Today, one in five Millennials reports depression, compared to 16 percent of Generation X and Baby Boomers. If you are a Millennial, life is certainly too precious for such a somber statistic—one that demands a solution. But what can you do if you are having this experience? Go to therapy? Create more earning potential and take on less debt? Maybe go on a thrilling Radical Sabbatical to gain perspective? As it turns out, your solution might lie in plain sight. One of the key contributors to this depression, according to prolific author and speaker Simon Sinek, is predisposition to social media.
Do you find yourself frequently scrolling through your Facebook feed? Are you delighted each time your phone signals a notification? You can blame your brain. Recent research reveals that a dopamine-induced loop is the culprit behind your obsession with social media. With the internet at your fingertips from virtually anywhere at any time, you have the instant gratification of your natural impulse to seek pleasure. As a result, it is easier to form an attachment to sites like Twitter and engage in the compulsion to check our newsfeed and notifications.
But what is the correlation to depression? Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh reported heavy social media users are 2.7 times more likely to experience depression than those who use it sparingly or not at all. When you feed your mind with images of people who present highly idealized versions of themselves to the world, you often experience feelings of envy and the distorted pretense that you aren’t happy, attractive or successful enough. Enter depression, which often goes hand in hand with lower self-esteem, drive and performance—three key ingredients to living a life of joy and success.
The good news is you can let go of your dependence on social media and thus end the cycle of self-sabotage without giving it up altogether. There are five key ways to get your mind to embrace being unplugged while moving toward your goals and living life:
1. Assess Your Social Media Usage. Social media is generally a mindless activity, and mindless activities have a funny way of unconsciously creeping up on you. A few likes here and a couple of status updates there can quickly add up. So, spend one day keeping track of how much time you spend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, etc. If you exceed one hour in that span, use your phone’s countdown timer to limit yourself—setting aside three or four increments of 15-minutes per day.
2. Unfollow people and accounts that serve you no purpose. From politically divisive Facebook friends to the impossibly toned fitness models, the people to whom you are exposed can have powerful effects on your emotional and mental well-being. If certain social media posts elicit unpleasant feelings of envy or inadequacy, simply click unfollow. If you believe some posts could potentially be harmful or offensive to others, there is also the option to report the perpetrators.
3. Say goodbye to phone apps. If checking your Twitter or Facebook feed is an automatic response to waiting in line at the grocery store, then delete the apps from your phone. You can still access them on your computer. For smartphone-only apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, turn off notifications to lessen your attachment to them.
4. Use your free time wisely. Instead of turning to social media to distract yourself, read the news, play a brain-boosting game or perhaps learn a new language. There are hundreds of refreshing apps that expand your mind in a fun way. Better yet, why not download an enriching book or start listening to a life-changing podcast? You’ll become a better version of yourself every day without changing a thing.
5. Take time off on a regular basis. Though daunting, spending a weekend sans social media has a myriad of benefits. The fear of missing out (FOMO) will likely cease, allowing you to take pleasure in your present space. Life is happening right in front of you, but if your face is in your phone, you miss out on experiences that bring you authentic fulfillment. During this time away, it will be important to note how many times you have the urge to hop online, which forces awareness. For those of you whose careers are intertwined with social media, simply schedule your posts ahead of time using services like Hootsuite or Buffer.
Using the techniques above, you will soon realize that the best things in life happen behind the screens. When you find freedom from social media, you will also find the time and energy to create the personal and professional life of your dreams. And let’s face it—some of you are reacting to this advice with a self-actualized inability to back away from the phone. Deal. Maybe you can take a courageous Radical Sabbatical and put all of your positive adventures out there for all your friends and loved ones to see. That is, if you have time or are even interested amidst all the fun you are having.
Laura Berger, PCC and Glen Tibaldeo, PMP, CPA are authors and popular speakers at national conferences and for Fortune companies. Glen is a Business Transformation Leader and screenwriter for Radical Sabbatical, and Laura is an Executive Coach, both for the Berdeo Group LLC. Their Bestseller Radical Sabbatical is described by Dave Barry as "the funniest book I have ever held in my hands" and is available on Amazon, kobo, Barnes and Noble, and at other major bookstores.