I am a millennial psychiatrist. I grew up in the era of smartphones filled with apps that have helped me stay connected all hours of the day. I know there was a time before the Internet, but frankly, I don’t remember much of it. I’m sure it was nice, but at this point, I can safely say I’ve used social media for as long as I can recall. Social media has many perks – I can see what my family is doing, where my friends are going on vacation, what my co-workers are up to on the weekends. Sure, too much social media is bad for you but, as an adult mental health specialist, how much of an effect does it really have in my life?
To explore the effect of social media in my personal life, I decided to delete ALL social media applications from my phone for a week. When I say Social Media, I mean the four big giants — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Here are five things I learned:
1. Social Media can create significant cravings for constant connection.
The first three days without social media was hard! I touched my phone a lot during the day. I didn’t realize how frequently I reached for my phone to open these apps until I no longer had the option. Before deleting my accounts, my instinctive reaction during downtime was to look down and check my phone and passively scroll through the apps as a way to fill every empty moment. When a convenient escape from the moment was within reach, this encouraged a default reaction of opening the apps for new content, something more interesting. As a result, we have created constant interference during daily activities by offering a short blast of dopamine.
2. We can all use boredom to become creative.
Remember the last time you were truly bored? The type of boredom that did not result in picking up the phone? I certainly cannot. Boredom creates space for creativity and imagination: new activities, new games, reading, writing, or finding a new hobby. Social media eliminates boredom. Without the apps to scroll, I’ve had to become more creative with my time. I suddenly found more time to read. I finally have the time to listen to new podcasts.
3. We can reconnect by disconnecting.
Without the world of content of “likes” and “story views” I’ve felt out of the loop. With social media, we always feel connected without making any active attempt. Passive scrolling gives the feeling of being connected without a truly meaningful experience. By disconnecting from the world, I’ve been forced to reach out to the ones who really matter. Conversations have been more personal and authentic. It was nice to be genuinely surprised by some news without saying “yeah I already saw that on your story.” I lived in the moment without the chaos of notifications in the background.
4. Social media breaks require you to process your feelings first.
The internet world has been full of news since the quarantine started. COVID19, racial tension, the upcoming election, the death of Ruth Ginsburg- there is something new happening every day. When there is breaking news, my social media stories are filled with my online friends’ reactions to the news. Sometimes there’s just not enough time and space to process my feelings. It was nice to take a step back after finding new information and ask myself what I think. It’s undeniably important to focus on your thoughts and feelings before focusing on others.
5. Life without social media can be quite peaceful.
During the seven-day break, I felt a little less stressed and a little more positive about life, without the chaos of social media. There has been an automatic focus from what everyone else is doing to what I’m doing. I’m not sure how I can live without social media, but the break was a positive experience overall. I learned a thing or two about myself, felt some genuine, raw emotions and, most of all, I learned that taking a break from social media is something we should all use for peace of mind.
QUOTE FOR THE WEEK
“By not posting, you’re posting. That IS the message.”
by Emy Fernandez, MBA, Life Coach