As the New Year rings in, I don’t think anyone will be sad to kiss goodbye to 2020. 2021 is the fresh new start we have all been waiting for. New calendars are uncluttered and unrestricted. It’s time to self-reflect and set a healthy mindset around this new year. As time is allotted for dream boards, bucket lists and goal setting, I implore you to spend some time thinking seriously about social media. At this point, I think everyone has heard of the studies linking social media to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, body image issues and more. If you’ve spent any time on social, it’s easy to see how scrolling through your news feed can quickly leave you feeling less connected, and emptier. It’s scary the way checking these apps has become almost as reflexive as checking the watch on your wrist. Even watches on your wrist remind you to open your social media accounts. Yet these habits almost seamlessly become thoughtless and eat away hours of our days. At some point it begs the question, is it healthy?
I think we all know, (even if its way, way, way deep down) the answer to that question is a solid “No.” Now is a good time to take a moment and totally acknowledge that there are thousands of positive things that have come out of social media all over the world. However, ask yourself if social media affects you positively or negatively? What would happen if you took a break from social media for the new year? What if you took a break for a day, a week, a month?
- You would have more time. Studies that measure the amount of time spent on social publish findings of between two to five hours per day on social media platforms. That is a lot of screen time. There are a number of apps you can download that track the amount of time you are spending on your phone and there are apps that can track which apps you spend the most time on. I believe we naturally want to believe we are spending a lot less time on those black screens than we actually are. It’s worth the cringeworthy moment of truth you have to go through to understand how much time you’re actually using. You could dedicate all that extra time to a new hobby, work or spend it making face-to-face connections with people.
- You could cancel the comparison game. Comparison is the thief of joy. Whether your motive was to get stuck on that particular friend’s stories or not, more times than not we land ourselves right in the middle of a one-way comparison game. The worst part is we compare our vulnerable shortcomings to someone’s filtered reality. Imagine waking up and not having millions of people to compare yourself to in the first minute of your day. Social crosses the barriers of borders everywhere. Communication can be seamless now, and that’s great for many people. However, we used to live in a world where we might run into a neighbor strolling down the driveway to pick up the newspaper early in the morning while draped in a super warm, ugly robe with your favorite brew of coffee in your grandma’s favorite mug. Now people are waking up to hashtags #wokeupthisway from celebrities all over the world who look like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality strutting out of her makeover.
- You have no pressure to post. We get stuck in certain narratives and cycles in posting on social media. People post on social for a variety of reasons. What was once an idea to connect with and stay connected with more people has become a platform for really anything under the sun. You can be whoever you want on social media and people use it for different reasons. But most of us can say we tend to highlight our best selves on social. It’s called a highlight reel for a reason. We modify photos to create what we think is the most appealing image to share. And we share the altered snapshot as real life. Honestly, it’s rare to find a picture with #nofilter, and usually when you do it’s because the person posting was genuinely surprised that reality looked better than fake today. How healthy can this be?
- You can live your life and not someone else’s. I believe we hold our own creativity back when we are so overstimulated by everyone else’s ideas. We get on social to DIY, find new recipes and new outfit inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I love losing myself in pins, videos and posts about all the above; but afterwards I’m a bit maxed-out mentally to think of something original. We tend to copy what we see, and that’s natural and great because we can’t all be Betty Crocker or Coco Chanel. But when it only takes a second to reach for your phone and find inspiration, it almost takes discipline to cultivate our own style of doing things.
In closing, I’ve been on my own social media journey for the last several months. It started with my own posts feeling ingenuous. It felt more like marketing than sharing my life with people I care about. I found a book at my local library called Selfie by Will Storr, and then I heard about the Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix. And I had some friends that went off social. One of the things that has stuck with me the most was the term “user” in this documentary. Someone mentioned that the only two markets you use the term “user” in are drugs and social media, and that’s disconcerting. I’m not boycotting social, but I am aware of the effects and I’m actively finding ways to use it that leave me feeling positive and not negative. I invite you in the new year to take inventory of your social media habits and find ways to separate yourself from all the negative effects of social media. Happy New Year!