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Social Media Breaks and Why They Are Necessary

Social media breaks can be good for our mental health and social life.

It is no secret that the social media frenzy has become out of control and studies are now showing that social media use can lead to depression, low self-esteem, body image issues, anxiety, social isolation, and the list goes on. It can even perpetuate eating disorders and self-harm behaviors. On the flip side, social media can bring communities together and can be an engaging platform to meet new friends however the balance can be easily skewed. I published a piece on social media and happiness awhile back and how social media is basically a distraction from a distraction. We are constantly comparing ourselves through social media, looking at stranger’s highlight reels and developing a sense of FOMO because our lives are not as adventurous or romantic.

But we all know social media is a tiny sliver of reality, the best of the best days and in a way, a falsified image that we want to portray to others. So should we just take a long purge? Delete our social media altogether? Or cut back and limit our screen time? At times I have thought about deleting my own personal social media accounts, giving myself a break from the distractions, spending more time engaging with people in real life and diving in deeper to my career. Although I have not fully taken the plunge, I do go on social media breaks quite often and I strive to make more of an effort to stay off my phone, especially when I am adventuring in the outdoors or spending time with people in real life who I care about. Below are some tips and tricks (that actually work) that I use to break away from social media:

Put your phone down and out of reach

I often find that if my phone is in another room, then I won’t have the urge to grab it. Keeping your phone out of reach is especially important when you are around other people. Nobody wants to hang out with you in person if you are constantly on your phone. Sure sometimes we may have to answer a quick phone call or respond to a work email but when it becomes a habit, then others will become annoyed. Some of my friends and I have a pact where when we go out to dinner, we put our phones face down in a pile on the table and whoever touches their phone first buys a round of drinks or pick up the dinner bill. If you are hanging out with the people you care about and respect then there is no reason why you would want to be on your phone in the first place. Out of sight, out of mind is a great way to detach from social media.

Set limits by tracking your social media time

There are tons of apps out there that can track your social media time and help monitor and control how much time you spend on Facebook and Instagram. Set a goal for yourself, maybe one hour in the morning or one hour at night and if you find that you are not adhering to your goal then download an app that will help you set limits on your phone so you take healthy breaks from social media.

Turn off notifications and set virtual boundaries

Turn off all social media notifications on your phone so you don’t feel triggered to check your Instagram or Snapchat whenever you receive a new notification. You can also organize your "iPhone desktop" so that your favorite apps are not the first thing you see. By making it so these applications are not front and center, you minimize the temptation.

Set “phone free zones”

Pick areas in your home where you are not allowed to be on your phone. This may be the dining room table during meals or in your bedroom before you go to bed as bright lights and technology can interrupt your sleep.

Schedule “social media free days”

Maybe it is every Sunday or maybe it is the entire weekend where you actively decided not to check or engage in your social media accounts. These social media free days can allow you to spend more time socializing with others, engaging in hobbies and being productive.

Delete social media apps from your smartphone

Many of my friends have deleted Facebook and Instagram off of their phone and therefore can only check their social media on their computer when they are at home. This allows them to live in the moment when they are out and about instead of constantly feeling the urge to check their phones and disengage in the present.

Respond offline

Did Facebook just tell you that it is your friend’s birthday? Skip the “Happy, birthday!” wall post and pick up the phone. If a friend just got engaged, resist the urge to send a tweet or a Facebook message and instead mail a card. Both these actions will be more meaningful to the recipient.

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