asian woman using her phone while in the train to work

Social media and online interaction have infiltrated every aspect of our lives. It has led to new job creation as well as fresh ways to communicate and express ourselves. For some, however, an addiction to social media is real — a recent research by Cornell Information Science[1] studied the difficulty people faced when they quit social media such as Facebook — and it reported that not many were able to stay off it for more than a few days.

Related: Stuck in the Web

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Young couple looking at phone while on a date

There is no denying the benefits of social media. It provides a gateway for communication with loved ones far away, it helps you remember key events and milestones through shared pictures (some in real time), and businesses are using it to learn more about customers’ needs. However, it can also be a rough terrain to navigate. An over-consumption of social media can create behavioural problems offline and in real life.

Online harassment and cyberbullying are not just issues that youths face — just look at the many fiery political exchanges in comment sections. Added to that are psychological traps including feelings of envy, the popularised affliction of the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and more.

Here’s why you may want to consider logging out of your social media accounts more often:

Social Media May Eat into your Productive Time

It may start with a few minutes on Twitter; okay, maybe just one more YouTube video; or,that a friend you’ve not seen in a while pops up online. Before you know it, time has passed you by. Unstructured time on social media adds up over the day, leading to poor time management and added stress when it affects one’s work or studies.

Social Media may Exacerbate Attention Deficit Disorders

With an overwhelming amount of information available online and at a swipe of a finger, social media makes it hard to focus on anything for more than a few minutes, leading to the Internet expression ‘TL;DR’ or ‘too long, didn’t read’. With the constant pinging of notifications and pop-ups, your smartphone could also be robbing you of your precious concentration.

Social Media may Increase Feelings of Loneliness and Depression

A study in 2013 by the University of Michigan[2] indicated that the life satisfaction levels of people waned as they used Facebook more, suggesting that excessive use may undermine rather than enhance wellbeing. Users also tend to unfavourably compare themselves with others online, promoting feelings of loneliness, envy, worthlessness and depression.

Related: How to Beat Stress Eating

Do You Need a Social Media Detox?

Asian woman sitting at a cafe and browsing her phone

So, do you feel lost and helpless without your smartphone? Did a quick update online ever turn into hours lost looking at your ex’s photos from a decade ago? Here are some possible signs that you might have gone overboard:

  • You create hashtags for #everysinglething
  • Your replies are in 140 characters or less — and often punctuated with emojis instead of words to express yourself
  • You feel mildly depressed if your posts do not get as many likes or comments
  • You use the ‘thumbs up’ when you like something in the real world
  • You can’t identify emotions if they’re not an emoji

Outside the online world of likes and emojis is a real world that we can perceive with all of our senses. Don’t miss out on life by peering at the world through the camera lens on your smartphone. Take time to be present and mindful. And no matter how efficient instant messaging might be, nothing replaces good old hugs or a genuine smile among friends and family.

For more tips on relating well with your colleagues online and offline, read on how to work well with your colleagues. Or, get tips on how to help your child untangle from the web.

Related: 6 Ways to Declutter the Mind

Ready, Set, Unplug

young couple taking a break and going for a car ride

Ready to take the plunge and unplug? Try these social media detox tips[3] for a breath of fresh air. For some, making your intentions known and going cold turkey is the best way; for others, smart management and self-discipline are all it takes to balance your usage. Whatever your strategy, get support from peers to encourage and remind you of your goals.

Pick Your Social Media

Social media as a tool is not inherently bad — it depends on how you use and consume it. Certain platforms can greatly enhance your wellbeing by providing instant connectivity to a likeminded community. Choose platforms that allow you to more selectively curate your feed.

Set Time Limits

Pick a reasonable time limit for you to spend on social media. It could be 15 minutes a day, twice a day or strictly on the weekends. Set an alarm clock to keep you on schedule.

Group of young friends taking a walk in the park

Turn off your phone to Reconnect

Switch off completely when you are having meals with friends, taking a walk in the park with your friends or having a family gathering. It is important to give these activities your full attention without distraction.

Delete Apps from your Smartphone if Necessary

The ride to school or work may be long, but you can always listen to music, podcasts or read a book. Deleting social media apps from your smartphone will help you manage compulsive checking and limit your social networking to when you’re in front of a computer. Apps such as OutPack helps limit your social media usage easily and automatically.

Young woman playing the guitar

Take Up Other Hobbies

Replace social media use with other healthier social activities offline such as games or sports, or try learning a new skill or language. Fill your schedule with more meaningful and enriching activities. Even indulging in a spot of day dreaming can keep away boredom. Create a regular routine that limits your social media use, particularly in the morning and before bedtime.

Make an effort to disconnect from social media and reconnect with your family and friends so you won’t miss out on life.

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References

  1. Baumer, E. P.S., Guha, S., Quan, E., Mimno, D., & Gay, G. K. (2015, Dec 3). Missing Photos, Suffering Withdrawal, or Finding Freedom? How Experiences of Social Media Non-Use Influence the Likelihood of Reversion. Social Media + Society, 1(2), p. 1-14.
    Retrieved July 2016 from http://sms.sagepub.com/content/1/2/2056305115614851.full.pdf+html

  2. Kross, E., Verduyn, P., Demiralp, E., Park, J., Lee, D. S., Lin, N., et al. (2013, Aug 14). Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. PLOS ONE, 8(8), p. 1-6.
    Retrieved July 2016 from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0069841

  3. Smith, M., Robinson, L., & Segal, J. (2016, Oct). Smartphone Addiction: Tips for breaking free of compulsive smartphone use [HELPGUIDE].
    Retrieved July 2016 from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/addiction/smartphone-and-internet-addiction.htm

  4. Steinmetz, K. (2016, May 3). Here’s How to Battle Your Smartphone Addiction. TIME.
    Retrieved July 2016 from http://time.com/3952333/smartphone-addiction/