With social media connection being almost the only way of life now, it’s hard to imagine a time when we didn’t use social media platforms. Whether it was to merely say “Hello”, look for work, find a service nearby, or gain motivation, social media platforms have been able to cater to almost every need.
For me, stories and images that others have shared enriched my life greatly and I am so grateful for this, but I have also seen how easy it is for social media to fuel feelings of inadequacy and comparison. I have come to understand, over time, that social media has the power to influence people all over the world, and to be honest it has so much power along with the ability to build you up or tear you down. It has only been in the last couple of years that I have come to realise just how powerful these platforms are in my own life. I have noticed at times that they have greatly influenced and changed the way I think, feel and behave within a matter of minutes.
In this blog, I wanted to share some of my own personal experiences and feelings in regards to social media and the positives and benefits that can come from taking breaks from it.
Despite the fact that I was a latecomer to social media in the first place, I have already taken breaks from it on numerous occasions. There have been times where I have closed my accounts down entirely, times where I have semi-parted with it by keeping my accounts open but not accessing them, and other times where I have been very present and involved.
Regardless of whether my level of separation was entirely or semi, I found that either way I seemed to have always benefited from these breaks.
For me, the breaks were incredibly important. The dangers of social media are well-documented through numerous studies. Researchers have come to find links between social media use and levels of anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness, and envy. Much research argues that hours of social media platform use eventually leads to the erosion of interpersonal communication skills, empathy, and the ability to concentrate. One thing that I noticed for myself was that as my social media use increased, my acceptance of and comfortability within myself decreased. I found an urge to seek out what everyone else was doing, how they were living, and developed a need to have certain material items and behave a certain way. But no matter how much a bought or how I acted I was never satisfied. It was at this point that I knew I needed separation from social media and I continue to take breaks often as I find them great for many reasons.
So what can ‘taking a break’ from social media bring to your life? Actually, there are many benefits that small or long breaks can bring about to the quality of your life:
Intrapersonal relationship. This is the relationship you have with yourself. Social media has the ability to draw your attention away from yourself and onto others. An intrapersonal relationship is about everything inward. It’s how you communicate with yourself, how you interact with yourself. It relates to your inner life and thoughts. By allowing time to look and listen to what’s occurring for you, such as listening to your intuition or meditating you can connect with yourself on a deeper level. You may find things out that you had no idea were even happening for you and allow yourself the chance to heal yourself or even just show yourself some love, which is what The Ohture is all about I might add.
Interpersonal relationships. This refers to the relationships you have with others, it can include immediate family right through to work colleagues. Whilst you may have heard how we are social creatures much of our socialising needs rely on face-to-face human contact. Whilst social media has helped us by allowing us to connect to others all over the world and during times of COVID, it comes second to the genuine connection made between those who interact face-to-face. Through taking breaks from social media one can use that time to spend with kids, friends, family, and others.
Present moment awareness. Known as one of the most effective tools for improving mental and physical wellbeing, Present moment awareness aka mindfulness has been praised and proven for its effectiveness in establishing and nurturing a deeper connection with yourself. Numerous studies have shown that this tool helps reduce anxiety, stress, depression, and improves mood, focus, connection to others, and more. For me, mindfulness has helped me to strengthen the relationship I have with myself. I always believe that the first relationship you should enter is one with yourself and mindfulness allowed me to do this. Taking breaks from social media can help foster your mindfulness as your attention comes back to you.
Relaxation. Almost a foreign word to many these days. Unfortunately, many of us do not prioritise relaxation within ourselves. We are constantly trying to keep up with all the demands we or others have placed on ourselves. If there’s a spare moment we try to fill this with something entertaining, aka social media, instead of allowing a moment of deep relaxing rest. Mindfulness is an effective tool that can help us to reach a new level of relaxation and rest, but in order to achieve this, we need to remove distractions such as social media.
Work. Yes taking a break a break from social media can even help your productivity in your job. How many times would you say that you check your phone whilst at work? Or find yourself distracted from doing your job because you endlessly scroll down your page? For myself, I found that having numerous social media accounts prevented me from entering my ‘flow state’ for both work and uni. Flow state, in positive psychology, is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in it, so much so that they lose track of time or even what’s happening around them. This is when you are most productive.
Homelife. Ever sat down with the family on the couch and suddenly looked up to see that whilst you’re all in one room together nobody is actually present? Instead, everyone is on their phone or tablet checking what everyone else has been doing lately. Breaks from social media help connection within the family inside your own home. Conversations can take place that share problems, achievements, concerns, plans, goals, and more.
Hobbies. Less time on social media equals more time for hobbies. Having a hobby can fulfill a sense of achievement, improve connections with others, build skills and confidence, increase intrinsic value, and more. By taking breaks from social media I went back to crocheting and cooking from scratch. I have enjoyed the benefits of handmade items and healthier eating and wasn’t relying on fast prepacked foods.
Parenting is another area that can improve when you take breaks from social media. Having breaks allows you more time to connect with your kids on a deeper level. Many professionals in this area speak of the importance of showing your children that they are important by giving them your full undivided attention. Instead of staring at your phone whilst they ask you something, face them and look them in the eyes. Through doing so they learn that they come first and not second to your phone. You get to hear them, help them, validate them. This then follows on to teaching them what to prioritise by leading by example. By showing them behaviours that are important to you your kids will take these on and implement them within their own little lives. In other words, monkey see - monkey do.
Another area that will improve from a break is your general overall well-being. By allowing time to turn your attention towards yourself you can make leaps and bounds in the reduction of stress, quieting your mind, reducing over-stimulation, and improving your quality of sleep.
Physiological experiences. The last thing that is worth bringing to the table is the concept of Physiological experiences. This is the link between your emotions and your physical state. For example, what occurs to your body physically when you begin to stress, get angry, or even excited. When we spend copious amounts of time viewing many different things that many different people are doing, buying, or experiencing we can begin to feel copious emotions in response. When these emotions begin to occur we also experience the psychological response that goes with it. The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary body responses, such as blood flow and sweating, anxiety, and so forth. It’s not uncommon to begin feeling inadequate or anxious when we start to compare ourselves to others through social media platforms. We seem to forget or refuse to acknowledge that all the photos we view have been carefully curated with filters and editing apps, we simply see what the other person wants us to see. For myself, social media created a lot of anxiety as I would constantly compare myself to others in terms of their career, achievements, family life, material objects, etc. Through having a break from social media I was able to distance myself from these things that, in all honesty, did not actually matter, and I have benefitted greatly from it.
At the end of the day, only you can decide whether social media is benefiting or hindering your life. Hey, you may find that you bounce from one to the other depending on where you are in life. But I do encourage you to take stock of your life and really evaluate whether these apps are improving the quality of your life or not. You may make the decision, like I did, to completely step away for a while, or simply reduce your engagement. Either way, I guarantee you that some positive will come from the separation and I encourage you to embrace this.