How to Prevent Social Media Addiction and Boost Happiness
Social media is everywhere.
For many of us, browsing Twitter or Instagram is the first thing we
do when we wake up and the last thing we do before nodding off to sleep. If you find yourself reaching for the Facebook app instinctively — in the checkout line, on the sidelines of the kids’ soccer game, or even during a lull in conversation — you’re not alone. A report from Nielsen suggests that U.S. adults spend almost half of everyday using some form of media.
Being constantly tethered to our phones decreases our ability to be mindful, to forge in-person connections with friends, and even to get a healthy night of sleep
So what effect is all this social media use having on our health?
We know that social media can have some real benefits, from connecting us with friends and family, to getting social support, to simply making us laugh. New tools even make it possible to find a doctor we can trust and get advice on sensitive health topics with just the click of a button.
But social media can have some serious downsides as well.
Research has shown that viewing a steady stream of “highlight reels” — your friends’ fabulous vacations, honors students, and perfect marriages — can lead to social comparison and envy. Being constantly tethered to our phones decreases our ability to be mindful, to forge in-person connections with friends, and even to get a healthy night of sleep.
Taking a true “digital detox” can do wonders for your relationship with social media
So how can you reap the benefits of social media without becoming a distracted, sleep-deprived, social media zombie? These tips can help you build a healthier relationship with social media.
1. Monitor yourself
Sometimes the best way to change a behavior is simply to keep track of it. Create a log of your social media use — how much time are you spending on each app? What times of day are you most likely to reach for your phone? The iPhone’s Screen Time feature makes it easy to track and set limits on your app use. Other apps, like Moment and QualityTime can help you do the same.
2. Be a mindful media user
Each time you reach for your phone, ask yourself why. What are you hoping to find? Are you bored? Uncomfortable in a social situation? Looking to procrastinate? Take a second to check in with yourself and decide if you want to use your phone — rather than mindlessly diving in. Putting a reminder on your lock screen or even switching around the location of your apps can help with this.
3. Curate your feed
Do your neighbor’s yoga-fueled posts about feeling #blessed have you consistently rolling your eyes? Are you uninterested in the intricacies of your colleague’s daughter’s high school resume? Reminder: you do not need to follow these people. If it would be uncomfortable or inappropriate to “unfriend” them completely, most apps have an option to unfollow posts by a
given user without notifying them. Make a note of which posts are consistently leaving you annoyed, envious, or unhappy — and then take control of your feed.
4. Take a digital detox
It may seem extreme, but taking a true “digital detox” can do wonders for your relationship with social media. Choose a day, week, or more, and set some ground rules: will you use your phone at all? How about your laptop? Will you use it only for practical issues (e.g., weather, maps) but avoid other apps? Taking a break from social media is a good way to reset, and can make you even more aware of the times when you are using it. Be prepared for an
adjustment period, and consider deleting any unwanted apps from your phone for the duration of the detox. If you’re not quite ready to detox completely, set aside a few hours during the day to go “tech free” and pay attention to how it makes you feel.
5. Don’t believe everything you see
Scrolling through social media, it can be easy to think that everyone you know is simultaneously on a tropical vacation, getting promoted at work, raising six perfect children, and running back-to-back marathons — while you are curled under a blanket, covered in Dorito dust, hoping your to-do list will finish itself. Each time you log in, remind yourself that you’re looking at a highlight reel — one that is likely filtered, curated, and carefully constructed to project a certain image.
6. Visit your own page
If you are feeling inclined to mindlessly scroll, consider visiting your own page and reminding yourself of your highlights. Research shows that “savoring,” or fully enjoying and extending positive experiences — can have a real effect on our happiness. Find a few photos that makes you smile, and spend some time thinking about the positive events surrounding those photos.
7. Get a good night’s sleep
71% of adults sleep with their phone in or next to their bed. But this can have a serious impact on sleep quality, with negative consequences for your mental and physical health. Staring at a phone before bed can make it harder to fall and stay asleep, and pesky notifications can wake you up throughout the night. When you get into bed, put your phone to sleep, too — preferably, in another room.