By: Rachel Werner
Click. Double tap. Swipe right. How often is your mental energy hijacked daily by subconsciously reaching for your phone?
Living and working in a connection-based economy can be a barrier to achieving the balance so many of us crave in terms of our mental, physical and emotional health. According to a 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey cited by Variety, “American consumers now check their smartphones an average of 52 times each day, and 60% of those aged 18-34 admit to smartphone overuse.”
The main factor in feeling digitally zapped is frequently checking social media platforms. In fact, some people even report feeling borderline obsessed with keeping tabs on whom is posting what and when online. Does it mean you have a problem if you’re scrolling through your friends’ Instagram stories every night before bed? A recent Psychology Today article suggests maybe not.
“The good news is that very few people are genuinely addicted to social media. However, many people’s social media use is habitual and it can start to spill over into other areas of their lives and be problematic and dangerous, such as checking social media while driving,” clarifies Dr. Mark D. Griffiths. “Other behaviors may be annoying rather than dangerous, but may be indicative of problematic social media use, such as checking social media while eating out with friends or constantly checking your smartphone while watching a movie at the cinema. Others may snub social contact with their loved ones or friends and prefer to check out social media on their smartphone instead (so-called ‘phubbing’).”
Griffiths suggests trying to gauge if—and how much—anxiety you experience from not being able to access social accounts as the first step in ascertaining if whether or not the amount of time you spend plugged in is becoming unhealthy. He also recommends the following “digital detox strategies” as a good starting point to reduce the amount of time spent on social media:
- Mute sound notifications.
- Set time limitations. (For example, “only check your smartphone every 30 minutes or once an hour.”)
- Block off sections of the day such as meal times as “non-screen time.”
- Put your smartphone in a different room at bedtime.
Also, keep in mind that your mobile device is not the enemy. Like with most habits, moderation fused with a healthy dose of intention is key. Inside Stories co-creator Takeyla Benton affirms, “As a Black woman, social media can be a source of fuel for me—or a crutch. The ability to share information can make you feel empowered, but also overwhelmed into hopelessness. Sharing information about the financial wellness in the Black community, or lack of it, inspired me long ago to use my job as a bank branch manager to help my community learn more about financial education,” she shares.
“By sharing articles about modern day racism and civil rights and the mental health issues it may contribute to, I found power in allowing others to tell their stories. There’s healing power in words—and the bridge from person to person can be life-giving. I’ve used my own voice in the past, which laid the foundation for me to begin highlighting more diverse stories to help us connect and heal through social media. Now, I’m working to figure out how We Write Too (an online space where Black women can seek writing advice) and the podcast I co-host add to the healing we need and connections social media misses. But I know for sure sharing our stories is the first step.”
Benton’s online platforms are a tool, not a crutch. Thus, being strategic about how you choose to engage via digital channels is crucial to ensuring your social media use remains helpful rather than harmful. It’s worth reflecting on what void you’re attempting to fill by constantly trolling the internet. Is your self-worth somehow measured against how many ‘likes’ and/or ‘comments’ you receive each day? Or do you receive encouragement from a digital tribe that is helping you persevere in an ongoing battle against depression, addiction, single parenthood and/or other potentially isolating circumstances? The capacity to communicate on a global scale is a gift, so use it to your advantage when applicable.
Community is not negated just because it may have originated on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or any other site. The power to decide how much of any of these social networks affect you day in and day out resides with you alone. So harness the good and then choose to “tune out”, as needed, remembering self-care is always a priority—even in cyberspace.
Have you ever done digital detox? How long was the detox? Tell us in the comments below?