Social media is ruining my life. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement, but the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that I’ve been spending more time on social media, staring deeply into my phone. It’s gotten to be a bit of a problem.
I’m not here to say that social media is evil. I don’t think that it is. I do think we all waste too much time on it though. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, and yet we stare endlessly at it, wait for picture perfect moments, and spend way too much time watching videos of cute puppies.
I think my biggest problem with social media is that we sometimes don’t admit the influence that it has on our lives. We’re spending a lot of our time on it. An article I found said that the average person spends 2 hours a day on social media, and teenagers are spending up to nine hours a day on it, which is absolutely insane! Anything that we spend that much time on is having an influence on us, for good or bad.
I’m not claiming to be a huge expert. I’ve never done a scientific study on social media. However, I’ve noticed the impact that social media has had on my own life, which has mostly been negative. Here are a few ways that social media has tried to ruin my life:
1. Gives me an excuse/easy way to procrastinate
This is particularly pronounced if you’re in school of any kind. You open your computer to start your research. You stare at the home page of EBSCO host (or whatever research database you have access to). Then it hits you. You totally forgot to wish your Great Aunt Mary happy birthday on Facebook, so you open a new tab to Facebook. You share your birthday message to Great Aunt Mary. Then you see that Great Aunt Mary posted this great video of puppies running last week. You watch that. Then you start scrolling through your feed looking for more puppy videos.
Two hours later, you’ve watched lots of puppies, found out what all your high school friends are up to, and shared a meme with your mom, but you’ve done no research (unless somehow your paper is about puppies, which is highly unlikely). Now, I don’t think social media is the source of all procrastination (after all, procrastination was a thing LONG before even MySpace or AOL Instant Messenger), but still it makes it a heck of a lot easier.
2. Increases my FOMO
I’ve always had FOMO, or fear of missing out. I don’t know if it just comes naturally to me or it has something to do with being homeschooled, but regardless, it’s a problem. I’m always afraid I’m not doing the right thing or that I’m breaking unspoken rules or I’m not doing what “everybody” is doing. I’m also paranoid about being left out. Social media is like the worst thing for me on the FOMO front. I start to wonder if I’m doing all the wrong things. Are people not inviting me to parties and events that I’m seeing them post on Instagram? Why not? What’s wrong with me? Did I insult them? Why am I not doing the fun things that everyone else seems to be doing?
3. Makes me feel like a loser
This has been a constant problem with social media and one of the reasons I stepped away from it for awhile. There’s nothing more depressing when you’re wondering why no one wants to date you or when you’ve just been broken up with than getting on Facebook and seeing that 15 of your closest friends and 29 acquaintances have either gotten engaged or married.
I thought that was just an issue with relationships and things would get better after I got married. No such luck. Now everyone is posting cutesy baby announcements and pictures of themselves with their new home or car or dog or whatever. I made it even worse for myself by entering the world of blogging. This blogger is getting a book published (my heart’s desire currently). That girl is getting free stuff because she’s got like a billion Instagram followers. There’s such a huge potential for the comparison game on social media.
4. Feeds my nosy desires to know what everyone is up to
I’m going to admit something here. I’m super nosey. I like eavesdropping, even on people I don’t know. Now, it’s not a malicious thing. I don’t want to know your business so I can tell everyone else. No, I want to know just because I like knowing things and also, sometimes, because I want to know how I can help/pray. Regardless, social media is like crack cocaine for nosey people.
I can now Facebook stalk people who were frienemies with my sister in high school, just for the heck of it. I can check up on that boy I had a crush on in college and see how his life is going. Do I need to know any of these things about any of these people? Absolutely not. Do I still take the time to find these things out sometimes? Yes, and it’s a total waste of my time and not helpful to them or me.
