Mindset

5 Reasons to Unplug: The Truth about Social Media Use

The rise in average social media use is a hot topic. Ironically, it seems to be posted all over social media. This points out the tension between good and bad technology or social media use – you have to find that fine line where it is a positive influence in your life and not an addiction.

My Journey So Far

I am as addicted to Instagram as anyone. We all have our preferred platform – maybe for you it’s Pinterest or Facebook or Snapchat or YouTube. I made a conscientious decision this past New Year to start tracking my phone usage so I could correlate it with my mood, productivity, and overall health.

It is scary how easily you can spend 5, 6, or 9 hours on your phone per day. Sure, the higher end tends to be on days of travel where you rely on your phone for entertainment in airports and on bus rides, but even the average daily total can be pretty scary.

Thus, my number one recommendation is to download Moment, a free app that tracks your screen time. You can’t fix a problem until you accurately identify it.

After 9 months of testing, I have consistently found that I am happier on days when I spend 3 hours or fewer on my phone.

Why is this? It’s because those are the days when I spend more time outside, more time with people, more time in flow state, or more time so focused on an activity that I forget to check my phone. Those are the days that I go skiing, on long hikes, visit family, try a new adventure activity, take up an art project, or even sit by the fire with a hot drink and read – with my phone off in the other room.

Check out these facts on social media use for the bigger picture and the hard data.

1. You’re on your phone more than you think.

Research from multiple sources – including Tech Crunch and Huffington Post – show that people use their smartphones far more than they think they do. Adults average 5 hours of cell phone use per day, which equates to roughly a third of waking hours. Teens spend up to 9 hours per day on social media alone (SocialMediaToday.com). These numbers continue to increase with each new study.

2. Social Media is addictive.

Why are you on your phone so much? Because you are getting little hits of dopamine with each ding or ping or notification from your iMessages or Social Media apps.

[Multiple] addiction criteria, such as neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, tolerance and concealing the addictive behavior, appear to be present in some people who use [social networks] excessively. – Nottingham Trent University

3. Overuse negatively impacts your brain.

Research has shown technology use can impair attention, productivity and memory, dampen creative thinking, increase stress levels, reduce sleep quality and lead to “cognitive errors” like forgetting meetings and walking into people. -HuffingtonPost.com

Of course technology can be used for good – for inspiration, information, and connection. Yet I do think it warrants some honest reflection as to how your phone use impacts your mood, productivity, presence, and/or ability to enter the space of boredom that leads to creativity.

4. Social media is bad for your mental health.

As I found, limiting the time you spend on social media makes you happier. It’s not just about that FOMO, studies show that it can lead to sadness and depression. Research also states that while social media platforms serve to create connection on the surface, they can increase loneliness.

Not surprisingly, it turned out that the more time people spent on these sites [the top 11 social media sites], the more socially isolated they perceived themselves to be. – Forbes.com

Much of this has to do with the fact that comparing ourselves with others is damaging to our self-esteem. Interestingly, whether you are feeling superior (“I got *way* more likes than her!”) or inferior (“Why does she have 40k more followers when our content is the same?!”) both are damaging to your mental health. It goes back to the old adage:

Comparisons are odious.

However, if we are spending 5 to 9 hours per day on platforms of comparison, these thought patterns can creep in without us noticing.

5. Are you wasting your life on a screen?

Given current data, it is estimated that people will spend 5 years and 4 months of their lives on social media.  Is that where you want to spend a significant portion of your one wild and precious life?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors.  87% of their life is indoors, then another 6% of their life in automobiles.  That’s only 7% of your entire life outdoors.  That’s only only one half of one day per week outdoors.  Ouch.

On the flip side, with all the positive research out there about forest bathing, mindfulness, and meditation – let’s get outside and breathe it in!

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