5 Reasons to Break Up With Social Media (for a Little Bit, at Least)

posted: 06/21/16
by: Katie Morton
Woman texting at night

Life used to be shared in real time, during face-to-face interactions with friends and family. Today's modern world means that much of our social interaction now takes place behind a screen, and it's unclear if this is actually an improvement

Social media can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the social aspect of social media allows you to keep up with friends and family, make plans, share photos and interact on a daily basis, even if you're an ocean apart. On the other hand, social media can interfere with your REAL life--resulting in productive time lost, feelings of stress and anxiety and even symptoms of depression. Recently, alarming studies have indicated that social media may be clinically addictive.

So how do you know if it might be time to take a break from social media? Ask yourself these five questions to see if social media is enhancing your life or bringing you down:

1. Do you feel upset after comparing yourself to others on your social media feed?

Social media is where everyone shares their very best. Photos are softly filtered or digitally altered. Status updates are full of #blessed #happy #vacation hashtags, as opposed to the real life nitty-gritty, which dominates our daily existence. More appropriate hashtags would include #dailycommute #notenoughsleep #stressedAF.

The curated, cultivated veneer of life displayed on social media can make us feel as though our own lives don't measure up. If you find yourself disappointed after comparing yourself to others on social media, it may be time to unplug for a while. Taking stock of all the positive things surrounding you can make you grateful for what you do have, rather than upset about all that you don't.

2. Do you waste hours each day on social media?

Social media can be a huge time drain. You log on to Facebook to check on a friend and find yourself, hours later, looking up from your screen wondering what in the world just happened. Sound familiar?

If social media consumes hours of your daily leisure activity, perhaps you need a break. There are hundreds of actual leisure activities you could pursue in the time you're spending online--whether that's walking the dog, reading, cooking or taking a swim. You might be surprised at how much free time you have once you're not constantly monitoring your social media feeds.

3. Do you substitute social media for one-on-one connections?

With lives busier than ever, social media can be an amazing way to connect with family and friends who we can't see face-to-face as often as we'd like. There is a fine line, however, between using social media to connect and using social media as your exclusive form of connection.

Rather than endlessly commenting on photos and status updates, look up from the screen and make some real plans. Connecting over a meal or a run is more powerful than an "LOL" or a "like." We all need real social time to laugh, talk, touch and be with one another. Make an effort to pursue friendships beyond the screen, and you'll be more connected.

4. Do you find yourself frustrated by online arguments?

Unless you're a litigator by trade, then you probably don't enjoy arguing for fun. Social media can be a terrific forum for discourse and conversation, especially about controversial hot topics. The downside of social media is that it can open the door to pointless arguments and rants online.

Our stress hormones peak each time we argue. So rather than trying to convince die-hard Republican Uncle Harry that he should be a liberal vegan like you (never going to happen), learn to disengage. Unplugging can lower your stress level by preventing you from engaging in pointless fights.

5. Do you spend more time with a screen than with anything else?

Hours of screen time can have a cumulative negative impact on one's health. Studies show that an excess of screen time has been linked to obesity, poor sleep habits, mental health issues and stress. If you unplug for a while, your mental and physical health may improve for the better.

We know that it can be hard to disconnect from social media, so here's a pro tip to see whether your life would benefit. According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D., technology expert and author of The Distraction Addiction, try to limit your access for a short period of time and take note of the results.

Dr. Pang told the Huffington Post: "Challenge yourself to abstaining from social media for a full week, or, if that's too daunting, just delete Twitter, Instagram and Facebook from your phone for a week. Does your life get better or worse? You may find that you feel perfectly satisfied without social media in your life."