Have you ever taken the time to look at the settings on your phone and the amount of screen time you have on a daily and weekly basis? My guess is you might see that you are spending countless hours each week, whether you realize it or not, on social media.
As a mom, I am sometimes horrified by how much time my kids are spending playing Minecraft and watching YouTube on their phones. When I take the time to look at my own habits, I often realize that I am spending a lot more time on my phone than I realize, usually getting sucked into social media. As a therapist, I often hear my clients talk about how they find themselves similarly spending hours at night mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok.
Although there are some great benefits to social media, there are downfalls to staying “connected” and “social” in the virtual world. The first that comes to mind is the perfectionism and unrealistic expectations that it can create. We all know that we put our best foot, or face, forward when we post on social media. We use all the best filters and lighting to ensure that we are looking our best, we highlight all the amazing things we are doing and how awesome our kids are.
Rarely do we see the reality of people’s lives that also includes struggle, disappointment, anger, and heartache. We are witnessing an unbalanced view of our neighbors, friends and families lives and then compare our life experiences unrealistically to what we see. Think about it for a minute: How often do you find yourself feeling like your life is missing out in some way after you spend a minute…or an hour…scrolling on social media?
In addition to creating unrealistic expectations of ourselves, social media can cause us to feel more isolated and alone. If you have ever experienced FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out, after seeing pictures of a group of friends having fun together, you know what I am talking about. Not only do we compare ourselves to others, but we may also experience feeling more separate and distant from them as well.
Knowing that social media can have an adverse effect on our mental health, it might be time to assess how it is affecting you and whether or not it is time for you to limit your screen time, or even take a break from it all together. You might also think about how the images and content you are viewing on a regular basis is like food for our brain. What you take in is having an impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
Here are three simple ways to gain more control over your social media consumption:
Do you find that you are wasting away the hours mindlessly scrolling? If so, you might want to create limits for yourself. If you tend to be disciplined and able to insert boundaries into your life when and where necessary, then this may be just what is needed.
Are you ready to clean up your social media diet? If you recognize that much of what you are seeing and reading are leaving you feeling down and are impacting your mood in a negative way, it might be time to do a refresh. Go ahead – delete or unlike the person, groups, or businesses that no longer align with what you value. You are doing it for your health.
Are you wanting a break from it all? Whether you take a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime away from social media, the world will still go round. If you are looking for permission to do a full digital detox, here it is. You can take a pause or a complete break and use the extra time that opens up in your life to truly connect with the people in your life. You might then find it easier to mindfully take in the images around you and reconnect with yourself and what matters most to you.
We know that what we put into our bodies matters. What we put into our minds is just as important. Take the time to recognize the impact that social media has on your life. Just as you might take a break to cleanse and detox your body so that you are healthy, I invite you to listen to when you might also need to take a break from social media for your overall health and wellbeing.