We all love a good social media update about our cute nephew who just learned to whistle. We enjoy the feel-good videos about dogs doing dog stuff. We appreciate that we can stay connected with old friends and distant family, about whom we’d know little were it not for social media. We even see the value in social media as a news source, even though we know there’s an algorithm at play that feeds into our biases.
And yet, we all know there’s a dark side to social media. A truly ugly side. As much as social media can bring us joy, it can also make us sick — literally. There can come a point when your social media use has become toxic; when you start wondering how in the hell you ever associated with some of the people in your friends list; when you’re arguing in comment threads with Trumpers who are committed to their ignorance; when the bad starts outweighing the good. In short, there can come a time when you need a break from social media. Here are six signs that you need to set some major social media boundaries for yourself.
You Experience Social Media Related Anxiety
If you’re trying to fall asleep and you’re still replaying a debate from a morning social media thread in your head, your heart racing, your teeth grinding, it’s time for a social media break. There are causes that deserve your concern, but take a step back and ask yourself if that thing you experienced on social media that’s keeping you up at night is truly one of those causes. If your anxiety cannot lead to actions that can lead to positive impact, then you’re wasting your energy. It’s time for a social media breather so you can clear your head and reset.
You Hate Everyone/See The World In General As A Terrible, Hopeless Place
There are problems that need to be addressed at every layer of society, in every group. Often those problems are huge and systemic; sometimes they feel impossible to fix. And the world can indeed be an ugly place. But there is also beauty in the world, and sometimes we immerse ourselves so much in the ugliness on social media that we forget that. We shouldn’t ignore the problems we’re committed to fixing. But if social media is causing you to doomscroll for hours, if you’re feeling bogged down with a general sense of hopelessness (been there!), you need a break. Your mental health is important. Take a break and take care of yourself.
Social Media Is Disrupting Your Sleep
Maybe you’re not doomscrolling and getting sucked into a vortex of despair at one in the morning. Maybe you just really enjoy TikTok. *side-eyes self* But you (I) need sleep. Literally, our brains and bodies don’t function optimally if we’re (I’m) not getting enough sleep. If you (I) can’t seem to put your phone down at the end of the night, it’s time to set some social media limits. The clever feminist take downs and wildly impressive makeup transformations will still be there in the morning, Kristen.
Social Media Is Interfering With Your Productivity
Between the 2020 election and the pandemic, I think most of us would admit to having lost productivity due to social media at some point. There is a lot to know. A lot of ignorance to combat. But if a loss of productivity becomes an ongoing thing, if you realize you are accomplishing significantly less than what you consider your normal or if you’re bringing in less money despite work being available to you, it might be time to evaluate how much time you spend on social media.
Your Loved Ones Accuse You Of “Always Being On Your Phone”
You’re at the dinner table and your phone pings. How itchy are you to pick it up? If you do pick it up, do your kids slump in disappointment? Were they in the middle of telling you a story when you reflexively reached over to pick up your phone? Do your kids or partner tell you they wish you weren’t on your phone so much? It’s hard to hear, but if your loved ones are complaining you spend more time on your phone scrolling social media than with them, hear them out. It might be time for a social media break.
You Aren’t Taking Care Of Yourself/Your Routines Are Off
You used to go for a brisk walk every morning, and now instead you spend an hour and a half scrolling social media. You fall asleep with your phone in hand instead of doing what used to be a nightly skincare routine. You used to spend an hour or so every afternoon playing a game or just being silly with the kids, and now you find yourself telling them “just a minute” over and over while you stare at your phone. If your social media time is cutting into normal life routines that you used to find enjoyable, it’s past time for a break.
Stage A Social Media Intervention With Yourself
So you’ve noticed some unhealthy patterns with your social media use. Time for an intervention. But how? First, diagnose where the problem lies. Is your social media overuse merely a time issue, as in, you can’t seem to put down your phone, or is it more that you’re upsetting yourself over things that are out of your control? First, figure out exactly what the crux of your problem is, and then try one of these:
A pact with a friend: Just what it sounds like. You make a pact to limit yourself to a certain amount of time each day for checking social media each day, and you check in with each other to hold yourselves accountable.
Use an app: There are some great tracking apps available that will track your daily usage and allow you to set limits to help you better understand where you’re tempted most and to control your usage.
Keep your phone out of your bedroom: This will be my solution for my nightly TikTok obsession. If the phone’s not there, I can stop being tempted to grab it. If you’re a nighttime scroller like me, this could help.
Delete problematic apps: A couple of years ago, Facebook became a problem for me. I was doomscrolling all the time and constantly angry. So I deleted the app from my phone. I still had access via my desktop, but not having the app in my hand made it easier not to obsess.
Turn off notifications: I did this years ago and it still stands. None of my social media apps make a sound or show up on my phone screen in any way. The only way I can see if I have notifications is if I open the app. This helps to reduce the temptation to pick up my phone.
Therapy: There may be other factors unrelated to the social media itself that are driving you to tune out of day-to-day life. It may not be as simple as deleting an app or two. If you’re suffering from anxiety and/or depression and using social media as an escape, talk to a professional.
At its best, social media is a fun addition to our daily lives. It keeps us in touch with friends and aware of current events. At its worst, it’s a time suck and a soul-sucking toxic waste dump. If social media has you leaning toward the latter, it’s time to reevaluate how you use it.