5 Socially Savvy Smartphone Tips for the Holiday Season

Use your smartphone to enhance, not eclipse, your relationships.

Posted Nov 29, 2019

Stock Photo Secrets
Source: Stock Photo Secrets

Once again, Bing Crosby is crooning on every radio station, the grocery stores are spilling over with garland and bins of wrapping paper, and your social media feeds are filled with smiling faces of people in sequins sipping champagne. The holiday season is notoriously hard for anyone who is feeling lonely or left out, and the addition of smartphone-assisted FOMO might not help.

But take cheer, because you are not beholden to your smartphone. You can use it in ways that bolster rather than detract from your mental well-being during this heady time of year.

Below are five tips for doing so, sourced from the extensive research I did for writing my recent book on how social media is reshaping our collective social selves. 

Stock Photo Secrets
Source: Stock Photo Secrets

Tip 1: Be Active, Not Passive, in Your Use of Social Technology

Research is clear—if you’re going to use social media, do not lurk. Like, tweet, share, comment. Engage in a personal way. As a major review of the literature put it, "social network sites benefit their users when they are used to make meaningful social connections and harm their users through pitfalls such as isolation and social comparison when they are not."

Text a fond memory to your college roommate, post a picture of your grandmother's family recipe on your holiday table, share a video of your toddler singing Christmas carols to the dog.

Tip 2: Focus on One-on-One Interactions

Even better, engage in a personal way. Sharing a memory on your friend’s timeline is better than clicking like on their baby photos. Offer a sincere, tailored congratulations on good news rather than clicking “wow.” 

Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Tip 3: Seek Connection—Within and Outside Your In-Groups

Make a point this holiday season to reach out to people with whom you have lost touch. Set up a plan to engage with each other more often or more thoroughly. FaceTime with your mom, who won't be able to make the cross-country trek this year to spend the holidays with her grandchildren.

And as you prepare for resolution season, set some goals to use social media to diversify your viewpoints and news sources and to read the stories of people with a variety of experiences and backgrounds.

Tip 4: Don’t Engage in “Social Snacking”

Just like too many Cheez-Its can ruin your appetite for your more nourishing dinner, using social media to take the edge off your social needs can be unhealthy if it means you don’t then have more meaningful interactions with your loved ones. Don’t let a heart on Instagram substitute for a lunch date. For "social network sites may... open the door to loneliness if they are used for 'social snacking,' or temporary but illusory fulfillment of social needs." 

Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Tip 5: Practice Moderation

It is unlikely we could come up with a behavior that isn’t better practiced in moderation. Moreover, if you are peering at your handheld device the better part of your waking life, that means that you are not dedicating a healthy amount of hours to sleeping, cooking, spending time in green spaces, playing with your children, laughing with friends, being intimate with your significant other, or being productive. Set limits, and sometimes set aside your phone.

Sleep, go for long walks with cousins you rarely see, cook up a spice-scented storm in your kitchen to your favorite holiday music. 

I wish you a warm and bright holiday season!


Burke, M., & Kraut, R. E. (2016). The relationship between Facebook use and well-being depends on communication type and tie strength. Journal of computer-mediated communication, 21(4), 265-281.

Cavanagh, S.R. (2019). Hivemind: The new science of tribalism in our divided world. Grand Central Publishing.

Clark, J. L., Algoe, S. B., & Green, M. C. (2018). Social network sites and well-being: the role of social connection. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 27(1), 32-37.

Verduyn, P., Ybarra, O., Résibois, M., Jonides, J., & Kross, E. (2017). Do social network sites enhance or undermine subjective well‐being? A critical review. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11(1), 274-302.

Waytz, A., & Gray, K. (2018). Does online technology make us more or less sociable? A preliminary review and call for research. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(4), 473-491.