“What social media really becomes after years of use is a constant stream of information both verbal and visual that at first drenches the mind, quenching its thirst for knowledge, and subduing its curiosity slowly but surly transforms into a torrent that renders the brain heavy and the mind restless.”
The one thing it seems we cannot live without.
Remember when there was no social media? We actually got on just fine. However, in recent times, it seems like everyone, or almost everyone is hooked. Hooked to Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook…and if you are not necessarily hooked, you know at least one person who updates his/her stories constantly across these platforms…like all of these platforms, simultaneously (and not for business purposes, might I add).
And while it is pretty easy to say “Oh at least I do not upload stories on all platforms, I just go there to watch for entertainment” or “Please I am on social media just for information” or “I don’t even post that much on any platform” or “Oh please, it’s just social media, it’s really not that deep” I promise you, it is that deep. I also promise you that you would be utterly amazed at how much time you happen to spend on social media, just scrolling, scrolling, watching, taking and soaking in whatever information is thrown at you through your screen. You might think it is just a couple of hours a day? You would be amazed that it is much more than that.
If you use an iPhone, do yourself a favour when you are done with this blogpost and check your Screen Time usage. You can check that by going to “Settings” and tapping “Screen Time”. You are told the amount of time you spend on each of your social media apps daily, how many times a day you pick up your phone and what apps you open as soon as you pick up your phone. Life changing stuff when you do not see the Bible app among the top 10 apps. 😭
As a lover of social and psychological experiments, I recently conducted an experiment on myself by taking a break from social media. I did this after researching extensively on effective ways a social media addict like myself could do this because I was just tired.
Boyyy, were the results absolutely amazing and mind blowing! I am more than happy to share what I discovered and the benefits I got from this because it is too exciting and real not to.
As a background, I took a break from social media for roughly two weeks. At first it was unintentional and I just wanted to curb my somewhat phone addiction, but then I subsequently became intentional about it and aimed to attempt to get rid of social media addiction or at least, have some measure of control over it.
I realized that even at work, I would mindlessly and subconsciously reach for my phone every five minutes to ten minutes (not kidding) even where I did not receive a notification, just to touch the phone and scroll around aimlessly. Sometimes, I would even imagine i received a notification just to justify reaching for my phone. My productivity and creativity levels as well as my already short attention span were greatly stifled and at some point, I found that i was merely existing on auto pilot to a very large extent.
So, I said to myself “plis, this needs to stop or at least be reduced before it controls me totally”. And the interesting this is, most of us reading this are yet to fully grasp that social media tends to control us like a full blown addiction. The negative effects of the overuse of social media on our brain cannot be over emphasized enough. Excessive social media use has been closely linked to severe cases of depression, anxiety and suicide, but some of us are still on the “It’s not that deep” boat.
“We have begun to live in a world, where we eat content, drink content and breathe content, without giving a single thought to its composition and what kind of impact it has upon our lives.”
~ Abhijit Naskar
I can confidently assert that probably about 70 percent of us (or even more) reading this right now suffer from some sort of social media addiction or the other, if we would choose to be honest with ourselves.
Before I share 5 reasons why you need to take a social media break and the amazing benefits derived from such, here are some signs that-and if you’re pretty honest with yourself, you might just fall into any or all of these categories-you need a social media break ASAP!
Signs you may be addicted to social media
- You cannot hang out with friends (or in severe cases, even attend a business meeting) without reaching for your phone to scroll through your social media feed or upload a story about how much “fun” you are having;
- You cannot hold a conversation with someone for at least one to two hours without reaching for your phone to check your social media;
- You spend more time on social media than time spent on human interaction;
- You check your social media first thing in the morning when you wake up and last thing at night before you go to bed (and every other available time in between when you are free);
- You take photos of almost everything to upload on your social media;
- You get anxious when you have not checked your phone or social media in one or two hours;
- You feel like you are “missing out” when you have not checked your phone or social media in a couple of hours;
- You spend more than 2 hours a day on social media;
- You go to social media when you are feeling down about life, burned out or simply frustrated;
- You immediately reach for your phone when you have a notification because the anxiety of not knowing what it could be would “kill you”; and
- You subconsciously make unhealthy comparisons when you look at highlights of other people’s lives and feel anxious, pressured or generally depressed at how wack your life seems to be going.
So when I realized that I exhibit most- if not all- of the signs above, I was like “Okay, we have to put breaks on this, really”.
