A few years ago, I deleted all of my social media, and doing so changed everything. Now I benefit from sharper focus, increased productivity, calmness, social confidence, and sense of self. I astonish people with how many books I read per year and how many miles I run per day; achievements are much more fun to count than the number of likes posts. My revelation even inspired friends to ditch their social media, and they report similar liberation; we realized that leaping from the virtual world eliminates some of the turbulence it undoubtedly causes. Without it, you thrive.
Though often swept under the rug, excessive social media usage carries significant consequences. The most extreme social media problems like addiction, cyberbullying, “thin-spiration” and stalking shock us but are rare. Lesser psychological side effects include increased anxiety and depression, as well as decreased academic performance and diminished attention span. Nevertheless, there are non-diagnosable negative effects that plague frequent social media users.
We know from both research and experience that instant connection to unlimited resources can lead to compulsive behaviors, bad habits and bad conduct. The average American checks their phone 80 times per day (Asurion), and millennials check their phones around 150 times per day (Qualtrics and Accel). Viewers aimlessly browse themselves into fatigue. Relationships tangle in virtual drama. Selfies wait in vain for likes. Comment sections blaze with political crossfire. The negative effects of social media are so overwhelming that people are ditching their connections in the clouds to head back down to earth.
I jumped off social media without a parachute and landed on my feet. Abstinence is a radical choice in a world where we’re encouraged to indulge ourselves, but it is rewarding in a special way. Plant your feet on solid ground by abandoning the nonsense. People close enough to need you can text, email or meet you in person. Jump off and ditch your social media altogether. If you’re hesitant, try a “digital detox” first.
A digital detox involves self-imposing restrictions on your social media and phone usage. Check your social media, email and texts at designated times. Set a timer when you’re online and log off when you’re done. Leave your phone away from your bed when you sleep. Don’t text and drive; don’t walk and text; don’t check your phone during face-to-face conversation. Log off, detox and consider purging some accounts.
Don’t be afraid to disconnect. If you can take it or leave it, leave it. If you are someone who can’t imagine going without your social media, you should still cut down. Take time to nurture authentic relationships in person. Take down contact information for people you love and call them, hear each another’s voices. Get out and actually do the things you thought looked cool on social media. There’s so much more to life than guarding your online presence. Don’t let it control you. Jump off!