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14 Apr 2014

Rehab for Social Media, Email, Texts (SMET) Addiction

Social Media - Email - Texting - AddictionIn response to my post highlighting SMET addictions, Maya Larson (@connectionsbym), an Etsy shopkeeper, asked, “Is there a 5-step (rehab) program” for it. So, here it is:

  1. Admit even a slight addiction
  2. Set parameters
  3. Review, monitor and measure regularly
  4. Sensitize ourselves to others’ SMET
  5. Encourage others’ participation

Immediately, most of us will say, “I’m busy. I can’t do this.” In most cases, this is a symptom of addiction because we “instinctively cling to tasks that make us feel busy and thus important” (“Make Time for the Work That Matters” by Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen, Harvard Business Review, September 2013 edition). Numbers play us too: someone receiving 1,000 emails daily is more important than someone receiving 10, right?

Next, our SMET parameters can define:

  • Time spent each day
  • SMET-free periods (part of day or week)
  • Purposes such as family, business or specific friends
  • Material and information suitable for sharing
  • What day or part of a day will be a SMET-free period?

Companies can set similar policies. No business-related SMET on weekends, holidays or employees’ time off are common ones.

Reviewing, monitoring and measuring not only means keeping score but also utilizing organizational tools. Priority settings and tones, on/off buttons, auto responses indicating limited or no access to email or cell phone are helpful common ones. Setting email rules to sort and prioritize emails helps too.

Our SMET usage compounds SMET for others, especially in the workplace. Sensitizing ourselves means acknowledging this and working to reduce it. Cutting back companies’ leaders’ emails cascades throughout the organization (“To Reduce E-mail, Start at the Top” by Chris Brown, Andrew Killick, and Karen Renaud, Harvard Business Review, September 2013 edition). Instead of email, call.

Finally, we invite others to join SMET rehab with us, forming a mutual support group while also sensitizing each other. We’ll emphasize the benefits: better effectiveness, decisiveness, creativity, relationships and happiness. Encourage a try for a day or two. If anything it might cause them to doubt our free will.


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