Social media in simple terms refers to users who create accounts on online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content such as videos, images, GIFs, memes and the like.
Today social media is used by members of every generation. We can go hours scrolling on our phones without realising how quickly time flies. It is now a common sight in public transport to see everyone immersed in their phones – and those who are not active on their own phones are busy checking out someone else’s screen! Being socially active is in vogue these days and you can easily be considered an outcast if you are not up to date with the latest meme or troll.
Our social media identities have dominated our minds to such an extent that our day begins by checking our feeds and ends with our favourite Netflix series. We don’t want to miss out anything. In our mad rush to keep up with the times, we are missing out on what is happening in the real world.
As with most everything social media too, has its merits and demerits.
Some of the social media’s advantages are:
- It allows you to connect and communicate with anyone in the world for free.
- Social media plays a vital role in not only promoting businesses but it is also a major source of business generation.
- It is a significant source of information and entertainment. It spreads information quicker than most other traditional media like newspapers, TV or the radio.
- Professional networking sites like LinkedIn easily connect companies seeking employees to suitable jobseekers.
- Social media effortlessly helps us to be in touch with our friends and family, both near and far.
One can provide endless reasons to justify why social media is the prime entertainer for a majority of our day.
On the other hand one can also draw up an equally exhaustive list of reasons to not use our favourite apps all the time:
- Nowadays the young and the old and everyone in between has developed an obsession with social media which borders on an addiction. Among these young children, teenagers and especially students are the most distracted by the temptation of social media.
- As our screen time increases, we do not realise how adversely it affects our physical and mental well-being. Very often social media addicts become lethargic and lazy while they are immersed in their screens and devices, resulting in lifestyle disorders which harm us in the long run
- Most people love posting their images and messages online for the fan-following and support they garner in the form of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. However, one must also be wary of negative feedback – such as instances of body shaming – which can be savage and hurtful.
- While social media has accelerated the spread of news, it fails to guarantee the truth quotient of the information it spreads. Thus, it is easy to fall prey to any rumour, false information or propaganda being spread on social media platforms.
Be it scrolling down your Facebook feed or scrolling through Instagram or any other such app- there’s no shortage of ‘content’ to look at, and it can be easy to lose track of time. Before you know it, 10 minutes of your day — or at times way more minutes than you care to admit —are lost forever, thanks to your favourites apps that keep on buzzing through the day.
But even before Mr Zuckerberg thought of Facebook, we still connected with our family and friends. We enjoyed our lives without posting our entire lives on social media platforms.
We must make efforts to take a break from social media and live in a more natural way. Now that we have online lives, we have stopped talking to each other ‘offline’. For some of us now it is easier to text or talk via Whatsapp than to have a conversation in person. The damage to our eyes because of constant exposure to our devices is slowly becoming the least of our concerns: hunched over our screens and refusing to move, we have become inactive and dull, our overall health is deteriorating and our personalities have forgotten to accommodate others around us. Worse still, we are aware of these effects and carry on with our addiction.
We must take a step back and strike a balance in our use of social media platforms.
The benefits of taking a break from social media
- Mindfulness: Taking a break from social media also means a break from the overwhelming amount of content that we absorb daily. This allows us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings and to be present in the moment.
- Movement: Our online lives force us to be glued to our screens, often while sitting or lying down. A break from social media will encourage us to get up and move around more.
- Appreciate the real world: As we busy ourselves with our social media lives, we lose out on an opportunity to connect with the world around us. A break from our online lives helps us to appreciate the people and nature around ourselves.
- Self-reflection: Less of social media in our lives allows for more time to learn about oneself and to be involved in other productive hobbies or activities
- Increased quality of sleep: Almost everyone today is guilty of falling asleep with their phones still in their hands. With reduced social media hours we can use the hours we wile away on social media at night, to really power down and get more sleep and good rest.
Let us look at a rough roadmap to our social media-free life.
Decide how long you want to take a hiatus from social media – Take small steps when you start off. Do not begin by deciding to shun social media for a whole month or week. You will feel even more discouraged when you pick up your phone barely two or three hours after you began your resolution! Instead, take your time and maybe start off with a few hours at first. Make sure to plan other activities for the time you free up, such as returning to an old hobby of yours, reading the newspaper, getting some exercise, helping out someone in the family, organising your room, talking to family members or friends. This way you will feel happier and more productive.
Schedule ‘Social Media-Free’ Days – To test your resolve, it might be a good idea to schedule an entire day free of social media. Maybe every Sunday or maybe an entire weekend where you actively decide not to check or engage with your social media accounts will be of help. On holidays when the entire family is together, attempt to spend more time with them rather than simply posting about your fun-filled holiday. Focus more on spending quality time and making memories.
Set ‘Social Media-Free’ Zones – Demarcate an area of your house – the dining table or the bedroom, for example– as a social media-free zone. Insist that everyone comply with the rule and leave their phones and other devices elsewhere when they enter this space.
Set time limits for using social media –Ironically, there are apps available for us to track the amount of time we spend on our social media accounts. Social Fever, SPACE, AppDetox, Offtime are examples of such programmes. Perhaps a daily reminder of the hours wasted on social media will act as a deterrent and will enable us to keep a check of our usage of these platforms.
Pick the networks you want to take a break from – Delete a few apps from your phone which are unnecessary or make sure to keep yourself logged out at all times. Turn off your notifications as well to properly train yourself and to curb your interest in these.
Brace yourself through the difficult part of the ‘break-up’ – You will realise that this break from social media is much like following a stringent diet routine. It will probably be extremely difficult for the first few days or weeks to follow through on your schedule. At this point, you must rely on sheer determination. There are several ways to avoid the temptation of social media and temporary desolation. For instance, you could go out to a party or take a stroll in a park. You could engage yourself in nature, watch a movie with friends or maybe grab a book off the shelf. Over a period of time, you will realise you are less inclined to turn to social media to occupy yourself.
You will have an improved relationship with your family and friends – How often have you found yourself on social media while the real people around you go unnoticed? Or when was the last time you smiled warmly at a passerby or paused to appreciate the beautiful colours of the setting sun? Social media may claim to keep you connected with the world but effectively it disconnects you from it. When you break up with social media, you will realize that having a heartfelt conversation, a good meal or going out on dates without social media interruption is a wholesome way to bond and connect with people around you. It is important to put aside our phones when we are engaged in an important duty or simply spending time with someone. This allows us to entirely focus our attention on the task or person at hand.
Finally, take inspiration from this African proverb – if you want to go far, go together. Ask a good friend, family member or a colleague to support you. This way you can keep each other in check and provide motivation in your endeavour. Taking a break from social media is a great way to reconnect with the people and activities that truly motivate you. Taking some time off or limiting technology can help boost a person’s mental and physical health. It is a great way to find more time for oneself and to live life to the fullest.
Yamini Kaushik – an avid learner, reader and movie binge-watcher.