6 signs you might need to unplug and ditch social media
“If users are spending too much time online on social media sites, it can be difficult to keep perspective on what real life is,” one expert says.
On Wednesday, Alec Baldwin deactivated his Twitter account. In a video posted to his Instagram, the actor, 62, explained he used Twitter as a news aggregator but will be moving on because it “wasn’t worth” the “unpleasantness” and the ”harshness.”
“Everybody would say to me, well, just ignore all these haters. The problem with Twitter is, Twitter is a lot of haters,” he added.
Baldwin is not alone, and in fact, some stars have taken it a step further. Earlier this year, Pamela Anderson shared her “last post on Instagram, Twitter (and) Facebook.” On Feb. 2, Elon Musk announced to his 48.3 million followers that he was going ”off Twitter for a while.” And on on Feb. 27, ”Bachelorette” star Rachel Lindsay disabled her Instagram account, joining other celebrities who have taken hiatuses from these platforms or said goodbye completely.
Experts say we could all try taking a page out of their playbook.
While social media has its benefits — such as building networks and maintaining contact with others — too much time on these platforms is linked to depression, anxiety and stress, explains Dr. Shahla Modir, chief medical officer at All Points North Lodge, an addiction treatment center.
Modir says some people can develop an unhealthy relationship with social media platforms and start to internalize “likes” by creating a connection between online responses and their self-esteem.
In Anderson’s post, she described the liberating experience of stepping away from her screen.
“I am free,” she wrote. “Lets hope you find the strength and inspiration to follow your purpose and try not to be seduced by wasted time.”
Digital wellness expert Mark Ostach says he encourages people to “think about the micro-levels of digital trauma that exist when you quickly check your social media in between a conversation or right before you go to bed,” including digesting things like politically polarizing headlines or traumatic posts about a friend’s health. “It happens in a moment’s notice, and I believe it’s causing some low levels of trauma to what we think and how we feel.”
So how do you know if it’s time for you to deactivate Instagram, Twitter or Facebook? We asked experts to weigh in on what signs to look for and how to form healthier habits with social media.
Signs it’s time to take a social media break
If you’re comparing yourself to others online
“FOMO (the fear of missing out) can trigger feelings of anxiety,” Modir explains. “The highlights people present are interpreted as their real life not their ‘reel life.’ If users are spending too much time online on social media sites, it can be difficult to keep perspective on what real life is.”
If you’re compulsively checking your phone
Modir says a warning sign is checking your “notifications and messages every hour in a way that affects your engagements, occupation or social relationships.”
“‘Likes’ can be very addictive, causing a dopamine hit to the brain of feel-good chemicals that reinforce like-seeking behavior and compulsive checking,” she says.
If your real-life interactions are suffering
Modir says this could come in the form of “decreased social interaction with friends and family in favor of social media engagement” or people in your life have “complained about your social media usage interfering with social interaction.”
Ostach says another indicator is if your interactions start to rely on social media, including finding yourself “recycling news headlines in your conversations.”
“That often sounds like, ‘Today on Facebook I read,’ or ‘Today on Instagram I saw.’” he explains. “It’s almost endangering our ability to think for ourselves and just develop our own casual, organic conversations.”
If you wake up (or go to sleep) feeling off
Another sign is “when you wake up worried about what you saw on social media the night before,” according to Ostach. This is often linked to late-night “doom scrolling,” which he describes as a “horrible habit that often leads to night terrors or an unrestful night’s sleep.”
Modir adds that late night social media engagement that disrupts your sleeping schedule is also a sign it may be time to set some boundaries with your device.
If you start viewing yourself negatively
Jermaine Graves, a licensed clinical professional counselor based in Washington, D.C., says it’s time to take a break when social media causes someone to “view themselves in a negative light, causing feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness or depression.”
If you feel increasingly anxious, depressed or lonely using social media
“Social media can trigger competitive feelings, which cause anxiety in the user, leaving them to feel like they need to keep up to meet the social expectations of the people they follow, which may be unrealistic and based in fantasy,” Modir says.
Benefits of unplugging from social media
“Unplugging allows people to be more mindful and present in their actual lives leaving opportunity for new hobbies and self care,” Modir says. “Disconnecting can also improve sleep and productivity since you’d be reducing distraction and exposure to blue light.”
Ostach says he views social media consumption similar to food consumption, encouraging people to be mindful of the “digital calories” that they’re consuming throughout the day.
“You wouldn’t eat three donuts, a cheeseburger and drink a Coca-Cola before bed, so why are you scrolling in bed, consuming sometimes empty digital calories?” he said, adding that there are “healthy digital calories,” including sending someone an encouraging message or leaving a comment that demonstrates support and compassion.
Ways to find healthy balance with social media
Be mindful of your consumption
Ostach says a good first step is to “take an inventory of the habits and rhythms of your day” and try to find “strike that balance of our physical realities and our virtual realities.”
If you’ve been stuck on a screen all day, Ostach advises you “make sure you include a walk outside or some exercise.”
Choose a time
“A way to create boundaries can be as simple as only checking in on social media for a particular amount of time at a specific time of day [and] using the built in social media apps to monitor time spent,” she says.
Graves suggests limiting your time on social media to 2 hours a day.
Say no to notifications
“Turning the notifications off so they don’t pop up and distract the user throughout the day can be helpful,” Modir says.
Take a digital fast
Ostach suggests stepping away from your screens for at least 1 hour a day.
If you’re looking to set a bigger boundary for yourself, Modir suggests removing “all the social media apps from one’s smartphone and keep them restricted to an outside source like an iPad that limits the access to specific times.”
No sleep-time screens
“End your digital day one hour before bed,” Ostach says. Modir suggests turning your phone off two hours before bed and leaving it off all night.
Ostach says movement is a core attribute to leading a healthy life, which isn’t achieved through social media usage. “I’ve heard ‘scrolling is the new smoking’ or ‘sitting is the new smoking.’ Those are just clever ways to say, boy, we spend a lot of time sitting and scrolling. How do we go back to what our bodies need?” he says.
Make eye contact
Ostach advises to truly connect with others in conversation, “which is indicative that you’re fully present with whoever you’re with,” as opposed to half-listening while scrolling through your feed.
Have a break plan in mind
Ostach says our break from social media will “quickly relapse and we’ll find ourselves back into the scrolling” if we don’t have a plan in place.
He suggests replacing it with something meaningful, including a hobby, quality time with family or working out.
Read more at usatoday.com