Social Media: Is It Time to Take a Break?
Updated: Nov 8
The age of the internet has brought about fantastic changes in our world. We can remain connected with friends and family across the globe, learn languages, meet new people, learn new things, work from home, and even receive therapy from the comfort of our couches. We've heard music from artists who we probably would've never heard from and are able to explore parts of the world we might never be able to see in person. If there's one thing we know for sure, it's that the internet has helped us advance exponentially.
But have you ever been scrolling social media and felt a sense of emptiness? Almost as if you aren't living up to some type of potential, or you find yourself comparing your life to the life you're watching on a screen. Have you read something your friend wrote on social media that you disagreed with, and you found yourself feeling enraged and judgmental?
Has the thought of eliminating your social media crossed your mind more than once, maybe even thinking about how you might be genuinely happier without it?
If you're having these thoughts, it might be time to take a break from social media.
Social Media's Affects on Mental Health
A study published by BMC Public Health found that anxiety and depression drastically increase among adult users of social media. Social media gives us the idea that we need to be available at all times to all people, and although it's created to bring about a sense of connectedness between people, this same study concluded that it has the opposite effect: social media use causes us to feel lonely and isolated.
If you think about it, the connection that occurs through social media isn't real-life connection. It's connection that's occurring on a superficial level. If you take away body language, tone of voice, physical presence, and a genuine relationship between two people who are physically doing life together, you get a superficial relationship that generally stays surface-level.
Social media also depicts a false narrative about unachievable beauty standards. Pictures and videos can be easily photoshopped to make you believe that the body/person you're looking at on social media is actually how they look in real life, including the use of filters that completely change a person's face when they're recording a video. This contributes to the anxiety, depression, and isolation many social media users experience regularly.
Social Media's Affects on Physical Health
In 2014, a study conducted by ScienceDirect found that adults between the ages of 19-32 checked their social media accounts for over 1 hour per day, and 57% of these users reported sleep disturbances. There are 3 potential reasons why social media can cause sleep disturbances:
Users may feel compelled to be online late at night into the early hours of the morning
Social media may cause cognitive, emotional, and/or physiological arousal
Exposure to bright screens before sleeping has been linked to sleep disturbances
Social Media's Affects on Behavior
Social media is created for us to become addicted to it. Its design is to keep us coming back for more. From the colors within the app to the specific adds that are targeted to get your attention, our society is groomed to come back, time and time again, to our social media. Studies have shown that just from seeing the logo of an app (like Facebook), we feel compelled to automatically click that app on command.
Because social media causes us to have superficial relationships with others, as explored above, it teaches us to engage with the real world in irrational ways. An example of this is when people respond in verbally abusive ways to someone online, and then in real-life, that same person exhibits verbally abusive behavior to others. For the most part, consequences of online behavior are viewed from a more superficial lens because remember, the relationships we have with others online are superficial. Therefore, the consequences we think will occur online are mostly superficial as well. This leads to people believing that real-life consequences to their real-life behavior are superficial. They start to view people in real life as though they're just another profile picture online.
In reality, human beings are incredibly complex. We all have individual experiences that shape our individual thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. We are more than just a sum of what we believe or think. We've experienced love and loss, heartache and joy, trauma and healing. We also hold physical roles in our lives, such as being a parent, a spouse, a friend, an aunt or uncle, and to go even further, we also have different jobs that play a role in our own individual experience. We each have our own unique story to tell.
"With the advent of modern information technology, we more often than not base decisions on aggregated public signals such as likes, upvotes, or retweets on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter rather than taking the time to reflect and deliberate ourselves, with possibly severe consequences for democracy." - Vincent F. Hendricks, University of Copenhagen
Maybe It's Time for a Break
If you find yourself resonating with the mental, physical, and behavioral affects of social media, consider taking a break. Thanks to technology, the majority of smart phones are equipped to help you set social media limits, such as timers that will close out your app when you've reached your time limit, or screen-time reminders that pop up at the end of the day to show you how much time you've spent on a specific app. You can even set specific apps to be inoperable on specific days of the week.
If you want to take it a step further, most social media platforms have an option for you to deactivate your account. This means that your account will still exist if you log into it again, but it will be completely removed from the internet, therefore preventing people from accessing your page or sending you messages.
All social media platforms have the option for you to permanently delete your account if you decide you no longer want to have any social media.
Regardless of what you decide, you know yourself best. Setting boundaries with our social media use can help us live happier, more fulfilling lives because it gives us the opportunity to remain rooted in the present while forming real, genuine relationships with the people around us.
We view therapy as a way to demonstrate authentic relationships with others. If you're interested in setting up an appointment, visit our therapists here.