With each day, I see more evidence that social media has become a major distraction and that it may be negatively effecting the quality of our lives. Anxiety, confusion, depression, and a general lack of focus are plaguing many social media users. Television used to be the major distraction, but now Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have become a daily obsession for many people.
I am guilty of being too easily distracted by social media apps. Almost every day the first thing I grab is my cell phone. The second thing I usually do is open Twitter and check the trending topics. So basically, the first thing I see when I awaken to a brand new day is the chaos and confusion that’s going on in the world at the moment.
Sometimes there’s a horrific story of something that happened the night before. Other times the news stories are completely focused on the latest atrocity committed by the person currently occupying the oval office. The rest of it is mostly chitter-chatter and topics that can make you feel like you’re losing a few IQ points with each scroll.
In my book You Matter I mentioned the need to take social media breaks. I think there is great value in “unplugging” and taking regular breaks from the chaos of social media. Here are a few tips for how to better manage your social media usage.
Understand that Too Much Information Isn’t Useful
Imagine going to college for four years and trying to get 20 different degrees at once. There’s no way that you will be able to retain enough information from all 20 of those subjects to become enlightened on any of them. That’s basically what happens when you allow yourself to be overwhelmed with too much information on social media apps. Choose one or two points of focus and become educated/enlightened/an expert on those subjects.
Choose an App, Just One App
There are so many social media apps available now, including dating apps, that it can be very overwhelming keeping up with them all. Choose one social media account to focus on and stick with that. Here are a few insights about the most common apps from my personal experience:
· Facebook is for people who like to connect with the people they already know.
· Twitter is for people who are more cerebral and like to express their quiet thoughts.
· Instagram is for exhibitionists (think “show and tell”) who want to be noticed.
· Snapchat seems to be more appealing to young teens who are looking for a distraction.
Create Lists and Segmented Timelines
As mentioned earlier, social media is chaotic because you’re bombarded with so many different topics at once. One minute you’re reading a story about a loving llama and the next thing you know you’re presented with a news story about a violent attack abroad. It’s no wonder so many people struggle with anxiety.
Create lists or segments of people who will provide you with the topics that you want to read on your timeline. Search for specific hashtags of interest (#GirlTalk or #PoliticsChat) instead of looking at general trending topics. I’m not that familiar with social media sites outside of Twitter, but I know they have a way of limiting what shows up on your timeline.
Set a Timer
If hours go by and you’re still on Facebook or Instagram scrolling through pictures, you have to start setting some limits for yourself. It’s unlikely that you’re being as productive as possible in your day if you spend hours looking at posts by other people. So set a 10 or 15-minute timer on your phone right before you open your favorite social media app. That is enough time to get a quick update about what’s going on in the world so that you can then get back to your world.
Make Your Password Impossible to Remember
Taking extended social media breaks are necessary, but it can be easier said than done. If you find yourself spending too much time on a particular app, fix it so that it’s easier to resist temptation. Create a long and complicated password that you’ll never remember. Reset the password on your social media account and then log off. Now, when you feel tempted to pop into Twitter to see what’s trending you’ll be forced to go through the whole password reset process again.
Getting off of social media and getting back to real life may not be that easy since we’ve largely become addicted to our cellphones over the past decade. But we at least have to start having a conversation about this. Recognize how social media addiction may be affecting your life. Take steps to balance out your day and better manage the information that you’re consuming.