And so, I took a break.
I will be the first to say that it is not the easiest thing in the world and like any other form of addiction, once you attempt putting an end to it, you face some form of “withdrawal” because your body has to get used to the reduction of the production of dopamine or whatever “feel good” chemical your brain has been producing when you get a lot of likes or comments on a good photo or when you are scrolling through your feed and living vicariously through the photos and videos you see.
Why: Reasons you should take a social media break
Taking occasional social media breaks present amazing advantages and benefits. I speak from my experience when I say that in the short while I took a social media break, I saw an amazing transformation from the inside out. Here are 5 reasons (which I totally experienced) why you should take a social media break (at least, once in a while):
- Leaves you feeling refreshed/stronger: This is a major reason why anyone needs to take a social media break. For me, I know coming back from the break left me feeling refreshed and stronger physically, mentally and emotionally to take on tasks. There’s this refreshed feeling that your brain feels having been withdrawn from so much useless information it has been continuously subjected to for an extended period of time. You feel light and ready to take on the world.
- Increased productivity/creativity and more goal oriented: If your social media is not used principally for business, chances are, if you are so consumed with watching other people’s lives and scrolling endlessly through social media feed, you may not have so much time to focus on yourself or your goals. You may have dreams and goals you want to see achieved but what time do you have to plan or execute if you are constantly on social media? By taking a break, I found that I was : more productive and creative than I had been in a long while. I was a lot more focused at work and took shorter times to achieve tasks because I was not constantly distracted by notifications of my social media. Also, I personally found that I was alot more creative in coming up with content for my blog and ideas for some business plans. Basically, my brain had space to think and thrive. You will find that your productivity and creativity levels would greatly increase if you took a step back.
- Restored personal/professional relationships: Most of us have friends, family or people around us who constantly complain that we are always on the phone and we laugh it off. It’s really not that funny. When we learn to take a step back and curb how much time we spend on social media, we are able to restore personal and professional relationships. We are able to have meaningful and impactful conversations either face to face or on the phone. We are able to drop our phones and find out how our family or loved ones are doing. We are able to spend time with people and genuinely encourage them to make them feel better about whatever situation they may be in. If you find that you are only communicating with friends or loved ones through social media, then you may just have to take a step back and find proper means of communication with them. It makes all the difference.
- Less anxiety, negativity and depression: Yup, I promise you. just take a break from social media for a day and see what it does to you. You would feel so much more relaxed. Why? Let me break it down for you. The world of social media, as we already know, presents just highlights of people’s lives. Basically, you do not get to see the behind the scenes of these photos and videos. You only see the best; when people are happy and look their absolute best. So we know this, right? Why then do we get anxious, jealous and depressed when we see these things about other people’s lives? Because on one hand, our conscious mind knows that these things are not all to life, and on the other hand, our subconscious mind plays tricks on us that makes us believe these highlights. And there is a constant battle within our minds in knowing what information to reject or accept.
We then compare these highlights to the total aspects of our lives and feel like we are not doing enough, or are not as good looking or life is not going great for us. We get sad when we see people travelling the world and seemingly looking happy (I know someone on instagram who always, always seems happy. Like she never has a bad looking photo. Ever) So imagine if you’re there constantly comparing yourself to someone who seemingly has a perfect life?
Lol, social media is really fickle. No one is broke, ugly, washed up or having a hard day at the office on social media. No one is dealing with family issues, depressed or tired and frustrated with the way things are going in life. No one is confused or seeking to find their purpose or life’s answers or what their calling may be. Everyone seems to have it all figured out. Everyone but you.
Taking a break from it all helps you put things into perspective and reminds you that there is actually real life outside of social media and most of what we see may not really be what is.
- You live more in the moment: Funny enough, this is one of the greatest benefits to me of taking social media breaks. I am actually learning to put my phone in my bag on the car ride to work. I am learning not scroll away mindlessly in the elevator ride to my office. I am learning not to scroll through my phone while walking. By taking a break, you get to experience life. Most times, we are too busy watching life rather than living life.
We also get carried away wanting to take photos or videos of the amazing times we are having (to show people who may not even really care!) that we actually forget to enjoy those moments in peace! Taking a social media break encourages you to live in the moment, take in the fresh air, look around and observe your surroundings, be more sociable with humans and have better human interaction. Some of us can be so buried in our phones that if we were to be transported half way across the world without our knowledge, we would not notice. Take that break and live life!
