MY SOCIAL DILEMMA
Let’s talk about social media – a topic that’s been on my mind quite a bit over the past few weeks and something that I definitely have a love/hate relationship with.
How much time do you spend on your phone, and in particular social media every day? If you’re anything like me, since about March your screen time has gone through the roof. Earlier this year I got into the terrible habit of clicking off my alarm, and immediately logging into Instagram to see what my friends had posted while I was asleep. Before I knew it, it had been 45 minutes and I’d wasted my morning flicking through stories and posts. While riding on the bus, waiting for a friend, or killing time before dinner, I could usually be seen with a phone attached to my hand checking news updates or the latest posts.
I used to rationalise this time on my phone – convincing myself that since most of the people I follow live in a different time zone, the best way to stay involved and keep up was to continuously keep tabs online. But keeping up online can be exhausting. Between the time spent scrolling, constant comparisons, and virtually unlimited content, spending time on various online platforms can often leave me feeling drained.
While the rise of social media has been incredible for so many reasons (think: creating movements, connecting family & friends, creating businesses, spreading important information, etc. etc.), there are a whole host of negative effects that appear as a result as well.
These are a few side affects I have personally experienced at one time or another:
– An increased need for validation
– Fear of missing out
– Reduced attention span
– Lack of focus and productivity
Compounded over time, these effects can have a serious toll on anyone’s mental health. And though we’ve been told time and time again that prolonged social media time isn’t healthy, it feels like a constant battle to find a balance. Finding that balance between spending enough time online to feel updated but not too much that it’s overwhelming can be a tough line to walk. We live in a world where social media is an important part of our culture. It’s how we communicate, how we promote change, how we share information. And while choosing to abstain is something that may work for some, the truth is that I want to be on social media. Living away from so many friends and family is tough, but being able to connect and share over social media is something that makes it just a bit easier. So what’s a gal to do? How can we balance life on social media with life in the real world? Hint: it has to do with boundaries.
While I am definitely not an expert and am constantly learning alongside everyone else, I do feel like I have set some boundaries over the past year that have improved my relationship with social media. Setting these boundaries has allowed me to be fully present in other areas of my life, and to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with the constant need to check for updates.
Curious to learn more? Keep reading for my tips on boundary setting with social media!
My top tips for setting online boundaries
Be intentional – Remember why you joined social media in the first place, and allow that to help you utilise it with a purpose. Know why you’re scrolling on Instagram or Twitter. If it’s to see your friend’s latest updates, post an inspirational quote, or learn more from your favourite blogger- great. But if you’re scrolling because you’re bored or avoiding something, be mindful of that too.
Remove notifications – The biggest goal for social media companies is to compete for your attention. The longer they can keep you on their site, the better. Since removing notifications from apps that don’t require a timely or immediate response, my screen time has significantly decreased and I’ve found myself mindlessly clicking on apps much less. Now, the only notifications I allow on my phone are messages, priority emails, and calls. It’s much easier for me to separate myself from my phone when I don’t have constant updates telling me that I have new “likes” or to check out a new post.
Review who you follow – Something I like to do periodically is to go through the list of people I follow. I use the Marie Kondo method, asking myself if each person I follow “sparks joy” (not sure this method was intended for Instagram, but hey it works!). Some questions I like to ask myself about each account are: How do this person’s posts make me feel? Do they add value to me (interesting, inspirational, funny, etc.)? Do I resonate with their content? And a tricky one – Do I actually like following this person or do I feel like I have to follow them? Asking myself a few questions about the accounts I choose to follow has allowed me to intentionally create the type of social media experience I want to have.
Set aside screen-free time – Setting certain times during the day (when I first wake up, meal times, evenings, etc.) where I don’t have my phone near me has been the easiest boundary to implement, but the hardest to stick to. This takes a lot of discipline on my part, especially since I use my phone as an alarm and so it’s with me in the bedroom. Using the “do not disturb” and “bedtime” functions on my phone at least 30 min before bed while I read has been a big help. I’m much less likely to scroll when my alarm is set for the next day and I’m snuggled in with a book. About once a month I’ll delete my social media apps from my phone for a day or weekend. I notice that on those days I feel much more present, and am able to enjoy the moment. I find that constantly being connected to my phone is a stressor that I don’t necessarily notice until it’s removed. Try implementing screen-free hours or days, and see how you feel!
Maintain perspective– Understanding that social media is a highlight reel is key. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparing your life to the ones you see online, and feeling inadequate when you don’t match up. With the rise of “influencers”, today it feels more than ever that everyone online has a perfectly filtered, colour-coordinated, curated life. Understanding that what I see online is only a small part of someone else’s life, has been so helpful in allowing me to maintain this perspective.
I hope this post has given you a few ideas if you, like me, feel like your phone and social media has a tendency to take over your life. Writing this post has actually helped me to examine and process my own relationship with social media a bit more, and it’s definitely something that I’m continuously working on.
If you haven’t already, I suggest watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It’s a really interesting documentary exploring the rise of social media and the effects it has on society. It gave me a lot more to think about, and encouraged me to take a hard look at the ways in which I use social media.
If this post has been helpful or you have your own tips to share, let me know in the comments!