Social media is amazing. It makes the world smaller and gives you connections to people you may otherwise never hear about. With a tap or a swipe on your smartphone you can find anything from your soulmate to the perfect chicken parma recipe, and get an insight into the style of people whose lives are a world away from your own.
The flipside of all this inspiration can be a sense of inadequacy. Everyone seems fitter, their lives are glossier, and their children happier than yours. The outfit you were delighted with this morning suddenly feels second rate when held up against their #ootd (that’s outfit of the day, for the uninitiated). Social media normalises something which still represents a tiny proportion of truth, but it can make even rational adults feel they should be doing more to have a life like that.
If you feel like your social media habit has tipped from an occasional distraction into something unhealthy, here are some tips to find yourself again.
1. Keep Accounts in One Place
If you have Facebook on your phone, tablet, and laptop, then you’re going to be tempted to check it every time you are on one of these devices. Choose one tool to use for social media accounts to make it harder for people online to distract you from people in front of you.
2. Stop using your phone as an alarm clock or timer
If you use your phone as an alarm clock, then one of the first actions of your day will be to look at it. Instead of your day starting with a nice stretch and “good morning” to whoever is around you, you’ll spend ten minutes checking out what people have been up to overnight, losing valuable morning time and starting your day on the back foot. Use a stopwatch instead of your timer in between sets at the gym or when running intervals. The less reason you have to look at your phone, the less opportunity you are giving yourself to get sucked into the social media vortex.
3. Give yourself a time out
You don’t have to give up social media for a week, or even a weekend, but the odd day without logging on will do you a world of good and free up a surprising amount of time for doing something you love. If you think you’ll be tempted to check your phone randomly while you’re out for a meal, leave it at home. Instead of having a tablet to distract fidgety kids, do it the old fashioned way with drawing or paper-based games like hangman.
Take off your push notifications so you are not distracted when you are taking a time out.
Before you click the “follow” button on someone new, check out the rest of their posts to see whether they are something you want to see a lot. Are they interesting, informative or inspiring? Will they make you feel good, or will they instil a sense of inadequacy and self-doubt? If you know the person, do you like them? If you answer “no” to these questions, then don’t follow them, or at least mute their posts so they don’t show up on your feed. As with most things in life, quality and not quantity will give greater benefit.
The selective following goes for emails, too. If you like a blog, then subscribe to it so you get a notification in your email or RSS feed. Use a site like unroll.me or mailstrom.co to clean up your emails so you only get what you need in your inbox.
5. Keep it in Perspective
Just as what you see in magazines and films is not real, neither is what you see on social media. Filters and clever cropping can show you someone’s perfect Sunday morning breakfast, neatly hiding the fact that the rest of their table is covered with crusted on cereal and a basket of ironing. That casually snapped selfie is probably the tenth they had taken before they got a pic they liked. What you see reflected on social media is rarely real life, so treat it more as entertainment than a documentary.
Switch off from social media and reconnect with things you can see and touch for a more fulfilling life.
Happy (Unplugged) Weekend!