I’ve noticed that when I catch up with a friend, family member, or colleague, the other person will at some point ask if I saw what someone posted on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. My permanent reply: “No, I didn’t see it.” I’m sure some of you think I’m bragging about my lack of social media activity. There are certainly people who wear quitting social media as a rebellious badge of honor.
The fact, however, is that I’ve recently realized that by limiting social media, I’m leading a much happier and more focused life. Despite the curious looks I get when I tell loved ones I didn’t see that latest video to go viral on Facebook, I never once experienced a sensation of missing out, and here’s why.
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The Upside to Life Without Social Media
I was recently reading an article about the cost of debt on happiness, and it reminded me of how certain things have a taxing effect on happiness. Similar to debt, there’s certain things that can be so distracting that it can influence your personal life and how you work in a negative way.
At work, I’d stop what I was doing any time I received a social media notification. While one way around this would be to turn off notifications, use an app that blocks sites, or completely turn off my phone, I’d still feel anxious about having to check my social feeds.
FOMO is a very real thing. In fact, research conducted at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight found that even if you turn off notifications, you still feel anxious that you’re missing out.
These distractions may seem harmless, but they play a part in your productivity as well. Joanne Cantor, PhD, professor emerita of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of the book Conquer CyberOverload, said:
“When we stop ourselves to check social media again and again, it really becomes another form of multitasking, and multitasking makes whatever you do take longer, and you do it in an inferior way.”
The American Psychological Association reports that multitasking, such as going back and forth between social media and a work-related task, can actually reduce your productivity by as much as 40 percent.
After quitting social media, you’ll find that you’re able to focus on a given task until it’s done, which will inevitably make you more productive and efficient with your work.
Enjoying the Present
Outside of work, social media distracts you from enjoying the present. For example, let’s say you’re having dinner with your family. Instead of spending quality time with your loved ones, everyone’s faces are glued to their smartphones like mindless zombies. That’s definitely not going to strengthen the relationships you have with one another.
Here’s another example. You go to a concert or a baseball game with a friend or business acquaintance. You’re not deeply involved in this activity or, worse, enjoying the company you’re with because you’re too busy posting social media updates — or checking in to see what everyone else is posting.
Besides these distractions, I’ve also noticed that I actually have more free time. I’ve been able to use this time to read, write, or learn new skills that make me a stronger person, both personally and professionally.
Without social media, I’ve been more productive and able to truly enjoy the company of the people I care about. Also, I have felt less stressed and am sleeping better.
Research has found that social media is linked to poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
This shouldn’t be surprising. We lay in bed scrolling through our feeds, comparing ourselves to others. On top of that blue light from our screens stimulating our brains, we get jealous and wish we were lying on a beach instead of preparing for work in the morning.
How to Realistically Limit Social Media
I’ll be the first to admit that quitting social media isn’t easy. The fear of missing out, of course, plays a role. Even if you aren’t addicted to social media, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you limit. That’s actually the first step in being able to successfully limit social media: realizing you’re going to miss out on certain things.
Eventually, you’ll realize you aren’t as isolated as you believe. In fact, you may have even stronger relationships because your main communication methods are more intimate, like texts and phone calls.
Here are some steps you can take when building up to quitting social media.
1. Eliminate Push Notifications
This is a good first step to take when quitting social media. Constantly hearing the distracting beeps of notifications can create anxiety and cause you jump back on social media. Eliminating those notifications will get you used to staying away from your social media for longer periods of time. You may even find you don’t check it for an entire day!
2. Uninstall Social Media Apps
You should uninstall all social media apps from your phone and log out of them on your computer. This is just a simple way to remove the temptation to view your social channels with one click or tap. Though it will be a rough start, you’ll eventually experience the benefits of not being tied to social media.
3. Find New Distractions
When quitting social media, start looking for other ways to distract yourself so that you can avoid dwelling on the anxiety of being away from your feed. Pick up a new hobby, meditate, exercise, volunteer, read a book, or actually meet to catch up with a friend face-to-face.
Not only do these activities give you something else to focus on, but they also allow you to strengthen your existing relationships and establish new, more meaningful ones.
If you feel you need social media to stay in the loop, seek out alternatives like newsletters or RSS feeds that are relevant. If you have to establish a social media presence professionally, set boundaries, such as logging in once a week to check messages and schedule the following week’s content. You can also delegate or outsource your social media responsibilities so you can remain free of social media.
You can live without social media, and it’s probably for the best. However, it is an adjustment. You’ll miss out on certain things, but you’re also going to be happier and more focused because you’ll be less distracted and stressed. You’ll also be more productive and fulfilled.
To ease your way into this, don’t go cold turkey. Limit your time on social media, and then suspend your accounts for a week, then maybe two, then possibly permanently. As you’ll see, it’s not the end of the world and will do wonders for your mental health.
Featured photo credit: Becca Tapert via unsplash.com