How many minutes a day are you spending on social media? How are those minutes making you feel?
These were the types of questions that I asked myself last month when I decided to challenge myself to start being more present and mindful. The more that I focused on how I was spending my days, the more I realized how much time I was wasting passively scrolling through my social media feeds.
By the end of my challenge, I had decided to commit to spending less time on social media apps, such as Facebook and Instagram. I added a setting to each of them that would warn me once I had reached my allotted 20-minutes per day. What I have found was that I was easily surpassing those time limits within the first HOUR that I was awake.
How crazy is that? It was part of my daily routine to open my eyes, roll over, grab my phone and scroll through social media for at least 20-minutes every single morning before I even got myself out of bed.
It was no wonder I was so anxious.
As I touched on in one of my previous posts, the world of social media these days revolves around exaggerations… we have created this false world where everyone wants their lives to seem perfect and exciting; the media makes money off of attention-grabbing headlines and creates fear through dramatic exposes. Everything is over the top and overdone – it’s hard to know what is real and what is just show.
Needless to say, starting my day by engaging with this type of media was an instant mindfuck. However, I was an active participant so any psychological damage that was occurring was completely self-inflicted.
Which is why I knew it was really important for me to begin to sever my ties with Facebook and Instagram. At the end of the day, I have not liked how they have made me feel recently… perhaps I haven’t even truly enjoyed them ever.
But I am part of a generation that grew up with the internet. There have been popular “social” tools for as long as I have been old enough to enjoy them. It started with AOL’s instant messaging (AIM), shifted to MySpace (does anyone remember how much drama would revolve around your top 8 friends? because I do.), and by the time my college career came around, Facebook had essentially taken over the world (coming from the perspective of a teenager).
This need to be constantly in the loop about what everyone was doing and always sharing how awesome and fun your life was something that has been ingrained in me since I was 12 years old and created my first screen name (“ajock10” – created for me by my father who insisted it was gender neutral enough to keep me safe from cyber perverts… thanks, dad). Because I have grown up in this digitally connected society, the habits that I have created have become very hard to break. The fear of missing out – otherwise known as “FOMO” – has created anxiety that if I disconnect from these apps, I will, in turn, disconnect myself from everyone else around me.
Now do me a favor and reread that last sentence again: the fear of missing out has created anxiety that if I disconnect from these apps, I will, in turn, disconnect myself from everyone else around me.
I am slightly ashamed to admit that is where a lot of my social media anxiety comes from but whatever, it is the truth. And the minute that I was really honest with myself about the fact that I felt that way, the easier it became for me to realize how irrational that fear was and start changing the way that I approached my social media. Because just like any other aspect of my life, I control how Facebook and Instagram make me feel. And if they make me feel shitty, then it is time for me to do something about it.
So I decided to create some healthy boundaries for myself when it comes to social media use.
- Start a hobby. Having never been a “hobby” person, I found that I filled any free time in my day with mindless browsing. Suddenly a whole hour has flown by and I have done nothing of value. I figured, if there was enough time for me to be spending X amount a day on Instagram, then there was enough time for me to be doing something that I actually enjoyed and made me feel good. When I was a kid I loved to read and so I have adopted reading as my new hobby. I began carrying a book with me wherever I go so that whenever I have downtime, I can read a few pages and avoid the social media scroll. Reading again has made a huge impact on my overall mood because I feel stimulated again. My mind is more open and constantly taking in new ideas which are adding huge value to my life.
- Remove the excess. It is important for me to remember that social media has added some value to my life. It has helped keep me connected with friends and family and to share important and personal moments of my life with them. It has opened up my world and allowed me to connect with people whose values align with my own. Those are the reasons why I did not want to get rid of my accounts completely. They are also the reasons why it was important for me to go through and remove anything from my feed that did not add value to my life. When I went through both my Instagram and Facebook, it blew my mind how many crappy accounts I was following. Going through and being very mindful of how each person or account added something to my day was the easiest way for me to shed myself of any excess.
- Completely disconnect. What used to be my major fear is now my greatest relief. Some days I don’t even touch my phone for hours. Being able to totally disconnect from everything has been very healing for my mind because it shows me that I can take the time to focus on my present life and the world will not end. My favorite form of self-care is to spend an entire day not thinking about what anyone else is doing and just focusing 100% on what I want to do with my time.
In today’s world, I believe that social media plays a huge role in a lot of people’s anxiety. While there definitely are ways that these apps can add value to your life, it is important for us all to be aware of how they are making us feel and to be willing to create healthy boundaries. My hope is that, by having a healthier relationship with social media, we can create content that is more open, honest and real… content that lifts people up, rather than making them feel down.
P.s. below is a stack of books that I am currently working through – if anyone has any other recommendations for books about self-help, anxiety, mindfulness, wellness or anything else that you think would be fun to read, shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org!