Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and so on are all social media platforms that have become increasingly popular in recent years. It is estimated that more than half of the world’s population is now using some form of social media. We can therefore conclude that social media and all its associated technology is here to stay.
Social media has irrevocably changed the way we communicate, work and socialise especially in the last 10 years and particularly in the last year with the worldwide pandemic forcing most people to work from or spend more time at home meaning we have more time to spend on social media. There are those who would say social media has been a force for good while many others would argue that the challenges and negative issues from the long term use of social media far outweigh any positives.
Like many forms of technology, social media requires us to access it via a device such as a phone, laptop, TV, etc. This means that as more and more people spend time using social media, we are spending far more time on these devices. For a long time, I rallied against the use of social media, I was very careful as to how much time I spent on it and would also warn my kids about the dangers. I could see my children spending less time interacting with me and more time interacting with their phones. This used to drive me mad and like many other households up and down the country, resulted in countless arguments over the use of phones. However, with so much of our world and how it works changing I started to realise that whether I liked it or not, technology was here to stay and it was in my best interest and that of my kids, for me to learn how to use social media but also to understand it. So, I decided that in order to better understand the challenges, I needed to become social media savvy. This has come in useful in the last few years as most of the work I do is now being done online.
The way that our children learn and interact has massively changed and a large part of education is now done via devices and with the aid of technology. Dating and meeting people is now largely done over the internet on a variety of dating sites. The way we shop has also changed with more people choosing to shop online now more than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic brought its own challenges and has probably changed the way people work, shop and communicate for ever. With everyone forced to stay at home, companies who had previously been reluctant to embrace home-working raced to provide employees with the resources and support needed to allow them to continue working from home as this was vital to the continued existence and profitability of their businesses. So in essence, all of the important areas of our lives are now firmly embedded in one way or the other in some form of technology.
So where is the problem? Well, there are many who argue that the reliance on technology and devices have created huge problems in how people relate to each other. With many now spending an increasing amount of time on computers, emails, social media and other forms of technology, not to mention TV, Streaming services and other technology based form of entertainment, it becomes more of a challenge to find time for stillness. Also the reliance on social media and technology for communication has somehow resulted in the deconstruction of the fabric of society and resulted in social fragility and emotional issues. We also have the challenges that with social media and technology, everything is now available at the click of a button. This can lead us to become reliant on instant feedback and may play a part in the high demand for instant gratification that many of us now grapple with.
When we interact on social media, it allows us to say things to people that we wouldn’t dream of saying in real life and there is a lot of nastiness and negativity online. In addition, there are added dangers as people can pretend to be anyone they. Technology has enabled a new generation of fraudsters and dishonest people to operate quite easily by pretending to be someone they are not. In addition, our children are exposed to dangers of meeting and building relationships with people online that may not necessarily have good intentions for them. The observation of other people’s lives on such apps as Instagram and Facebook can leave us feeling envious, drained and angry. Yet, in most cases what we see online rarely ever portrays a true reflection of the person.
When it comes to mental health, social media can be an enormous trigger for anxiety and depression as we can fall prey to the idea that everyone else has a good life based on what we see or we are bombarded with images of perfect looking people, homes, bodies that can leave us feeling short and that we are not enough.
I would argue that the issue is not just about Social media but about the way Social media is used. We have to accept that social media is here for the foreseeable future and that is totally out of our control. What we can do is look at what we can control in terms of our use of it. For those of us who also use technology and rely on social media for our work, it is definitely a two edged sword. I do share content on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter which means i sometimes find myself spending too much time on my devices which sometimes leaves me feeling exhausted and mentally drained. So I do ensure that I now have boundaries in place to ensure that I don’t spend too much time on my device. I have time limits and I avoid checking social media apps first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Withdrawing from social media for some period of time is a good way of reconnecting with oneself and the people around you. I actually love technology and social media but I am keenly aware of its downsides especially when used by children. The potential for bullying and perusing inappropriate or upsetting content is magnified on social media. It can also create a false sense of reality, giving children wrong ideas about body image and appearance which can create issues with self-image and obsessions with one’s body especially with young children who do not yet have a strong sense of self.
A social media detox can be as short or long as we want it to be. The point of the detox is not to do it for the sake of doing it but to enable you to create some distance away from the fakeness and the emotional seesaw of social media. It may even be that instead of a detox, you may look at putting some more safeguards and time limits in place to limit the amount of time you spend on social media as a whole.
As a life coach, I know how important it is to work on improving self-love and self-esteem and this includes limiting activities that may challenge how you feel about yourself. So carefully think about how much time you spend on social media and whether the time could be better used elsewhere. Monitor how much time you spend weekly or monthly and adjust as necessary. Most phones now have an option that allows you to check how much time you spend on the phone and you can also check how much time you spend on individual social media applications as this can help pinpoint become more aware of where you need to make changes.
If someone you follow makes you uncomfortable or leaves you feeling envious, jealous or dissatisfied with your own life, please unfollow them. Remember who you engage with on social media is up to you, you are in control
Social media can be a force for good if it is used properly, follow people who inspire you or who are doing good things in the world.
Uninstall an application if you find yourself unable to stop yourself scrolling, once it is off your phone, it is easier to wean yourself off it.
Have clear boundaries for when you are on the phone and when you switch off.
What you do in the morning can affect the rest of your day, avoid the temptation to scroll first thing in the morning. Even if its just some negative or upsetting news that you catch or a particularly upsetting video or rant, this can upset the balance of your mood at the start of the day which could ultimately affect the rest of your day
Same thing for nighttime, I always remind people that struggle with depression and anxiety in particular, that the images you see and what you hear are particularly important especially if you struggle to sleep. The worst thing you can do is watch something that is scary, violent, upsetting before you go to bed as this can elevate your stress hormones and could leave you awake worrying all night. I used to watch the 10 o’clock news as a habit for many years before I went to bed and soon learnt that this would leave me hyped up or agitated if I heard some particularly negative news and have now stopped doing this. It is also why i muted a lot of the Covid news after a while as the constant drip feeding of negative news can really wreak havoc with your mood.
Finally, remember that ultimately, you have control over how much time you use social media and how you use it. If you start to think it is affecting your mental health and wellbeing then a social media detox may be the best decision you could make. The less time you spend on your phone, the more time you will have to focus on what is actually happening in your life and to enjoy the people around you.