healthy, almost obsessive focus on what’s important.

Do you need the e-messages dopamine hit of happiness, or are you OK without it?

Staying mindful that e-messages can be truly biologically seductive, turning them off when working on other things, and choosing when to engage with them will make you more productive and, likely, happier and more intelligent.

NOTE: Social media addiction, also known as problematic social media use or social media overuse, is a proposed diagnosis related to overuse of social media, similar to gaming disorderinternet addiction disorder and other forms of digital media overuse.

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TC North

TC North, Ph.D. helps entrepreneurs get more of what they want from their businesses. He is a professional EOS implementer, co-author of the best selling leadership book on Amazon, "Fearless Leaders," a high-performance executive coach, Huff Post blogger and leadership speaker. The entrepreneurs he works with create high-performing organizations with extraordinary profitability – that people love to work for. Two of his companies have transformed from having flat revenue to becoming members of the Inc. 5000. Contact North by email or call 303-665-8920 to learn more. www.TCNorth.com.

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