What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning, and the last thing you do before you go to bed at night? If you answered, “Scroll through my phone and check my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat” then you’re probably not alone. With social media playing such a large role in our lives, have you ever wondered if you might be using it too much? Not only that, but what are some pitfalls of using social media excessively?
There are multiple sources that have found links between social media usage and increased depression, increased anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and body image issues. One study in particular found a correlation between Instagram and a negative body image due to a comparison of unrealistic images presented on the social media platform. The comparisons, and subsequent judgements, we make of ourselves to others on social media is a widely talked about component in these links we see between social media use and our mental health. The idea of FOMO (fear of missing out) and frequent daydreaming about what we’ve seen online versus focusing on what is actually going on in our lives, is another contributor to the negative effects on our mental health.
Given these links, it’s no wonder why sources discuss the importance of taking a social media break, or social media detox. One study showed how using social media only thirty minutes a day could increase our mental health and well-being. There are several signs we can look for to establish if we need to take that break. These signs are: if you are comparing yourself and can’t seem to stop, you habitually scroll through social media without realizing it, you become annoyed or stressed by what you see when you are scrolling, you experience anxiety when not able to scroll through social media, you feel the need to post about what you’re doing while you’re doing it, you check your social media first in the morning and last thing at night, and lastly, if scrolling through social media doesn’t bring you any happiness. Check in with yourself, and take note if you feel like these signs apply to you. If they do, perhaps it is time to take a social media break!
How do you go about taking a break, exactly? Well, first and foremost try turning off the notifications for your social media apps. Sources say the “ping” of a notification tempts us to check our apps, so turning off the notifications may reduce the temptation. You might also set designated times to be social media free, and during these times try to focus on other activities that you enjoy. Go for a walk, try meditating, go check out a new restaurant or coffee shop (without posting about it). Another tip for how to take a break, and one that I personally think is great, is to set your phone lock screen with a photo of an inspirational or mindful quote about why you’re taking a social media break. Something that will stop and make you think, to catch your attention, before you fall down the rabbit hole. When you do use social media, try to look for things that bring you joy and laughter. I personally really like watching animal videos, specifically I saw one the other day of a farmer cuddling with his cows. The cows came and laid by him, resting their heads on his lap and shoulders while he pet their chins and heads. I instantly began to smile and felt warmth at seeing these sweet cows bond with their human. It doesn’t have to necessarily be cuddly cow videos, but look for things which make you smile. Ultimately, take note of how what you’re viewing makes you feel. Practice using social media with mindfulness, and remind yourself that life is happening presently around you in all the things you can feel, see, and hear beyond the screen of your phone.