Guest Blog from SheCares Wellness Speaker Rocio “Luz” Cadena, Life of Leisure. Get your ticket here to join her workshop, How To *Actually* Reclaim Your Time.
Ugh, social media – why does the digital representation of our lives conjure up such mixed feelings?
On the positive side, social media serves to stay in touch with our existing friends, forge new connections, promote + grow our businesses + brands and find inspiration in the lives of impossibly chic, aspirational strangers.
On the extreme end of the spectrum, lie the dark aspects of social networking. Social platforms can negatively affect our self-esteem (deriving self-worth from # of followers/likes), memory, sleep, mental health (stress, anxiety, depression). As if that wasn’t bad enough, our digital habits can also fuel addiction to our fave apps, cause envy based on comparison and foster a sense of loneliness.
No wonder most of us have a very complicated relationship to our social media habits!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the relentless nature of the digital landscape and you’re looking to develop a healthier relationship to your social media usage, these tips are for you.
I’ve had all notifications off for all social media apps for probably 5 years. I can’t even remember when I didn't have them on. Social media is overly stimulating, taking up mental space and cluttering our minds – and this is by design. Why do you think you can never just go on your fave up for a few minutes? Social media was engineered to exploit our psyches by giving us dopamine hits via likes/messages/comments, etc. so we’d feel compelled to spend as much time on the apps devoting our precious, valuable attention.
Every time you get a notification on your phone, your brain gets a dopamine hit causing immediate joy and urging you to quickly go read the thing. Then your brain wants more so it cannot wait for the next notification to come to go open it and read it – a really toxic vicious cycle. The algorithm is seriously interfering with your brain, and most of us are clueless about it! When I learned how social media was designed, I turned off all notifications for 95 percent of my apps (except phone, SMS, messenger, WhatsApp, and a few others) on all my devices, and it changed my life.
This is because I control when and how frequently I go into the social media vortex rather than be nudged endlessly to open the damn app. This is my boundary against the algorithm’s manipulative agenda. Trust me, you won’t miss a thing. All your DM’s, comments, likes will still be there when you log in. Turning off notifications will help to decrease the frequency of opening the app, but from experience, it doesn’t prevent the amount of time you spend binging and scrolling.
Which is why consciously limiting the amount of time you spend on the ‘gram, TikTok, Twitter, or your app of choice is crucial. Iphones have screen time which is useful to gauge how many hours per day/week you’re spending on your apps, but my fave tool is the app limit feature which you can adjust to your preferences. My second fave is downtime which I use to block all my apps starting at 10pm. I’m not sure about Android functionality, but a good starting point is to limit going into your fave app (for me, it’s the ‘gram), 3 times per day for 10-15 minutes for a total of 45 minutes daily. You can use the timer on your phone.
If you’re looking to really step back from it all, try a social media fast/detox. The duration and the frequency are completely up to you. Some people do it once a week each Sunday, others opt for 2 days every month, and others are more extreme logging off for weeks at a time every 6 months. Leveraging social networks is vital to building and growing Life of Leisure, so *unfortunately,* I can’t take my own advice on this point. Maybe in the future when my biz is more established and I can hire someone to manage the socials ;) However! I mainly use Instagram. I rarely use Snapchat, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest. Obviously, as a biz owner, I’m aware I should engage with some of these but refusing to for as long as I can definitely helps me prioritize my mental sanity.
Before you go to mindlessly open the app – a surefire way to get sucked into the social media matrix – ask yourself why you’re checking your feed. Is it because you posted a photo 20 minutes ago and you’re curious who liked it? Is it to stalk your ex for the 5th time today? Are you bored and looking to kill time? Personally, I’m a lot more prone to get into an Instagram spiral if using the app on my phone because I’ll go watch stories, scroll scroll scroll, comment, like to Infinitum. So I prefer to check my notifications on the desktop version because although I can still watch stories and scroll, I’m less likely to do so because the interface doesn’t feel as good as the app. Using the desktop helps me keep the reason why I’m checking top of mind – I want to respond to my DMs, respond to comments on my post, etc.
While most of us are not consciously aware of the psychological effects that our phones and social media have on us, the technocrats behind them do. A brain is an association machine so it connects your phone to feeling good (via the dopamine that washes over the brain when you go online), so we feel very compelled to reach for our devices if they are within eyesight and check the socials for the 100th time. Try putting your phone away for stretches of time so you can do whatever you’re doing without the influence of notifications. Pro tip: put it in silent so you aren’t triggered when you get a ping.
If you’re spending copious amounts on the socials out of sheer boredom, maybe it’s time you got a hobby that doesn’t involve technology. Consider cooking, reading, knitting, or whatever. If you can dedicate one hour to this a few times a week, that’s time you didn’t spend sucked into the toxic algorithm which probably will end up leaving you feeling drained and exhausted anyway.
Social media has the potential to be a helpful or dangerous force in our lives in equal measure. No matter who you are, you are addicted to your phone and/or social networks to a certain degree. If you want to go deep and really understand why social media causes such mixed feelings, go watch The Social Dilemma.