Americans on average check their phones every 12 minutes (NY Post, 2017). With the ability to provide information, social interaction and a sense of personal safety, your smartphone has become an extension of yourself. You have probably felt the extreme separation anxiety from forgetting your phone at home - now called nomophobia (Clayton, Leshner, Almond, 2015).
Every year, more and more people use social media; 51 % of users go on facebook several times a day and 60% of users check Instagram at least once a day (Pew Research Center, 2018). If you extend the time you spend on all forms, it’s easy to see how the minutes add up.
As entertaining as it can be to follow your favorite celebrity’s shenanigans, see your long distance BFF’s vacation pics, or funny cat videos social media can be a problem. Research has found that social media can be linked to all sorts of negative- unintended consequences. (For more information on any of these “side effects” follow the source links!)
Extensive social media use can...
- Cause feelings of comparison and jealousy. (Forbes, 2017)
- Provoke perceived Social Isolation (Primack et al, 2017).
- Contribute to depressive feelings (Steers, Wickmam, & Acitelli, 2014).
- Become addictive (Blackwell, Leaman, Tramposch, Osborne, Liss. 2017).
Don’t worry, I am not about to start on a tirade against technology and social media. On the contrary, I think social media is a great way to get the most out of life. Whether it is finding events, connecting and sharing with friends, planning safe and exciting travel - social media and the internet in general, can help with that.
My own job as a social media manager demands constant checking, liking, commenting, and observation of trends. There is no way for me to turn “off” social media, and I feel the effects.
So how do we use all the amazing parts of social media and the internet while protecting our mental health? One solution is by utilizing an extension of mindfulness called unplugging.
Unplugging is just what it sounds like - disconnecting from technology for a stretch of time to decrease nomophobia and anxiety.
Here is a list to help you easily “unplug” in your daily life.
Implement a “No Phone hour rule” after work
- Turn it off, plug it in, and leave it in another room. Enjoy your family and dinner in peace.
Switch off notifications
- Instead of completely deleting your apps, try turning off your notifications. This way social media isn’t constantly reminding you to look at it.
Leave your phone at home & or at least turn it off
- Are you going for a walk with a friend? A date with a significant other? A movie? If you can, leave your phone at home. If you can’t leave it behind completely, turn it off (no - silent mode doesn’t count).
Look at the world through your own eyes - not only through a phone lens
- Do you see something beautiful? Are you experiencing a special moment with the people you love? Take a picture or two, then use your eyes. Take it in. Pull them close. Enjoy.
Don't put phones under pillows
- Find somewhere else for your phone to go other than under your pillow or on your bedside stand. On top of all the usual social media impacts, having phones in your bed also affects your sleep health.
Take phones off the dining table
- I know this sounds like something your parents would say to you, but it is good for everyone. Unless you are eating alone, leave your phone elsewhere in the house. This helps you focus on the people and the food in front of you.
We will never be without technology nor should we be. In so many ways the technology around us makes our lives easier, and fuller. It presents us with more connections and opportunities than people before would ever dream of.
So use it as it was meant to be, as a tool. Not a supplement for the wonderous, messy personal interactions that make us human.
Mobile Lovers Mural by Banksy