mental health

Addicted to Social Media? Signs, Symptoms, and Solutions from a Digital Native

Nourishing Habits™ Digital Wellness is excited to feature Jason Kingdon as a guest writer with BOLDFISH. Jason is working on BOLDFISH to address the mental unrest caused by a tech-life imbalance. BOLDFISH is a free social media detox app that acts as a buffer between you and digital addiction.

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Addicted to Social Media? Signs, Symptoms, and Solutions from a Digital Native

My name is Jason, and I am the originator and CEO of BOLDFISH. I was spurred to begin research on digital addiction after seeing the epidemic spread amongst friends and peers. While working in China, I learned of the phrase 低头族 (dītóuzú), which literally translates to bowed-head group, or, rather, smartphone addicts. The phrase aptly portrays heads that are constantly in a dipped state towards a smartphone. After seeing them (us) first hand, I started doing informal polls and coincidentally, the news and media backed up my suspicions. Other than being Facebook (and Instagram) free for 3 years, I, alongside my team, am uniquely positioned to tackle this problem because we understand both millennial tech life while being just old enough to remember a time without technology.

At BOLDFISH, we’re here to nurture digital wellness and strive for a long-term solution to mental unrest caused by tech life imbalance. Do you want to determine if you’re addicted to social media? Start with our checklist below!



It is impossible to eat your food without taking a picture of it first? Regardless if you are alone or with your bosom buddy, you are hardly seated before your phone comes out -- assuming it wasn’t already in-hand.


Is your phone is the last thing you see at night and the first thing you see in the morning? You probably check it before you’re even fully awake. You need to (begrudgingly) check your emails. Hyper-connectivity is starting to feel like less of a convenience and more of an obligation. Is it not?


Your friends and family have caught you updating your Facebook status (or Tweeting) in the middle of a serious conversation. “Yes I’m listening” you’ve said while thumbing an expression of boredom into your social app of choice.


You have forgotten what it was like to go to the bathroom without your phone. You are so accustomed to your smartphone that if forgotten, you end up reading the labels on random bathroom paraphernalia.


A new week rolls around and someone asks you how your weekend was. You feel confused - why wouldn’t they know about your weekend from your three different social media uploads? You remember, not everyone may be as plugged in as you.


You feel such a compulsion to “check-in” to every place you go that you even consider sarcastically “checking-in” to the restroom. Of course, you don’t check in until you’ve liked your own status on how Facebook is unfairly monitoring its users.


You speak in online shorthand sarcastically as a way to shore up against recognizing how our digital lives have observably bled into our offline day-to-day.  “LOL! That’s hilarious!” “OMG, like, the hashtag struggle bus has arrived. LOL!”

 Digital addiction isn’t all hashtags and LOLs, however. The results are in and Instagram has the highest risk of damaging the mental health of our youth. This survey of 1,479 young adults ranging from 14 to 24 years in age, found that the social media was a place to be a positive space for expressing and identifying the self, but conversely and concurrently negatively impacted body image, sleep habits, and anxiety levels such as #FOMO.

Digital addiction has skewed our offline perception. Some see a beautiful landscape and wonder how their online “followers” will react. Being obsessed with our phones, we thumb wrestle our screens to exhaustion. We check our phones compulsively even when we have no service. We just do it. We feel a need to. Digital addiction is the new norm.


Digital wellness can be defined as taking back control from addictive technology in order to improve our daily lives. In an age of information overload, we need to relearn how to interact with technology. A granular example of this would be to first understand what apps we use, how much we use them, and act to tailor our in-phone behavior accordingly. This is important as sometimes what we see online isn’t reflective of reality -- i.e. “fake news,” social media, etc. Content providers, be it the social media user or the company itself, will often times put out sensational and tantalizing click-bait. This, in turn, encourages the reader/viewer/user to click, swipe, or “like.”

Another way to think of digital wellness is akin to a digital detox (or a digital diet). Let’s transmute technology for a second. Picture your favorite app as if it were your favorite food. Now imagine this favorite food of yours free flowing and available on a space gray platter, 24/7, 365. The fact that your digital addiction doesn’t affect your waistline, like your favorite food would, belies the true insidious nature of the problem. That’s to say you cannot see its immediate effects, but you can feel them. These are not new discoveries either. As with every change, it is easier to wean yourself off of a crutch rather than go cold-turkey. With a little personal accountability, we can learn to use less and take back control by not blaming chance, fate, or anyone else for our outcomes.