5. Life is judged by how social media worthy it is
It didn’t really happen unless it’s on Facebook? Am I right? No. This is a sad thing in life. We’re now judging our experiences by whether or not they’re post worthy. We go on vacations and spend so much time trying to get the right pictures that we don’t really enjoy the trip. The trip itself can be boiled down to a few pictures. We spend less time making memories and more time taking selfies. When we’re worried about finding a picture perfect moment, we ruin the moment in a way. We don’t take the time to really let the experience sink in. We don’t take the time to really experience it to the fullest because we turn to a camera, memorializing something that’s still in the process of happening. I’m not totally against taking pictures to remember things, but I’ve even noticed myself having this post-centered thinking, which bothers me.
6. Pulls me out of the moment
This is the biggest issue I have with social media right now. I’ve noticed I’m spending a lot of time staring at my phone when I could be doing something with my husband. I shared on Instagram and Facebook that I had a huge jump in my page views last week because of a couple of pins I put out on Pinterest. That’s super great and I’m excited about it. However, now I’m totally obsessing over Pinterest. I want to make sure I keep pinning great stuff so people will continue to see all my stuff. That’s not bad, but it is robbing me of valuable time that I could be spending elsewhere.
Once again, I’m not saying that social media is evil. I’m simply saying that we need to use wisdom as we interact with it (as we should have wisdom when we interact with pretty much anything else in this world).
So what do we do about social media? I have a few suggestions.
1. Know yourself.
This is probably the most important thing. You need to be aware of your weaknesses when it comes to social media. If you don’t know what your weaknesses are, you won’t know how to avoid the pitfalls. Pay attention to how your time on social media is affecting you. How is it making you feel? Are you using it to procrastinate? When are you turning to it? If you can figure out the bad things about social media or the things that are traps for you, you can also start to figure out creative solutions to avoid those things.
2. Turn off notifications
I remember when I first started texting with Zach after we met. Every time my Blackberry Pearl lit up that red notification light (old school, right?), I got a tiny shot of endorphins. I didn’t know that’s what was happening at the time, but I can recognize it now. Notifications can either cause us great pleasure or great pain. We become addicted to knowing that something is happening. So turn them off. It’s super easy. You don’t need to know the exact moment when someone liked your post. It’s honestly not important. You don’t need your phone constantly begging for you attention either, which is really what notifications are.
3. Delete the app
If you find you’re spending a lot of time scrolling through your various feeds and you need to stop, take the app off your phone. We’re always taking the path of least resistance. If you have to take one extra step to open up your computer to get to your social media, it will keep you from looking 75% of the time (I totally made that statistic up, but it’s probably not far from true). I actually refused to get the Facebook app on my phone for the longest time for that very reason.
4. Set a timer
This is something I plan on instituting because of my obsessive Pinteresting. Especially if you’re on your phone, you should have a timer easily accessible to you. Set it for 15 or 20 or 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, close the app. It’s that simple. It’s up to you how long you want that timer to be. The shorter it is, the less time you’re wasting.
5. Take periodic breaks
This is another thing I want to start instituting. Just walk away for awhile. Pick an amount of time like a week or a month or the length of your vacation. Make an announcement that you won’t be on. Then delete the app off your phone and go do something else. You can post pictures later. I usually do this when I go on vacation. Just walk away. It doesn’t have to be forever, but it will remind you that there’s more to life than Instagram worthy pictures.
6. Schedule your posts
If you’re a blogger or other person that uses social media for your business, you’re in a bit of a pickle. You can’t walk away completely because (supposedly) you need social media for your business. I’m not saying that you don’t. What I am saying is that there are many tools out there that can help you be active on social media without actually being on social media. Facebook allows you to schedule out your posts. Programs like HootSuite or Tailwind allow you to schedule your Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter posts. It’s great stuff that allows you to have a social media free life even when you’re wanting to engage your audience on those platforms. I’ve been starting to do this, and it’s helping reduce the time I spend on social media, which I think is a good thing.
So how about you? How is social media ruining your life? Feel free to share in the comment section below. If you have any ideas of how to curtail social media usage, share that as well!