Designed to be addictive, it may come as no surprise that social media has a reinforcing nature. After all, most of us tend to find ourselves coming back to our apps throughout the day. Did you know that browsing social media activates your brain’s reward response, releasing dopamine during all that scrolling time? As a result, like many addictions, social media is associated with anxiety, depression. To top it all off, during a time when social connections are suffering, social media can be subconsciously used as a replacement for meaningful connections. The ironic result? Increased loneliness, fear of missing out, envy, and even jealousy.
How do you know what your social media limits are? How much is simply too much? Before cutting it out completely, it can be helpful to monitor your behavior first. Experts suggest taking note of how the use of your social accounts impact you, and then planning how to use them as a result of such.
Here’s an experiment to try at home:
Rate your emotions on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the most intense, before and after using social media sites at the same time every day for one week. If you notice you feel less happy after your social media use, consider implementing some boundaries to reduce your use. Here are some boundaries to try right away:
- Pick your time slot for consuming. Within the first hour of waking up, avoiding checking social media. When you jump to your phone first thing in the morning, your thoughts and focus are immediately hijacked by the new messages, emails, and notifications that you’ve received, leaving the control of your stress and anxiety up to others. Leave the control of your thoughts up to you, and only you at the start of you day.
- Don’t scroll aimlessly. It’s easy to get lost in the ‘gram, TikTok, or your Facebook feed when you don’t keep track of how much time you’re spending scrolling. Keep an eye on the time so that you don’t get lost for too long, or let other parts of life fall by the wayside. Take note of your weekly screen time to stay on top of this all. You might be surprised!
- Use your ‘do not disturb’ during down time. When it’s time to shut off, relax, spend time connecting with friends or family IRL, or get to work, give yourself the uninterrupted space to do so. Turn your notifications off, or set your phone to ‘do not disturb’.
- Consume consciously. To start, weed out accounts that don’t teach you something, inspire you, or make you feel good. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others as we scroll through our feeds. One study recently discovered that making both upward and downward comparisons to others made subjects feel worse.
Think you’re ready to quit cold turkey? Studies have found that taking a break from Facebook helps boost psychological well-being. So go ahead and give it a try to see how you feel! You might find that you’re able to make more space for connecting IRL.
After all, virtual friend time doesn’t have the therapeutic effect as time with real friends.