Social media is making us collectively sick. We’re so plugged in all the time that we can’t escape our digital lives. We check email, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram incessantly. We think we felt our phone vibrate, but it was just an illusion. The average American checks their phones 150 times a day. We spend 90 minutes a day staring at our phones. That’s 23 days each year.
Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon. But many already realize that, especially in large doses, it can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, depression, unhelpful comparisons, and anxious ruminations.
So what if you unplugged from all of this? What if you took a step back and tried to live life more deliberately without social networking. What would that kind of life look like for you?
I know what you’re thinking.
But how will I stay in touch with friends and family far away? How will I know about upcoming events within my circles? How will I remember birthdays? Will I lose touch with the people closest to me?
I dare to say that no, none of this will happen. I think that if you unplug from (or drastically limit) social media, the benefits will far outweigh any potential drawbacks.
So what are those benefits? I thought you’d never ask :)
You won’t make unhelpful comparisons to others
Comparing your worst moments with other people’s best is no way to live. As the author of a study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology put it, "It doesn't mean that Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feeling and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand." If you cut out the social media aspect, you may be able to break this cycle.
You’ll have more time to be productive
As mentioned above, the average American spends a startling amount of time on their phone and on social networks in particular. Calculate how much time you spend per day using social platforms. Now think of what you could accomplish if you practiced learning a new skill or read up on topics that interest you with all that time.
You’ll be able to focus on the important things in life
With all the extra time you’ll have, you can apply it to some of the things that really matter; things that really do affect your happiness. Make meaningful connections in person with those closest to you. Donate your time and energy to helping others. Pursue your passions. Sure up your health. Identify your values and your priorities and get going.
You’ll get better sleep
Studies have shown that social media use at any time of day can lead to decreased sleep quality. But those who log on at night are particularly affected. Pick up a book instead and turn off all bright screens at least an hour before bed time. You're energy levels and your sense of well being will thank you.
You’ll feel more fulfilled in life
Too much social media use can take away from exploring real relationships. Switching off might force you to get up and out of your comfort zone. This may be the key to meaningful personal growth --- and a deep sense of happiness and fulfillment.
So what should your next step be? Maybe you’re not ready to completely cut out social media. So how about limiting your use? Choose one social platform to focus on, and limit your daily time spent on it to 30 minutes per day. Schedule a time to use it in advance, and stick to it.
Whether you slowly wean off of it, or go cold turkey, I promise you that you’ll benefit.
I'm not saying that there’s anything inherently wrong with social media. It certainly has its benefits. Social networking platforms can be tremendous tools for small businesses and for individuals looking to network professionally.
I’m just saying that unplugging might do you some good. Especially if you’ve already considered stepping away, I strongly encourage you to make the leap.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ridgewood and Hoboken, NJ. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.