There are two types of cues that bring us back into our phone: 1) Thinking about something we can do by using our phone — e.g. making a phone call. 2) Notifications. The constant dings, pings, and buzz of push notifications remind you that there are a thousand little fires that need to be extinguished. Every single app on your phone has a notification setting that is “on” by default. More often than not, they are annoying and uninformative. Do some mental spring cleaning and consider removing all notifications that do not require immediate attention. By cutting down on notifications, smartphones are less of a distraction and battery life lasts longer to boot. A definite double-win!


For iPhones, the DND mode allows you to customize who and when someone can reach you. Check out Apple’s Support page for more details on how to setup DND on the iPhone.

For Android devices, the DND mode allows you to customize who, when, and what form of communication can pass through when someone is trying to reach you. With Android, you can control calls, messages, reminders, and event notifications. Check out this page for more details on how to setup do not disturb on an Android.


Unconsciously, people take out their phone because it’s easy to access. Wherever you are, keep your phone out of sight and off your person. If your phone is not easily accessible it won’t tempt you.


Start a new bedtime ritual that does not involve stress-checking emails or bingeing on the newest memes. The National Sleep Foundation has conducted studies that show cutting down your exposure to digital screens prior to bedtime is crucial to getting a good night’s rest.


Even if a Gen-Z’er might be predisposed to tech addiction because s/he grew up in the “digital age,” that’s not a sufficient reason to lack the understanding around our digital decisions. There is too much of a “good” thing. If fact, too much of anything is not good, why would it be any different for the tech that impresses upon us, day-to-day?

Digital addiction, in many circumstances, is not an easy thing to identify and, consequently, not an easy thing to break free from. As with most addictions, the first step to a solution requires acknowledgement, tolerance, and patience. This trifecta of mindfulness can catalyze the desire to change. This change is what drives us to get a handle on our addictions. By placing the blame on the companies, we play the fool by absolving ourselves from personal responsibility. The addictive cycles that our digital products thrive on are reinforced by the habitual consumer.

I hope these checklists help you assess your social media addiction and implement healthy habits! Want to try blocking social media? Sign up for BOLDFISH today.




Jason graduated from Columbia University. Prior to working on BOLDFISH, he was at Sinovation Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm in Beijing, China. During his time at Sinovation, he worked closely with the Investment Director to analyze and assess potential investment opportunities.

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About Nourishing Habits™

Nourishing Habits™ are practices that support your physical and emotional well-being in the digital age. Sometimes, we need a reminder to help us sustain a healthy habit. Join our newsletter or order your adventure offline mug today! 


Deciphering comfort zones: Embracing discomfort in a world designed for comfort

Nourishing Habits™ Digital Wellness is excited to feature Gabi Jubran as a guest writer with Happi. Gabi is a firm believer that creating a world where parents feel deeply connected to themselves, to their communities, to the natural world, and to their children will naturally create more HAPPIness everywhere!

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Deciphering comfort zones: Embracing discomfort in a world designed for comfort

A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.
— Unknown

Let’s dive into the concept and experience of comfort. Life is inherently uncomfortable. Discomfort is a natural part of the process of growth - I guess that might be why they call it growing pains. You likely don’t remember, but your parent or caregiver certainly remembers how uncomfortable the process of teething was for you and them. That’s physical discomfort, but many of us these days are more burdened by mental discomfort. If you work in an office, from home or in front of any screen, there’s always something to do. Sometimes you really don’t want to, but you do it anyway because of some extrinsic motivation i.e. wealth, status, access, survival.

A more intense word for discomfort is stress. Stress is a critical part of our growth, but in order to understand its value you NEED rest.  In fact, we can break this down into a simple equation - STRESS + REST = GROWTH. In today’s society, it is common that we get plenty of mental stress with no mental rest while our bodies get plenty of physical rest with almost no physical stress. If we truly want to lead healthy lives, we need to embrace the initial discomfort of giving our minds a rest and a natural way to do that is taking on the initial discomfort of physical stress.

