By Samantha Georgson | Illustration by Holly Tyler
Still thinking about your New Year’s resolution? Instead of making the annual pact to actually make use of your gym membership, why not challenge yourself to something even more difficult this year? Wean yourself from social media.
Many of us have grown accustomed to constantly checking our social media feeds. We reach for our phones first thing in the morning to check Facebook for our daily dose of news, we spend lunch breaks scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, and we wind down in the evenings by searching Pinterest for recipes to save before our next trip to the grocery store.
While social media is great for building connections and keeping in contact with friends and family, it can also be incredibly time consuming and prompt constant comparison to friends and followers. Local experts offer advice for practicing mindfulness when it comes to using social media.
BE A CONSCIOUS USER
Our smart phones and tablets are so hard to ignore because they’re constantly interrupting our daily activities. “These networks focus on trying to capture our attention,” says UW professor and social media coach, Don Stanley. “They’re designed to keep us on their platforms as much as possible. So, the reality is, you should start to think about how much time you spend on social media, and whether or not these tools really have your best interests in mind.”
One way to tune out the digital noise is to turn off notifications. “If you can cut down on the number of dings and pings, you’ll find yourself in a much calmer environment, which lends itself to a less stressful emotional state,” says Joanne Cantor, director of the Center for Communication Research. Antor also recommends turning devices off for parts of the day, so you can really focus productively on one thing, instead of constantly multitasking.
EMBRACE THE DIGITAL DETOX
“There’s a lot of anxiety around removing ourselves from social media,” Stanley admits. “A digital detox is a lot like working out. You can’t just walk into the gym and do a full CrossFit workout your first time, you have to ease into it.”
Everybody could benefit from taking regular social media breaks. “Find quiet times throughout the day when phones, email and other connected devices can be turned off,” Cantor suggests. Both she and Stanley emphasize finding the balance that works for you, rather than adhering to a strict media purge. “You need to practice this on an ongoing basis, if you only exercise once a month, you’re never going to get fit—the mind is the same way,” Stanley says.
STICK TO CONTENT THAT FEELS GOOD
Social media can be an incredible tool, but constant connection can also take a toll on our mental wellbeing. Returning to social media after a break could be the perfect time to actually sift through the content you see and the people you follow in order to craft a more positive and uplifting feed. “Really try to be mindful,” says Stanley. “It’s as simple as asking yourself, ‘Does this make me feel good?’”