How to quit, one bit at a time.
Social media seems to be taking over more and more of our lives. These days, it’s not just Facebook for keeping in touch with old friends, it’s Instagram for lying about your lifestyle, Twitter for getting into political slanging matches and Linkedin for over complicating the job-search process. That’s before you even consider other sites that function as social in the digital world, such as Reddit and Depop.
There’s a lot to keep up with, and increasingly, social media is being blamed for the rising levels of depression and anxiety in teens and adults. Being exposed on Instagram and Facebook, to a constant point of comparison; as people post pictures of their new babies and statuses about the amazing concert they’re at, can leave you feeling inadequate and jealous. It can be hard to remember that the lives we envy on social media are just as flawed and ordinary as our own. It’s no wonder that Social Media Anxiety Disorder has been recognised as a real mental health condition by the ADAA.
On the other hand, social media has some undeniable benefits that for many, outweigh the problems. Social media enables many people to make connections they might otherwise go without either due to their social anxiety or factors such as distance. Social media also helps to spread awareness very quickly.
When you hold your phone in your hand, you are holding a television, several newspapers, a pen and paper, a teleprinter and, of course, a telephone. These multiple functions feed into making social media really useful as a mode to connect. Sharing facebook statuses and adding a hashtag to your tweets, ensure that news reaches a wide audience quickly; which can be really useful.
So, whether you want to get rid of social media from your life entirely or you just want to cut down on your usage, the following tips are for you:
1. Don’t take your phone or tablet into your bedroom
If you need an alarm to wake up, then buy yourself an old-fashioned alarm clock. If you listen to audio-books to fall asleep, then get a cd player. Either way, charge your smart devices in the kitchen or sitting room overnight, so you can’t check your apps when you should be trying to sleep or waking up. This will cut down on a huge amount of your mindless social media scrolling and now that you’re no longer looking at a cold, blue, melatonin-inhibiting light before bed, you will have a more satisfying and better quality of sleep.
2. Be honest with yourself about how much time you spend on your social media sites.
If you have an iPhone then turn on the screen time tracking function and keep an eye on your usage. When you have an idea of how much time you are using, you can set a reasonable goal for cutting it down. In the same vein, be honest with yourself about what you like about social media. Do you like scrolling mindlessly through Instagram or do you like sending memes to your friends? When you’ve worked out what social media actually does for you, it will be easier to disengage from what you don’t need.
3. Make the choice that you are going to be present.
Look at the world around you and engage with the people you are with. Make an effort to notice things – what colour is your friend’s t-shirt? What song is that playing in the cafe? Look at the flowers growing by the side of the road. When you consciously allow yourself to be captivated by your surroundings, you’ll feel more fulfilled and peaceful than if you’ve been scrolling through your apps. This might take practice but it will be worth it.
4. Delete your apps.
This will stop you from being able to mindlessly go through them whenever you have a dull moment. Then when you reach a time of day, that you have designated as okay to re-engage with social media, you can reinstall them. Just make sure you delete them again after. You will find that putting the extra step of having to re-install the applications in your way will put you off checking your social media accounts. The less you check them, the more you will realise how little you need them.
5. Bring a book! Give yourself something else to do.
Instead of getting your phone out every time you’re in a queue or when you get on the train, get a book out instead. Not only will this help you cut down on your social media consumption but reading is also very good for you. It will improve your vocabulary, your memory and your analytical skills amongst many other good things.
When you manage to kick your social media habit, you will find you have more time and better self-esteem. Even just cutting down on your social media engagement will give you more opportunity to be productive elsewhere in your life. Give it a try, there’s nothing to lose.
Leah is a literature graduate from Bristol. Likes: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, My So Called Life, Goodfellas, and Ally McBeal.