Social Media and your Health – 7 Ways to Balance your Real and Virtual Worlds
27 May 2015
Many of us are slaves to our phones, tablets, laptops etc. When we are not working on them, we are busy surfing Facebook, Instagram and other social media that captivates our attention for hours. I myself spending hours on my laptop and social media, writing blog entries, posting photos and uploading recipes onto my social media pages. In a world run by modern technology, we almost have no choice but to take part in this techno-behaviour. We do however have a choice in HOW and when we use these technologies outside of the work domain.
Think about this for a second: How often do you find yourself scrolling down Instagram or facebook just before bed, thinking to yourself “I am just going to take a quick peek and then go to sleep” – and 45 minutes later you find yourself 150 posts down the timeline of your childhood friend ‘Jason X’s’ page – thoroughly enthralled in a full history review of his life since last you saw him (which by the way was 15 years ago). So yes, you now know what happened in Jason X’s life, but was it really worth losing those 45 minutes that could have been dedicated to relaxation and sleep?
Social media really has a funny way of grasping our undivided attention! We spend hours surfing – automatically comparing our lives to those of others – perhaps in the hope that we will feel better about ourselves and our lives – although, rather the opposite usually ensues. As humans, we are also inquisitive by nature and want to know what everyone else is up to – where they are holidaying, who they are dating, what work they are doing, where the next party is – who is going? etc. It is as if we have forgotten to think for ourselves. Social media has become our go-to for what to do, when, and how.
Don’t get me wrong, social media is an incredible tool through which people and businesses are able to connect using a community based approach. I love social media, and am so grateful that it has enabled me to connect with so many incredible people both in my personal and work domains. What is key here though, is HOW we use this technology – it is now confirmed that social media addition is a real thing! And so many of us are addicted, without even knowing it! That constant surging desire to check your Facebook or Instagram is a form of addiction! Whether it be for personal validation (through photo likes or popularity), fear of missing out, wanting to know what is happening within your social circle, or simply being inquisitive, these are all ways in which we utilise social media to fill a certain emptiness - and so we become addicted, as we persist in a constant attempt to fill these voids.
Within all of this, what we don’t realise is that social media can induce stress along with mental health concerns, as can any work or personal concern. Most of the stories or images we see our friends post reflect the best times of their lives. However, in seeing such posts regularly, we begin to believe that our lives are dull and boring in comparison, which in turn makes us feel inferior. For those of us who follow our favourite celebrities or idols, daily exposure to posts depicting perfect bodies, unattainable beauty and lavish lifestyles dampens mood and diminishes self-esteem. Social media has also become a source of major information overload which in turn can trigger stress. Developing bad habits and fixations with social media can trigger negative states of emotion and intensify stress. Therefore, it is important for us to set boundaries for this technology.
Some simple steps to detach yourself from social media …
- Stick to a “no technology policy” after 9pm rule. This will remove all distractions or temptations, and enable you to fully relax and unwind. If your ipad or phone are lying next to you all the time, chances are you will end up browsing.
- Keep a diary of how many times a day you check your social media pages – this will help you become more aware of your behaviours. Be prepared to be shocked! When a given action becomes habitual we often don’t process what it is that we are actually doing.
- Try to limit yourself to viewing you social media two to three times per day at most, and don’t allow these browsing sessions to be longer than 5 minutes.
- Stay clear of all social media before bedtime – the amount of data that social media provides is huge! Just think how much your brain is having to process as you scroll down the page. Because your brain is busy processing information, it is very active, which may impede your sleep – you are basically waking your brain up when you are browsing, which causes your mind to race. The bright light omitted from your phone, iPad or laptop also doesn’t help with sleep either. These interfaces emit blue light; nearly identical to the light you are exposed to outdoors during the day. This tricks your brain into thinking it is still day time, thereby shutting down melatonin secretion.
- Try to avoid social media completely during the weekend. If this is too much to handle, try allocating 1 day per week during which you cut yourself from social media completely. The more often you do this, the more you will see how much you DON’T need it! More so, how much more productive your day was without it!
- Train yourself to use social media for the purpose it was originally intended –communication. Use social media to connect with friends, find events or businesses. Don’t spend hours stalking exes, old friends or current circles! It’s not healthy! If you are having trust issues with a partner, confront them face to face! Stalking their social media activity, or hacking their accounts really isn’t going to solve any problems!
- Lastly, seek adventure outside of technology. Go for a hike, take a walk in your neighbourhood, invite a friend out for lunch, cook for your loved ones, go to the spa, rest, meditate, go to the gym…stop living vicariously through a virtual world!
…. get out there live your real life!
Yours in Health Always,