Since the day I ended my 2-month social media break back in March, I realize how quick it is to repeat the same old habits that made me take a break in the first place. Although it is extremely healthy to spend a long amount of time away from your smartphone, it may not be as effective as you think. It’s almost like completing a six-week workout dvd—you can either repeat the workout plan, customize the workout to fit into your lifestyle, or fall off and gain the weight you lost. As for me, I noticed a rapid change over the last few weeks of me constantly checking Instagram, Facebook, and my email at least 4 times an hour. Not good. In order for me to fix this problem is to limit my screen time, and use majority of my vision on the great outdoors and physical world surround me.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I want share a few tips that has helped me these last few days, with hopes that it’ll start training your mind to use your phone more productively.
1. Stop Going On Social Media When You’re Bored
Most of us can agree that one of our top reasons why we use social media is to cure ourselves from boredom. Whether we are on the train, bus, dental office, library, or even at home, social media seems to be that #1 destination to go to when we feel like time is going incredibly slow. However, I don’t think we realize how much we disconnect from the world around us, and how much time we actually waste while doing this. Every time I go on the train, 5 out of 6 people are looking down on their phones, and it’s not good for their safety, physical posture, and the fact that they internally delete themselves from the physical world. It’ll be hard for an elderly person to ask for a seat unless they physically touch you, depending on how deep you are into a text conversation or a social media post. Speaking for myself, I have to understand that the environments in which I see myself getting ‘bored”, are the places that need my full attention. There are a far more other things to combat your boredom other than wasting 5-20 minutes looking through thousands of photos and tweets. The ultimate goal to take away the idea of boredom completely, and learn to enjoy the peaceful moments of doing nothing.
2. Find Other Strategies To Take A Break From Your Priorities
When I first started working at my job, I made a personal rule to check social media after work, as opposed to during lunch, because I want to be seen available and present to those around me. If it’s not an important or work-related email, I don’t usually check my phone at all. When there are times that I need to leave my desk due to overwhelming projects, instead of looking at my phone, I go talk to my co-workers around me, or take a walk to the kitchen and make some tea. This also goes for when I spend time managing the blog. I have to make sure my priorities are all set before I allow my friends and colleagues’ life updates, tweets, and gossip on social media enter my space.
3. Avoid The Comment Section
I have to say this again: AVOID THE COMMENT SECTION. Over the years, I noticed that the comment section on both Facebook and Instagram under controversial and breaking news posts are at least 50-80% negative. I keep thinking of J. Cole’s song “Photographs”, and his verse paraphrased as that we aren’t built to take the strength of 10,000+ opinions, ridicules, and exhausting ignorance all day from social media. It’s unhealthy to even try. Celebrities would be the ones to suffer through this the most because one negative comment usually have some of them create multiple “clap-backs”, or in other words, responses to defend themselves, and it takes away the focus of the positivity that is trying to have a presence. I know you may want to check just a few comments for the funny and the “shade”, but take a step back before you grow a habit of anxiously searching through the comments whenever a post goes live on your feed.
This tip also stopped me from getting into pointless arguments and comments on Instagram. Although I may have opinions on a particular issue, I don’t have to ALWAYS respond to it virtually.
4. Remember, You Are Not Missing Out On Anything
I guarantee you, if you haven’t been on social media for at least 12 hours, I’m positive that you’ll get updated on everything the moment you go on your favorite sites. One thing about social media is that it’s not going anywhere, and I’m not missing out on anything important. If I end up forgetting to say happy birthday to someone on Facebook, it’s not a big deal. If I missed all of yesterday’s gossip that was posted on The Shade Room, it’s not a big deal. I feel like we now live in a world of constant demand for information at every given moment, and there’s really no need to have a mental RSS feed in our heads. You don’t need to know what’s going on with everything, and it’s important for your health to not consume so much information.
5. Pick A Day Of The Week To Unplug Completely
I recommend that everyone does this. The first time I got exposed to smartphones was when I was 14 years old. Kids today are learning about social media, texting, and apps while they are in their single digit ages. That’s crazy. During the days when I unplug, I feel like I have more hours in the day, I’m more productive, and I accomplish so much more. Usually Sunday and Saturday works best for me because I know that I want to be present around my friends and family during those days, and that I can peacefully enjoy my off days from work. Find a day or two in your schedule that makes sense for you to unplug, and use that day to find a sense of peace that you need to recharge from a stressful week.
6. Find A Physical Hobby
I’m not sure if you noticed this in my previous posts regarding social media, but I look at social media as a virtual world, separating you from the events happening in your physical surroundings. With that said, there needs to be physical hobbies that balances or overrides the time you spend on social media. You could read a book for 2 hours, take a nap for 3 hours, eat with your family or co-workers for an hour, create a vision board, clean your room with music playing in the background, and so much more. It’s healthy to incorporate daily hobbies, errands, and activities without looking at a screen, in order to reconnect with the world that you live in. Our presence on social media should not take more energy and time, than the time we spend with family and friends who could be gone the next day. Let’s keep it real. For my experience, I want to do better with talking to my cousins, aunts, and immediate family members during family gatherings, because I tend to use my phone and not really speak. Meanwhile, I’m on Twitter telling my followers that I’m hanging out with my family. Do you see the disconnect? Who am I engaging with more, and which is more important?
7. Don’t Forget To Live in the Moment
My favorite one. My first official social media break was back in September of 2016, the same month that I went to the Bad Boy Reunion Concert in Boston. I broke my social media break, and used Instagram stories to capture some of the concert. However, after 5 minutes of recording live, I got off social media, took pictures, and enjoyed the rest of the night watching Diddy, Lil Kim, and Faith Evans, tear up the stage. The best memories of that night was not captured on my phone, and it was because I was physically present and living in the moment. There have been other times when I went to concerts and recorded nearly the entire show, but I can’t remember much of anything, nor could I even tell you that I remember recording those moments. I’m not sure why some of us tend to go on Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or on social media in general while we are at events, because it completely distracts us from actually enjoying ourselves. This also includes my first time at Afro Punk; I didn’t post anything except a selfie and a 12 second video while I was in Brooklyn, and I waited 2 days later to share my videos and review on that day. We don’t have to share every moment while it’s happening, and it’s best to experience these moments with your own eyes. Those moments truly stay with you, and you don’t need proof. Plus, stop giving people a free access pass to an event that they could have chosen to experience on their own.
So, those are my tips to help you limit your time on social media, and I hope that it starts a personal journey to focus more on your health, priorities, and need for positivity throughout the week. What are your current struggles regarding social media? Let me know in the comments below.
Remember that your mental health comes first.