Expert reveals why going cold turkey on social media will never work

Is compulsive scrolling on your smartphone a guilty habit you've been meaning to squash? You're not alone.

Even the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, has admitted turning off his notifications in an attempt to stop picking up his phone.

An Auckland psychology expert has compared the instant rewards delivered by a smartphone to those that get people hooked on gambling.

Newshub talked to some advocates of switching off, and got their tips for breaking the screen addiction.

Yoga teacher Doug Moores says the yoga sudio is a technology-free quiet space where he can connect with his thoughts - the exact opposite of scrolling compulsively on his phone, which he says was damaging his relationships.

"It seems to tap into that reptilian part of us," Mr Moores says.

"It's unconscious and we just do it and hours float by. I found myself not being present with the people I love and wasting so much of my day."

Former The Bachelor NZ star Art Green agrees.

"You never scroll through social media, and after you're finished think, 'Wow that was a great scrolling session'."

Green and his partner Matilda Rice are social media influencers - meaning they make money from posting videos and pictures on their Instagram feeds.

They know all too well how hard it can be to put the phone away.

"I do find myself feeling slightly anxious when I don't have my phone on me, which I think goes to show the addictive properties of social media," he says.

Green has had to start limiting his screen use for the sake of his mental health.

He switches his phone onto airplane mode 30 minutes before bed, and doesn't switch it on again until an hour after waking up. He also turns it off for a few hours on the weekend, and he and Rice have a no-phones-at-the-dinner-table rule.

A recent survey of 13 to 17-year-olds in the US showed texting has overtaken talking as teenagers' favourite way of communicating.

Social media and video-chatting have both drastically increased in popularity since 2012.

And 54 percent of teens admitted social media often distracts them when they should be paying attention to the people they're with.

The decision-making process that happens when we scroll mindlessly is exactly that - mindless.

Experts call it unconscious behaviour, and the key to breaking the circuit is to recognise that behaviour for what it is - pointless.

Senior lecturer in psychology Sarah Cowie says we get hooked because our devices deliver immediate rewards - an instant hit.

"In terms of the unpredictable nature of when [the rewards are] going to occur, that's a little bit similar to things like gambling," Ms Cowie says.

And she says going cold turkey won't help.

"If you want to cut off your rewards on your smartphone, turn your internet off, stop your notifications, you need to make sure you've arranged another reward elsewhere."

Mr Moores has plenty of suggestions.

"Yoga, any phyical exercise, surfing and cycling - anything outdoors is fantastic," he says.

Even the phone makers seem concerned - Apple and Android have released apps and services to help people manage their screen time.