Over 3 billion of people around the world now use social media; with most joining in the last five to 10 years. As a result, most of us exist in an ‘always-on’ state of being. It was recently estimated that millennials check their phones up 150 times a day, meaning that we only really switch off when we sleep. Some people were concerned by these findings, others not surprised, but it has sparked a conversation about how much social media is impacting our lives.
At Raison d’Etre we believe it is important to have a healthy and mindful approach to social media, where people enjoy the positive interaction but are also able to disconnect and relax in their own space. Each individual must figure out how they want to live and how much they want to allow the internet and social media to be a part of their life. We would suggest practising Social Media Mindfulness by keeping a journal for a week or so, noting when you use social media, why and how it makes you feel. It is important to really focus on how long you use social media for each day then add up that time at the end of the week to think if it was really worth all of your time? Are there other things you would like to rather have time for?
Recent surveys and polls have proven that social media anxiety and depression is on the rise. Many people, especially teenagers find it hard to not look at social media for fear of missing out; however in reality those who spend too much time on social media end up feeling more isolated and with lower self-esteem.
While social media continues to grow, there has been a small minority who have taken a U-turn, deleted their social media and decided to completely disconnect. Going off the grid and eschewing society at large is not a new concept. In a globally-networked world, deleting all your social media accounts is a way to avoid the ‘pressure’ and choose to spend time focusing on things that make you happy rather than endlessly scrolling through what others are doing. More people are beginning to see that the only way to connect to themselves, friends, nature around them is to disconnect from social media.
But is it really possible to do a complete digital detox?
Anyone who decided to quit social media would have to make the decision as to where to draw the line with technology. Does quitting everything include not having a smartphone? Playing online games? Emails that are necessary for work? Or are you just talking about deleting Facebook and/or Instagram? The key is figuring out what is working for you, what isn’t and making your decision based on that. Ultimately if you are wasting too much time using Facebook or Twitter, limit your use or quit that platform.
Will going ‘off-grid’ become a real trend?
As social media use becomes more normal, people will have the choice to be more thoughtful about what they use and when and how they use it. Withdrawing altogether can be easier than trying to limit your use as it is very easy for ten minutes or staring, comparing and scrolling to turn into an hour. We are not sure how many people will choose to completely switch off, but we do hope that more people, especially those who experience negative effects, decide to spend less time on their phones.
Is there a certain type of person or personality that should avoid social media?
Those who suffer from low self-esteem, poor impulse control or a tendency toward addiction should pay attention to their social media use. Contrary to many peoples’ fears, social media does not always make someone more socially avoidant or isolated. In fact, it can do the opposite by providing access to people and resources. People who have problems with social media–whether it’s severe FOMO (fear of missing out), negative social comparison, or a need for validation or overuse–will have similar issues in other aspects of their life. Positive social media use may, in fact, be an indicator of future success given the need for self-control and goal-setting implied in controlling it. However many young users may struggle to find this balance of self-control and knowing when to unfollow or put the phone down.
Below is a list of rules and results taken from the website Digital Detox to help people who want to try and reduce their social media use:
Going on holiday used to be a time to recharge or get away from the office, but now that you can get WIFI on board cruise ships, 4G service on Mount Everest and new international data plans for just about every country in the world, it’s trickier than ever to leave work behind. This has people going out of their way to spend time without tech in order to truly relax.
It is no secret that our devices can be taxing on our physical and emotional well-being. The bright screens can undermine a good night’s rest, constant social media use is linked to depression, and waking up to a string of 3 a.m. e-mails from your boss could leave anyone stressed.
Large hotel chains like the Westin offer a Digital Detox Package, starting at €458 per night in Dublin, where they babysit your phone at the front desk for the weekend while you spend your time with print newspapers, massages, walking maps and a take-home tree planting kit.
While hotel packages offer a short breather from digital communication, other programs have a more immersive method of reconnecting people with IRL activities. Retreats such as Digital Detox, which works with different U.S. campgrounds, takes a Wet Hot American Summer approach to helping people recover from technology. It replaces Instagram, email and Facebook with yoga, meditation, typewriters and arts and crafts. A three-day session costs nearly $700. Read more about gadget-free vacations here.
While wellness companies and retreats are cashing in on those trying to escape their inboxes, some countries have already taken a stand against overbearing employers. A French law came into effect this year mandating that businesses larger than 50 people outline when staff should and should not be sending or answering e-mails to avoid burnouts and underpaying employees for working around the clock.
Although work texts and e-mails may be the main problem for some people, there are those whose reason for leaving their gadgets behind is private tech use. Whether it is social media or overwhelming group chats, technology has maybe given our friends too much access to us. One of the top New Year’s resolutions for 2017 was to cut down on social media use.
Notifications set off the chemical rewards system in our brains, which can make it hard to put down the phone. And even if you do, it may not be pleasant. The addictive nature can cause withdrawal symptoms among heavy users, similar to that of drug or alcohol. A recent BBC Panorama documentary interviewed key players in the tech world who agreed that social media has been partly designed to make people become addicted and admitted that they try to use it as little as possible.
It can be easy to overlook addictive social media use which is why monitoring your own behaviour is so important. For some it can have a negative effect on their well being but for others it can be a useful and tool for work and leisure.