How often do you pick up your phone to quickly check social media and find that one quick scroll turns into thirty minutes of browsing?
These days, it’s recognised that these platforms are deliberately designed to keep us scrolling as long as possible. While social media sites started out as a place to easily connect with loved ones, they have evolved into arenas for advertisers, influencers, and marketers to vie for our attention.
Many of us also acknowledge that we find ourselves using these platforms compulsively and excessively, to the point where we struggle to switch off. Logging onto social media and seeing new notifications, likes, or comments can send a rush of dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure) to your brain. The problem is that this effect is temporary; once it wears off, you may feel the need to go back for more, over and over again.
Alternatively, you may find yourself viewing content that makes you feel inadequate, self-critical, or downright hopeless. When you bear in mind that the algorithm tends to offer you similar content to what you’ve already viewed, it can feel like the negativity is neverending.
To identify if social media is negatively affecting your wellbeing, ask yourself the following questions:
Do you scroll on social media instead of working or engaging with others? Perhaps you always keep your phone in view at the dinner table or when you’re catching up with a friend. Sometimes we allow social media to get in the way of learning, productivity, or relationships.
Have you found yourself opening social media to check likes and comments? Or maybe you’ve seen highlight reels of others’ activities, only to feel worse about yourself. These are common ways social media feeds low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
Do you scroll on social media at night instead of getting rest? If viewing social media disrupts or delays your sleep, you might want to consider how this is affecting your physical and mental wellbeing in general.
The good news is that you can adapt how you use social media, which in turn will make a difference in its impact on your life.
1 – Log onto social media with an intention
What is your intention when you log onto social media? Is it to connect with a friend, or to check your messages? Take a couple of moments to set an intention before you open a social media platform. Be firm: do what you set out to do and then switch it off!
2 – “There’s an app for that”
Use an app that controls the amount of time you spend on social media platforms. Some phones come with a tool to carry this out included. These apps will let you set limits on how much time you spend on these platforms so you can prevent excessive use of them.
3 – Turn off notifications
Does your phone light up every time you receive a like or comment? It’s hard to resist checking when it does, isn’t it? If this sounds like you, try turning off all but essential notifications on your phone.
4 – Leave your phone in another room
Huge numbers of people scroll through social media in bed, delaying getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep is essential to our physical and psychological wellbeing. Put your phone out of reach, or better yet, in another room when it’s time to rest.
5 – Delete social media apps on your phone
Possibly one of the simplest and most effective ways to tackle social media overuse is to delete the associated apps on your phone altogether. This way, if you really need to check a social media platform, you can only do it from your laptop or computer.
6 – Replace social media habit with something new
Reach out to a friend, read a book, go for a walk, bake a cake, start a garden, learn a language, listen to music. You get it; the list truly is endless. The key is to think about why you crave using social media (for social connection, as a creative outlet, to learn, and so on) and replace that habit with something that satisfies the same need.
Social media can still help us stay connected with people we love. However, it can also lead to us comparing ourselves to others, feeling overwhelmed with negativity, or simply wasting our time. If this resonates with you, know that you are not alone! Try some of the techniques above. Paying close attention to the way you use social media, making a few changes, and holding yourself accountable can help you to feel happier and get more out of life!