My 'dry' January: What I learned from a month without social media

Social media can provide your brain with a stream of dopamine, often referred to as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter, according to scientists. But it's all too easy to go overboard with the endless scroll.

Jacque Smith is an executive producer for CNN Digital Video.

(CNN)I deleted Instagram and TikTok. I logged out of Facebook and Twitter. I vaguely remembered I still had a Snapchat account and removed it from my app library before I put my phone down.

Then I took a deep breath.
It was January 1, 2022, and my New Year's "micro-resolution" was to give up social media for a month. I called it my "dry" January. (Let's be honest — with the Omicron variant raging last month, giving up alcohol was out of the question.)
    I knew I would still need to log into my social accounts to view videos for work. But I wanted — and maybe needed — the incessant, absent-minded scrolling on social media to stop.
      Thirty days later, here's what I learned.

      Scrolling is an addiction

      It was compulsory. During the first week of January, I picked up my phone at least once an hour for no other reason than to scroll through my social media feeds. With the apps no longer available to open, I'd hesitate with my thumb hovering over the home screen, unsure of what to do next.
        Simply putting down the phone seemed like admitting defeat. Surely there was something else I used this device for every three minutes. I could look through my camera roll to see what I'd been up to the last few days. Or peruse the CNN app. Usually I scrolled through already-read work emails to make sure I hadn't missed anything important.
        Does this sound sad? It felt sad to me.
        Scientists have told us for years that social media can provide your brain with a steady stream of dopamine, a brain chemical that influences your mood. Dopamine rewards us for pleasurable behavior and encourages us to do more of it. Not surprisingly, dopamine is also the main neurotransmitter involved in addiction.
        Phone addiction isn't yet a medical diagnosis. But I didn't like the feeling of not being able to control the impulse. And while after a few weeks I picked up my phone less, the phantom feeling of something I used to do all the time lingered.

        You can get a lot done in a few minutes