How did the mind and body get so out of balance?

There are a number of reasons for the imbalance, but chief among them are food, work, community and technology.

If you go back to 1800, 83% of the American labor force was in agriculture. That means that your food system, work, community and technology was all integrated for the purpose of survival. You cultivated organic (non-GMO, fair trade) food by physical labor with the help of different technologies. You also likely bartered your crop with other farmers in your community to have a well-balanced diet. There wasn’t even a food pyramid to tell you what kind of food to eat!  By the nature of your existence, you had physical and mental stress along with physical and mental rest.

If we fast forward to current day, the percentage of American labor force in agriculture is under 2%. Our concept of acquiring food, doing work, connecting with community, using technology can all be accomplished in front of a screen. (Just like the one you’re skimming this blog post on). Am I saying let’s go back to farming all day? Goodness no, I’ll gladly have AI do that for me. I’m saying that we need more mental rest and physical stress. It is, however, hard to have the motivation when we have a world designed for comfort.

Why did we design for comfort?

Comfort is something that can be quantified and measured. Once we know how comfortable an existing tool or process is, we can create a product or service to make it easier to use or consume.  This will be optimized continually until you get to the point where you know longer have to move more than your thumbs. Now you can hail a car, order food delivery, connect with your friends and do work on your phone. There is a comfort zone on your person nearly all of your waking hours and there is this perception that you never have to leave your comfort zone to progress in life.

Your individual happiness is much more difficult to quantify and really doesn’t scale well. Yet your happiness requires discomfort so you can more fully grow into the person that you want to be. As a result, your well-being can be fundamentally misaligned with the comfort we’ve grown so accustomed to.

The internet has brought us boundless amounts of information, which could either be beneficial or detrimental to your well-being. In order to help you find information that you want, think you want, or society dictates you want, we created machine learning algorithms. These tools have made life so comfortable that you don’t ever have to hear something that might make you feel uncomfortable. If someone says something you don’t like, you can even verbally attack them from the comfort of your own home.

Information itself is also comfortable, you can consume endless amounts of information and never have to fail at anything. You can be the most well-informed person on the planet and never do anything with it. Transformation, on the other hand, is uncomfortable. It’s about taking that information, deciphering if it serves you and then integrating into your life.

What do YOU want?

Ultimately, comfort is still really valuable. Comfort can save you time and energy which can be spent doing something uncomfortable that intrinsically motivates you. The question is what are you doing with the extra time and energy the comfort provides you?  Start to think of ways that you can incorporate more mental rest and physical stress into your life. You don’t have to go way outside of your comfort zone to take on a new habit that addresses those needs.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the BJ Fogg Tiny Habits Model. It gives you a scientifically proven, simple formula for incorporating intentional habits into your life. Improving your flexibility, building a gratitude practice, and learning how to meditate all starts with a tiny habit. The last suggestion I offer is to surround yourself with positive people who have diverse perspectives. The intention is to get comfortable with them to the point where you can have conversations that may be uncomfortable, but help you grow in the process.

Remember that reading this post is comfortable, but actually integrating the information to serve your happiness may be a little uncomfortable. You know what else is sometimes uncomfortable? The truth. My truth is that I do not write often and this is my first ever blog post. It was a VERY uncomfortable process for me but the process of writing was ultimately positive. To all those reading this, I hope my discomfort can serve you in some way!

  • Gabi Jubran



Read one of Gabi's favorite books!


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Gabi is the Founder/Executive Director of a non-profit called HAPPI (Helping Awesome Parents Parent Intentionally). Born and raised in the Bay Area, he has always been saturated by technology and is now on a mission to align tech's incentives with people's well-being. His inspiration came from watching his 2 year old niece play with an iPad and consume sponsored content through Youtube. Ultimately he realized this was a symptom of the Attention Economy and the biggest impact would come from educating parents. He is a firm believer that creating a world where parents feel deeply connected to themselves, to their communities, to the natural world, and to their children will naturally create more HAPPIness everywhere!

Learn more at


About Nourishing Habits™

Nourishing Habits™ are practices that support your physical and emotional well-being in the digital age. Sometimes, we need a reminder to help us sustain a healthy habit. Join our newsletter or order your adventure offline mug today!