How often do you go on social media? I know I go on Instagram for at the VERY least 10 minutes every day. Before Instagram I had no reason to go on my phone unless I needed to message someone. Now with Instagram I go on there and scroll for a few minutes when I’m bored. A 2018 Pew Research Center survey of nearly 750 teenagers. Researchers found that 45% are online almost constantly and 97% use social media. Many of us use social media as a security blanket. For example, how do you cope with feeling anxious or awkward in a social setting? We turn to our phones and go onto social media to inherently avoid face to face interactions.
Impact Behind Social Media
It’s not just the time we spend on social media but how that time impacts our everyday lives. When we allow social media to become our safety net, we become vulnerable to it. Social media can greatly limit our face to face experiences. Face to face connections can ease stress, anxiety, and depression even though at times it can feel daunting. A study at UPenn found that high social media usage increases feelings of loneliness. This is due to the limits social media puts on our in-person connections. It is important to know that lacking strong social connections can pose a dangerous threat to your mental health.
Social media is created to keep you engaged. While you use social media the dopamine signals in your brain increase and these neurotransmitters are associated with pleasure. Using social media creates dopamine in your brain. Therefore, your brain identifies social media as a rewarding activity. For example, receiving positive feedback on your posts, will cause you to want to post more. When dopamine wears off, you instinctively return to the source. This is how social media can consume your time. Every time you log on, it is prepared to lock you in for the most time possible.
What can you do about it?
By taking breaks from social media and setting boundaries for yourself you can take back control of your social media use. I feel like I don’t use social media a lot but then I try to delete it for a weekend and I feel immediately in the dark about “news”. And then I’ll get it back and realize I didn’t miss much or anything important at the least. Now I try to delete it every other weekend to give myself a little break and “train myself” to be okay without it. Sometimes I break this limit and that’s okay because I’m working on it.
Here are some small tips for taking social media breaks (other than just deleting it)…
- Turn off push notifications at set period of time every week/monthMaybe every weekend you turn off push notifications for social media apps so that you get a break from it but are also training your self control abilities.
- Allot time to use social mediaFor example, on school days I only let myself go on social media for at the most 15 minutes and I usually go on right after school. This helps me stay focused on my school work but also gives me a little break from all the school with a limited time on social media.
- Keep you phone in an inconvenient place while you are completing important tasksI keep my phone in my drawers across the room while I do my school work so that I’m not inclined to quickly check it.
I understand that distancing yourself from social media can be daunting but for your mental and physical well-being it is extremely important. I hope these tips are helpful and you can begin to move carefully with social media!