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Negative Effects of Social Media and Seven Tips to Undo Them

New book reveals ways to have a better relationship with social media

Source: Pixabay

According to Goali Saedi Bocci, author of The Social Media Workbook for Teens, social media has pros and cons when it comes to our mental health. Indeed, after spending the last year researching and writing my new book, Outsmart Your Smartphone: Conscious Tech Habits for Finding Happiness, Balance, and Connection IRL, I too have a better understanding of the real negative effects of social media.

So how do we undo the negative effects of social media? Here are 7 quick tips:

1. Learn about your device-related behaviors

When people discover that I wrote a book on how to “Outsmart Your Smartphone”, the most common response I hear is: I know just the person who needs your book! Everyone seems to know someone who is on their phone too much... but we have a hard time seeing if we are the person who is on their phone too much. Smartphone addiction, like other addictions, can make us blind to our device-related behaviors.

So to start, interview someone you trust to ask them about your smartphone and social media habits. Ask these questions:

  • How does it affect you when I use social media or my phone?
  • When I am on social media a lot, does it change how I act around you?
  • How do you think it affects me when I use social media a lot?

Try to be open to the answers that come from these questions to see if your smartphone or social media habits are having negative effects on you.

2. Track your mood after engaging in digital and real-life experiences

Sometimes we forget how much we enjoy real-world experiences—and how much more we enjoy them than spending all our time on social media. As a reminder, start tracking your mood and well-being after a few real-world experiences and after a few social media sessions (take this well-being quiz to get a better idea of questions you can ask yourself to track your well-being). For example, you could track things like sense of meaning, loneliness, or sense of purpose.

Ask yourself:

  • Did this experience make you feel how you want to feel?
  • What negative effects did using social media have for you?
  • Might there be another activity you could engage in that would make you feel better?

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers—you're just trying to get a better understanding of what makes you feel good.

3. Take a social media pause

Sometime when you would normally use your phone, simply do nothing and just be in the moment. Notice the discomfort. See if you can figure out why you're uncomfortable. Then explore other things you could do to relive the discomfort.

4. Journal instead of posting

If you're someone who likes to post on social media a lot, shift your mindset by journalling instead. When we journal, we no longer have to think about how our post is received by an audience and it can help us to be more authentic. So give journaling a try and see if this remedies some of the negative effects of posting on social media.

5. Exercise (or commute) without earbuds

Consider taking a break from always having something to distract you by leaving your earbuds/headphones at home. By giving yourself these few moments to be mindful you may be able to quickly get a boost in happiness.

6. Try a tech-free weekend

In addition to taking short breaks from specific technologies, it’s often also helpful to periodically take more substantial and intentional breaks from social media and other technology by doing a tech-free weekend. This is where you disconnect from all technology—no phones, TVs, tablets, or computers—and instead actively spend this time reconnecting with everything else in your life that has been neglected—for example, your emotional health, your body, your relationships, your passions, your creativity, your community, and your planet.

7. Set boundaries with friends

Take a moment to decide how and when you want to use social media. Ask yourself:

  • Do you want to just use social media for 10 minutes per day?
  • Do you want to take a #SocialMediaTimeout?
  • Do you want quit social media all together?

Once you have decided what to do, make an announcement on your social media to let your friends, family, and community know what you're doing, how it will affect them, and when you'll be available (and unavailable) on social media. By telling your social media community about your plans, you’ll be more likely to reach your goal. This simple little motivation trick helps because it increases accountability—you’ll feel more inclined to do what you said you were going to do because you’ve told other people about it.

More from Tchiki Davis, Ph.D.
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