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Social Media

I Left My Phone and Now I'm Happy

Put away the phone and social media to reflect and connect with others.

Key points

  • Depression, anxiety and poor physical health result without good social connections, friendships, and support.
  • Social media keeps us versed on the happenings of the social world but is correlated with depressed affect.
  • Put away the phone and social media from time to time to self-reflect and improve real-life connections.
Source: S. Geldart
The "cherished" device
Source: S. Geldart

In a digital world we naturally assume we can use the beloved device for staying connected to a wide social circle. Indeed, social connections are important; without friendships and the sharing of interests and stories, poor health might result. Depression, anxiety, and overall poor emotional health occur without the support and companionship of others. Physical problems arise when feeling isolated and down, such as developing high blood pressure, tension headaches and disrupted sleep.

But the problem is that the loyal device is hardly ever used for the purpose of boosting social and emotional connections. On the contrary, it is routinely used to get a glimpse of the (often mundane) happenings around us and what fellow citizens are up to. Ironically, the chance of becoming more connected with the social world is better when, every so often, you make the effort to deliberately detach yourself from your device and social media. Let’s see why your cherished device ought to be tucked away, at least temporarily.

Benefits of Not Staying Linked Online

You will gain better insight about yourself when you voluntarily distance yourself from the phone and social media. In addition, you will gain a better perspective of people and what they need and desire. Always know that having a positive and healthy connection with other people is possible despite being separated from the phone for short periods of time.

Keep in mind that the internet permits a wealth of valuable information, presented quickly and effortlessly. Is it easy to break away from tech? The simple answer is no, not really. Living in a fast-paced society means we get easily caught up with the external world and try to make things happen fast. Multi-tasking and an auto-pilot mode of thinking are commonplace in a break-neck, highly stimulating environment, but the effects on health are not good. Burnout is often reported in today’s workplace. Anxiety is the most common psychiatric disorder in adults and children. Perfectionism is a side effect of viewing perfectly happy lives on social platforms rather than seeing people’s actual, less interesting selves in real life. The risk of teenage depression increases as social media use increases.

For everyone’s own good, now is the time to put away the phone and social media and focus on you and where you want to be. In private space away from continual messaging, emails, and social feeds, you have a better chance of reflecting on yourself. Think about personal goals and decide whether you are anywhere close to achieving them. Be self-aware and change your path so that you will become happier and more satisfied in life.

Change How You Use Your Device

To self-reflect and make positive change, first you must carefully consider how you are utilizing your device(s) and what should change. Try these strategies to reduce your use of devices and social media:

  • Scale back on social feeds on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other platforms. Cut back on unimportant messaging. Ask yourself: am I spending too much time on my device? Have expectations about how much time you should devote to useless texting or scrolling newsfeeds.
  • Try something different offline to reward yourself when you have a break or free time. Pick up a good book from the bookstore or library. (On that note, pick up my self-help book, Alone Time, for tips on how to embrace personal space and solitude for better health and well-being.) Try mindfulness exercises, like guided meditation, abdominal breathing, or journal writing. Listen to music, tidy up the home, or cuddle a loveable pet. It might be fun to try a craft for interest and self-expression. Make yourself a special drink or healthy snack.
  • Unless you are waiting for an important text or urgent call, put the device on mute or remove it from arm’s reach. If you are brave, consider turning it off for a period of time. Don’t be enticed by hearing pings on instant messaging or by observing the bright blue dot indicating new email. Understand when the device is not necessary to accomplish tasks like performing your job, laying on a beach, cycling on a nearby trail, and so on.
  • Place the smartphone on a charger in a different room or in a drawer while doing chores. Unless your goal is to find a good recipe online there is no need to have it close to the cooking area while preparing meals. Similarly, there is no need to have it sitting in your back pocket while mowing the lawn, sweeping the floor, or doing laundry. Besides, it is important to know that concentration and focus get disrupted each time you check the phone, making undesirable chores that much longer to finish.
  • Each time you get a notification, resist the urge to check it. Emails and social updates will still be there so don’t be tempted to check immediately. A quick reaction sends a message to the brain to release dopamine — which gives a good feeling and makes you want more of that feeling. But you can end the cycle once you stop the habit of checking and rechecking your device.

Conclusions

Now is a good time to evaluate how much time the phone is on your body when you are doing everyday jobs that do not require the phone at all. Remember that there is no need for perpetual virtual connection. Realize that time away from the cherished device gives you an opportunity to think about things without being bombarded by other opinions and attitudes. Give yourself some alone time to look within and improve yourself without being influenced or overwhelmed by what others are doing or professing.

It may sound ironic, but taking time away from social media has the advantage of enhancing social and emotional connectivity. Make a deliberate attempt to put away the phone while doing things in the company of others, like chatting with family members in the living room or watching movies on Netflix with your partner. When visiting with friends at a pub or dinner party, keep the phone in your car or on mute in your purse. The only thing worse than not listening is acting as if you are listening when you are otherwise hooked on social feeds. You will want significant others to know that you are attentive and respectful, not disruptive and distracted. Suffice it to say, your interest should be in quality time with loved ones and savouring the social experience.

References

Cacioppo, J.T., & Cacioppo, S. (2014). Social relationships and health: The toxic effects of perceived social isolation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 8(2), 58-72.

Geldart, S. (2024). Alone Time. Embracing solitude for health and well-being. Summer Hill, Australia: Rockpool Publishing.

Liu, M., Kamper-DeMarco, K.E., Zhang, J., Xiao, J., Dong, D., & Xue, P. (2022). Time spent on social media and risk of depression in adolescents: A dose-response meta-analysis. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(9), 5164.

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