Social media can be a great way to stay in touch with old friends and update your loved ones on successes and exciting life events. Used in moderation, it can increase your feeling of connectedness to others and offer a way to communicate ideas easily to a large audience. But, used in excess, it can decrease functionality and possibly lead to depression. Studies have shown conflicting evidence of a connection between social media use and depression.
Positive interactions, social support, and social connectedness on Social Network Sites were consistently related to lower levels of depression and anxiety, whereas negative interaction and social comparisons on Social Networking Sites were related to higher levels of depression and anxiety.
– Seabrook EM, Kern ML, Rickard NS. Social Networking Sites, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review. O’Dea B, ed. JMIR Mental Health. 2016;3(4):e50. doi:10.2196/mental.5842.
Personally, I enjoy having the ability to stay connected with others on social media sites and I am active on multiple social networking sites but I must admit, sometimes it can be a bit much. I noticed that I wasted so much time mindlessly scrolling through my social media feeds and using it as a means to procrastinate. Additionally, I must admit, I fall into the trap of comparison. I look at the life that others portray of social media and start to compare mine to theirs. No matter how well things are going in your life, if you use someone else’s as a measuring stick, you will find some aspect where you deem that you fall short.
So, given the pitfalls of social media, I decided to take a social media break for the seven days preceding Christmas. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive outcomes that resulted from my time away from social media.1 I used the free time that I acquired to be more productive. I actually started this website during that period, and I had ample time to focus on creating and writing thoughtful posts. It is amazing how productive I was without taking breaks to check my social media sites. I also found some extra time to do some deep cleaning in my house. 😀 2 I became more informed. I use social media to obtain most of my information regarding current events. In a time of increasing “fake news” that is retweeted and shared exponentially, I now do not know what I can trust. During my time away from social media, I became more reliant on receiving my news from sources like the New York Times and Washington Post, which are much more reliable than many of the new sources frequently cited on social media and much less biased. 3 I was more present. I did not view the world through the lens of needing to post an update or a picture of my current activity and actually enjoyed what I was doing at that moment. For example, I had an amazing pedicure with an old friend one afternoon and I had a fleeting thought of needing to share my experience. Instead, I just enjoyed the pampering and catching up with my friend. *Side note: shout out to La Vie Nail Spa in Durham, NC and the awesome pedicure.* 4 I was more relaxed. After a few days of no social media, I noticed that I was just more easy going and less stressed. I’m not sure if it was because I was being more productive and I just felt less stress regarding meeting deadlines and accomplishing tasks. It may have been that I had a more positive perspective given that I had no concern about what others were posting and comparing their experiences with my own. Either way, I enjoyed the feeling of reduced stress.
Please don’t assume that I am proposing that you completely disconnect and remove yourself from all social media sites. But I do propose taking a set amount of time to break away and see the positive impact it has on your productivity and mood. Now that I am back on social media, I love being able to easily communicate with friends but I definitely don’t use it in the same way as I did prior to my break. I try to limit my time on social media and take the content that is posted with a grain of salt.
With the new year approaching, I recommend taking this time to refocus and reduce stressors in your life. I believe that taking a brief break from social media could aid in starting the new year off in a more peaceful mindset.
Please share and comment your thoughts regarding taking a break from social media.