The advent of social media was a beautiful theory. Bringing people from every area of the globe together with a few clicks on the keyboard? Brilliant! A true game-changer that shrunk the world overnight.
Marvelous benefits sprung forth. Helping entrepreneurs gain an otherwise absent audience, helping old friends stay connected, helping extended families keep tabs on one another.
But the dark side of unintended consequences is something many of us struggle to resist. Self-indulgent selfies with ‘beautifying’ filters, political rants and bullying, depression over not getting enough ‘Likes’, shares, tweets, re-pins, or snaps. Anxiety over everyone but you having a ‘perfect’ life. These are actual outcomes with serious ramifications.
When people are committing suicide over social media, it’s past the point of mayhem.
Social media isn’t going away and it’s highly addictive. So, what are the warning signs that it’s time for you to tap the brakes?
Does social media make you angry? Jealous? Self-absorbed? Do you find yourself feeling depressed or angry by the time you’ve scrolled through your feed?
Most families have only a couple of precious hours to spend together each weekday. Are you spending that time scrolling through your feed yet again? Do you spend that time commenting, “liking”, and conversing with your virtual people instead of conversing with your loved ones?
Are you a cyber bully? Are you someone who loves attacking an opposing point of view? Someone who calls people names like Stupid, Clueless, Right-wing nutcase, Left-wing snowflake? Do you become a victim?
Take an objective look at how you’re presenting yourself online and how you feel when you engage in social media. Is it ugly?
What is your objective of participating in social media? What are you gaining from it? Do you use it to keep in touch with extended family or is it really a social outlet for you? Are you lonely? Do you have a need to be liked? Not sure how to meet people in your community? Take a serious look in the mirror. You won’t need to confess your answer to anyone but you. Is social media fulfilling a need?
How much time are you spending per day? Are you glued to it? Fixated on it? Is it hampering your productivity either at your job or home? Do you pull your phone out to check your feed instinctively whenever you sit down? Are you still scrolling far into the night?
What can you do if some of those scenarios hit you between the eyes?
The easiest way to stave the addiction is to pull the plug, but that’s not always an option. Many of us have professional reasons or other non-personal reasons for using social media.
So how can you tame the beast if you need to stay connected?
This is a common technique. “See you in a month,” you’ve probably seen someone say. You can take a hiatus to recharge your batteries without pulling the plug completely.
Can’t take a break for a month or a week?
Maybe you can control when you need to be on social media for your other commitments. Will Tuesday and Thursday suffice? Maybe Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? How about taking one day off per week?
If you MUST be on social media every day, then:
Maybe once in the morning and once at night? 15 minutes each time? No way? Ok, 30 minutes each.
Why take time away from people you love to read and respond to posts by people you might not even know? It only stands to reason to engage with people you actually know. Yes, we come to know people through social media and occasionally form a cyber friendship or kinship, but you can trim your social media time by trimming people who aren’t meaningful to you.
My most disliked aspect of social media is the no-holds-barred attacks I see, usually on political posts. There’s a reason we learn as children to never discuss politics or religion publicly. Yet we’re lured into it relentlessly on social media. No good comes of it. Trust me that it’s highly unlikely you’ll change anyone’s political or religious views by arguing with them or even trying to rationalize with them. It ends badly. Vow to steer clear of these posts. Many are simply bait for arguments. Just. Keep. Scrolling.
When you encounter sour and baiting personalities, disengage. Unfriend and block on Facebook. Then move on.
The remaining suggestions are really more about “enjoying” the precious gift of life than specifically about minimizing social media. But these topics are really intertwined. When we’re too consumed with social media, we’ve traded the real gift of life for a fleeting shadow. Here’s how to take control back.
No technology after dinner. Family game night. Read a book. Do crafts. Play the piano. Go to the library.
Turn your phone off and connect with nature. Breathe fresh air. Walk your dog. Ride your bike. Go to the park. Go fishing. Watch a sunset. Star gaze. Remind yourself of what the “real world” looks and feels like.
We tend to get so busy running the rat race of life that we don’t see family and friends as often as we’d like. Meeting with people only takes place when someone makes it happen by extending an invitation. Be the one who makes it happen. When you’re with real people it puts your cyber people where they belong – on the back burner.
What emotional need does it fulfill? Have a purpose for your life. Draw or paint. Take photos. Clean up your neighborhood. Join groups or create one related to an interest you have.
One of the best ways to handle loneliness or other emotional pain is by helping others, so volunteer for a cause you love. Even virtual support groups need moderators. Find a place your heart belongs and start helping. Get involved.
Social media has been a major turning point in history. It’s possible to enjoy its benefits without allowing it to suck the joy out of what life is really supposed to be.
Do you struggle holding back the social media beast? Tell me in the comments.
Other articles you might like:
Cover image credit: RawPixel.com