Social media is a wonderful medium for connecting and informing communities. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, however, ask for too much of our time, erode our relationships, and often cause us to be addicted to the distraction of push notifications and likes. These online worlds often aren’t authentic representation of our friends and communities. Instead they showcase polished stories about our lives instead of the unfiltered reality. All these things can – and do – cause stress and hamper productivity. Kurt and I have both taken steps to address our addiction to this distraction by changing our relationship with social media. Let’s explore why you should spend less time on social media and provide some tips for making it happen.
Spend less time on social media
According to Igor Pantic’s article in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, “several studies have indicated that the prolonged use of social networking sites, such as Facebook, may be related to signs and symptoms of depression.” Simon Sinek’s popular interview about Millennials in the workplace supports these findings. He argues that there is a biology to social media (and accessing it through mobile devices) that is as addictive as alcohol, gambling or nicotine. From a global perspective, Robin Sharma thinks that our collective addiction to the dopamine released from the pings and notifications from text messages and likes is actually hampering humanity’s ability to create and problem solve. Apps are designed to tap into our pleasure centres and it’s a problem. The New YorkTimes’s Jenna Wortham agrees that social media is impacting our ability to engage with people and communities who see the world differently and think critically about what we experience: “the Internet once offered outlets we could use to understand one another. But they are rapidly disappearing.” Now these outlets are being replaced by silos that reinforce our worldview – we’re all the worst for it. What’s the value of spending so much time on social media if it’s leaving us stressed out, overwhelmed, and unable to think critically about the world?
Five simple tips for scaling back
If you’ve made it to this point in the article then you’re probably interested in ways to better balance your relationship with social media. Maybe you’ve had an epiphany like HuffPost UK’s Rachel Moss, who reflected on what it meant when scheduled “quality time” with her boyfriend resulted in them sitting on a couch scrolling through content on their phones. For me, the epiphany came a few months ago when I found myself checking emails and social feeds at six in the morning while my then-nine-month-old-baby was showing off his awesome crawling and standing skills. Looking up from my screen into his big, proud eyes as he pushed a chair across the room broke my heart a little bit and caused me to reflect on what the hell I was doing and why I was doing it.
Many, many other folks have had similar feelings, so here are a few simple ways to scale down your use ofsocial media from Mashable, Fast Company, HBR, Fulfillment Daily, and other thinkers:
- Shift your perspective–our brains “work in 90-minute rest-activity cycles”, which means that you should take a walk, meditate or chat with a real human being every hour and a half.
- Turn off notifications – checking notifications after we turn on our devices can turn into a half-hour activity, so turn them off and stop reacting to this distraction.
- Buy an alarm clock–your device has no place in your bedroom, so buy an alarm clock at a garage sale or on Craigslist and stop using your device.
- Read a book – in the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books. That’s it.
- Have bathroom discipline–taking our phones into the bathroom has become both acceptable and common practice; when you think about it, this is pretty gross behaviour, so let’s all agree to focus on our business, not our business, and have device-free-poops.
What we’ve done and what we’ve learned
In addition to having the same clock radio that I’ve had since high school in my bedroom, I’ve also turned off all notifications for my social channels and deleted the Facebook app from my phone. This is helping because I don’t feel the need to respond to everything all the time. My addiction to distraction hasn’t been cured, though, because, sometimes, I will search out engagement when I’m not reacting to it. Apps are “highly engineered to be addictive” and, for me, Facebook was the one that sucked up most of my time. While I haven’t deleted Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn (my go-to social platforms), removing Facebook has pretty much eliminated my time-sucking deep-dives into photos, comment-threads and groups discussions/arguments. And removing the app makes my phone last, like, two hours longer per day, too.
I was recently inspired by a friend of mine who decided to take himself completely off Facebook. That’s a bit dramatic for me, but I’m taking baby steps by deleting that app from my phone and trying to only check it once or twice a day. Once I conquer Facebook, I plan to move on to some of the other social platforms. I also consciously avoid posting too much to avoid getting sucked down the “who liked my stuff” rabbit hole. Next step will be trying to cut down physical access to my phone/social networks. That means leaving the phone or tablet out of reach when I’m playing with my son, watching a movie or taking the dog for a walk. Enough with the “multi-tasking”. This will help manage the knee jerk reaction to check the phone and start scrolling every 10 minutes and hopefully avoid some of the health impacts listed above.