Samantha McCready
Samantha McCready
February 16, 2020

Taking a break from your relationship with social media: It’s time to change your relationship status with social media from “committed” to “open”

It's easy to get lost in our screens. | Photo by Maria Nazareth Araújo

Do you check social media numerous times a day and end up spending more time on it than intended? How often do you open your phone and suddenly find yourself having lost 30 minutes or even hours of your day?

It’s easy to get lost in our screens as we hop from app to app and scroll through social feeds. 

Frequent social media use doesn’t make you weak. In fact, social media companies are designed to hook you in and keep you engaged. It’s in social media companies’ best interests that you spend as much time as possible on their websites.

The fact is that not all the time we spend browsing our social media accounts are productive. Hours spent gazing on our phones can be hours doing something productive. 

It’s time we started paying attention—not only to how much we use social media, but also to how and why we use it. 

When we use social media, we become a spectator of other people’s lives and put on a performance of our own, whether we are aware of it or not.

What we post on social media creates the illusion, through carefully curated images and text, that our lives are always positive and eventful. Seeing the highlight reel of other people’s lives can lead to comparison and jealousy, or a fear of missing out (FOMO), which often causes dissatisfaction in one’s life. When we only see the highlights, everyone else’s lives seem perfect because we don’t realize that everyone experiences hardships and inevitable struggles—they just aren’t posted online.

There’s a lot to consider when using social media, but a good place to start is being conscious and deliberate with your actions. Who are you following and how do their posts make you feel? Does posting a selfie really make you feel good, or does it just give you a shallow level of validation that is dependent on others’ reactions? Is it possible you are using social media as an unhealthy coping mechanism for something else going on in your life, such as loneliness or a mental illness? 

Consider your time on social media as an investment; are these sites where you want to spend your limited time and energy? After all, when you look back on your life from the future, what will you wish you did with your time? 

Unless you’re ready to drop off the grid and move into a log cabin in the woods, cutting technology completely out of your life isn’t realistic. What you can do is try to use social media mindfully.

Here’s a few practical tips that could benefit those not looking to go cold turkey on social media:

  1. Delete the time-consuming or useless apps off your phone. You can always redownload them if you really want or need to in the future. 
  2. Disable automatic log-in when you open a social media app. That way, you will find it a hassle to always have to enter your username and password each time you want to use the app. 
  3. Have an idea of what kind of life you want to live and what activities you’ll engage in to replace the time you used to spend on social media. For example, if you usually check your phone every night or morning, develop a new practice. Maybe you want to start meditating, reading or keeping a journal.
  4. If you’re not going to delete your apps but want to keep track of screen time, check out the app “Screen Time” in your settings. This tracks your total screen time use, what apps you use most often and more. 
  5. Kick the multi-tasking habit. 
  6. Turn off your notifications to give yourself more control, so that you don’t get sucked in to scrolling through your socials without the intention of doing so.
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