A break from social media.
We are all aware of both the pros and cons that come along with using social media, but what happens when the cons start outweighing the pros? Are we lying to ourselves by saying that it is normal to spend 4-6 hours a day on our phones, when most of that time is spent on different social media platforms?
A good friend of mine brought extreme awareness about the depth of the problem to me when she took out her calculator in front of me as a joke and explained that if we spend 5-6 hours a day on our phones, it results to 35-42 hours a week, which equals to a FULL WORK WEEK SCHEDULE. Meaning that the time we spend on our phones literally equals having a full time job. And the thing that scared me about this thought is that many in our generation use these 5-6 hours on their phones to escape the reality of their current lives…. We can instead use these 5-6 hours to build a meaningful life worth living instead of escaping one. I myself am guilty and that is why I decided to quit social media for a few months and will most likely continue doing so.
I don’t necessarily think social media is bad, it can be used for so much good in the world, which is a big pro. But we were never taught how to set our boundaries with it. We just entered this digital world with no guidance and no instructions and we have left out an important factor: boundaries. It has been one month now that I have gone without socials (which if you really think about it is not a long time at all) and these are some brutally honest things I have noticed in my own behavior:
- My screen time has not decreased as much as I believed it would. I feel like the time I spent on Instagram or Tiktok should now be spent on another digital platform, which confuses me quite a lot, but I believe it has a lot to do with the phenomenon called “habit stacking” which James Clear explains in his book “Atomic Habits”. Habit stacking is quite self explanatory and basically just means stacking one habit onto another, or pairing habits with each other. A good example of this is a person’s morning or night routine, usually things happen in a specific order based on each individual. I wake up, I meditate, I brush my teeth, I wash my face, I make my bed. I have however noticed a similar behavioral pattern with my social media. It’s like I am jumping from one app to another or “pairing” apps in my head with each other and now that I cannot do that anymore, the habit of being on my phone still exists and I am constantly looking for ways to pair this habit with an app or something digital. I find myself either checking my notifications, checking my emails, or searching for some new words on Google. The habit of being on my phone is still there, but the way I spend my time there has changed quite a lot.
- Like our mom’s believe everything that is posted on Facebook, gen z believes everything that is posted on Tiktok as a trusted source of information. This is such a big issue and no one is talking about it. We are overloaded with information 24/7 and we just accept this information as facts and base our truth on it. Tiktok is in my opinion the biggest issue in this case, since it adapts so finely to an individual’s algorithm and feeds an individual with the information they are personally interested in, creating an isolated bubble of “knowledge.” This is a very dangerous situation we find ourselves in, especially when thinking about the psychology behind confirmation biases.Confirmation Bias is a psychological term defined as “people’s tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with their existing beliefs.” It happens subconsciously to all of us all the time, it does not happen intentionally but it causes us to ignore information which we disagree with. This is because us as humans are designed to specifically process information in which we are in agreement of. This is a natural psychological phenomenon, but Tiktok’s algorithm is so strong that it convinces us that everyone thinks the same way as we do and if people don’t, they are automatically wrong. It closes our mind and creates a certain barrier that makes us disconnect from people who think differently than we do. It causes a certain social myopia in reality, making us believe everything we think is right and everything someone else thinks is wrong. It should not be that black and white.
- I am aware of my surroundings 10x more than I used to be. To some extent I feel like I am a kid again because I am constantly looking for entertainment outside of my phone. I have been spending a lot more time outside than previously and make a purposeful effort to spend time in nature and simply observe how things work. I also feel much more present when I am in a conversation with someone, I do not easily get distracted by my phone since I have much less notifications coming through and without social media it has been much easier to put my phone on “do not disturb mode.” I feel much more grounded and somehow more connected to reality and the things happening around me, even if they are small and irrelevant.
- My mental health has increased quite a lot because it doesn’t feel like I am letting 100’s of strangers into my thoughts all the time. With social media, I allow myself to be updated with 100´s of strangers’ lives, constantly. It’s like I am allowing them into my home for a cup of tea to tell me what they have been up to lately, but to 100´s of people that I barely know, 24/7. I don´t believe that we as humans are socially designed to live in such a state of constant overwhelm and constant comparison. I have no scientific proof of this but can surely confess that my own anxiety has decreased immensely and I feel much more at peace living in my own world with my own small circle of close friends and family. I have also found myself having a lot more time and motivation to work on my own creative projects that I have been procrastinating for a long time. I have more energy to be creative and to work on things with flow than I have had before.
Setting social media boundaries
Knowing myself, I will most likely get back to using social media in some time, since I am a creator by heart, and have so many things on my pros list that counteract my cons, but this time I will do so with intentional boundaries. As mentioned previously, this digital world did not come with any guidebook, so it is important for us to collectively create our own. Not only is it recommended, it is essential if we want to live a purposeful life, one which we do not constantly seek to escape from. A few boundaries I will take into practice include:
- Taking consistent months breaks every now and then, just to get myself back to reality. To disconnect with the digital world and connect back to the real one.
- Setting time limits on certain apps and strictly following them.
- Using social media intentionally and defining my “why” around it.
- Decluttering my social space by redefining who and what I follow, feeding myself useful information which I am genuinely interested in.
- Understanding where the desire for social media comes from and not using it as a coping mechanism to escape a certain feeling (e.g boredom).
I am genuinely excited at the moment for not being actively online and it has cultivated so much creative space for me to work on other projects that I have been putting off for way too long. For now I will stay off the grid, at least for the summer and after that decide what action steps to take next. I would like to challenge each of us to set our own personal intentions and boundaries with social media, to ensure that we each can live our lives to its fullest potential.
Casad, B.J. & Leubering, J.E. 2023. Confirmation Bias. Read on 25.6.2023. https://www.britannica.com/science/confirmation-bias
Luka. 2021. What is Habit Stacking. Read on: 26.6.2023. https://mindfulled.com/what-is-habit-stacking/