How: Suggestions to take a step back
So if you want to experience the above benefits of taking a social media break and want to go on one ASAP, here are some ways you can achieve this (While you may not be comfortable with some of my methods, they might just be worth the try if you are looking to manage or get rid of your social media addiction altogether):
- Identify: The first thing I did was get real with myself. Like, I had to be totally honest with myself at where I am at with this social media thing. I looked at those signs above and I was completely honest that this thing had some sort of control over me and I was ready to take a break. When I decided to be intentional about it, I had to identify why I wanted to go on the break, for how long and what I hoped to achieve.
- Turn off Notifications: The next step was to turn off my notifications. The effect of this on my sanity literally deserves a blog post of its own…and I will publish that post. I turned off notifications for all my social media apps and so my phone stopped buzzing ceaselessly (for those of you that might not know, I manage four instagram accounts…so imagine the constant buzzing). By doing this, I was then unaware of when I received a message. At first, it was quite nerve racking, not wanting to miss any message that might be “soooo important” but I slowly realized that, really, no one would die if you did not respond immediately…and if it is sooooo important, they would call.
“One of the key factors people are getting addicted to social media is because they are often distracted by notifications. In fact, notifications can act as a reminder to the users to check their phones or computers. Therefore, the most effective way to solve this is to turn off the notifications. If social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter cannot notify you on any updates, there is a higher chance that you will not check on them. It is a great first step in getting rid of social media addiction. Plus, if you always get distracted by notifications, you cannot concentrate well on your tasks at hand. It can cause negative feelings like stress and anger.”
- Move apps around: Funny, you might be surprised to know that your brain subconsciously knows where each app on your phone is. My brain knew that if I press the home button and swiped left twice, my instagram icon would be there at the middle right section of my screen. So I hid my instagram and twitter apps in a folder on another page of my screen that my brain is not used to so that whenever I opened my phone mindlessly and swiped twice to the left, I would not find my instagram app. By the time I remembered it had been moved and to where precisely, the desire to open the app would have waned. So whenever you’re getting used to where these apps are located, you move the apps.
- Phone-free zones: So the idea behind this is that you create a phone free zone in your house or room where you do not take your phone to. It could be your bedroom or a bed side table or a reading table. What I did with this one was that I tried to keep my phone not close to my bed. Failed severally, I might add (rolling eyes), but it was worth the try.
- Down-time: This helped me big time and continues to help me daily. I scheduled times when my apps shut themselves off, like from 7pm to 10pm and if I have to open them, then I can put a 15 minute limit. Lol, let me not lie. Half the time the reminder comes up, I extend it for 15 minutes till its 10 years, but after a while it gets exhausting so I dump the phone…and pick it back up. Yeah, it’s a struggle. But this has helped me control
- Substitute activities: It is interesting how much time is spent on social media. You can take up new activities to substitute your use of social media such as reading, walking, jogging, even listening to music, hanging out with friends, watching a movie and the list goes on and on.
- Schedule posts: So for those who have businesses on social media or who make money off social media, or if you are a blogger/business owner and you rely on the traffic from social media to push your product, but desperately need a break, this is a good suggestion. I did not do this during my break because I just wanted a break from it all, blog inclusive. You can research apps that help people schedule their posts such as Hootsuite and the likes, so your posts are up and going even when you are offline.
- Delete apps: In the event that you find yourself in dire need of a break from social media and the above options seem to fail, by all means, delete the apps. Do not log out, just delete them. This would help when you reach for your phone subconsciously because, well, you cannot log into what is not there in the first place.
While it is undeniable that social media possesses great advantages and continues to provide numerous opportunities for individuals and businesses alike, it is important to ensure that your use of social media, as with anything else in life, is done with utmost moderation.
Social media can be a great way to connect with people, but we need to remember that it is meant to be controlled by us and not the other way around.
If you would not be taking a social media break anytime soon, I challenge you to at least spend a little more time for the rest of this week, cultivating relationships offline. Call a loved one and, write a letter to yourself, do something fun alone or with friends that does not involve the use of your phone, take a walk, sing out loud to yourself…anything.
“Pay attention to humans, not your phone.”
I hope this was super helpful to you because it helped me immensely. Let me know what you think in the comment section!
P.S, If you would like to read more about social media addiction to know if you suffer from it and what you can do to curb it and cure it totally, check out this link
Be kind to yourself!