Pursuit of Appiness
I’m on my phone, a lot. I’m a person who carries a backup charger and gets anxious when my battery dips below 20%. Would I call it attachment? Yes, but I will justify this a tiny bit by saying my dependence is partially due to necessity (i.e. managing social media for a living), and only a teeny, tiny little bit because of personal preference (I like to share and connect). I began to notice some trends in how various platforms are frequently used…
Snapchat - Look how cute I am with bunny ears!
Facebook - Here is stuff I’m attending/here is my adorable pupper (or child)/here is thing I sell (in my case thing I wrote/class I’m teaching)
LinkedIn - I’m a business professional!
Google+ - It’s just a thing
Swarm - LOOK AT ALL THE COOL STUFF I DO/PLACES I GO
Instagram - Checkout my highlight reel
Twitter - Everything is terrible/here is an article I read/gifs
Timehop - Here is what I did on the other channels on this day in history
There are more platforms out there, these are just the ones I frequent(ed). I started to develop a love/hate relationship with the apps I used on a daily basis. Post something and get likes and it was an instant high. OMG, PEOPLE LIKE ME!!! Post something and get no reaction? Why does everyone hate me? It’s easy to start to derive self-worth from online interactions. Not only that, it’s easy to absorb emotions from the online community we create for ourselves. And don’t even get me started on Smart Watches. Convenient, yes...but the notifications. MY GOD the notifications. We lure ourselves into believing we have to always be on. We train ourselves to respond to each ping, beep, buzz, like one of Pavlov’s dogs.
The thing about being always on? It drains your batteries.
Studies have found that the more social networks we use, the higher our likelihood for showing anxious or depressive behaviors. Now...my background in psychology makes me caveat this...correlation is not causation. Very chicken and egg stuff here it could be that time spent on social media leads to these behaviors OR people with these existing conditions tend to use social media more. This post works on the premise that the use impacts mood.
One theory behind the relationship is that the more social networks we are on the more we spread our attention, multitasking is linked to decreased cognition and mood. Another possible explanation is that the more time we spend on social networks the more we have to keep up with the social contract of each, to understanding how to play the game and with every interaction the possibility of doing it wrong. Then, of course, there’s the anxiety we can begin to associate with the lack of engagement on posts or worse, for some, FOMO.
Fear Of Missing Out runs rampant on social media, be it an event I wasn’t invited to or an amazing vacation I wish I was on, it’s easy to see a lot of snapshots and mistake them for a whole picture. That can start to wear on anyone’s emotions. Interestingly, these findings indicate negative experiences, bullying or unwanted interactions (e.g. seeing your ex getting engaged), are independent risk factors from general social media use.
I realize you are very likely reading this because you saw it on Facebook or via Twitter (thanks for clicking through, btw) and I, clearly, love social media. I love it enough to make a career out of it. Maybe you do too, or maybe you realize it’s increasingly part of how we communicate and its use seems inevitable. So what do you do when your social media activity seems to be impacting your mood? A few ideas…
Kondo That Ish - I’ll admit I have not actually read Marie Kondo’s book but I have read enough think pieces about it that I have the general sense of the process. If something or someone doesn’t add to your experience...remove them from your experience. Unfriend or unfollow. Curate an experience that is enjoyable to you. Worried about hurting feelings or like following a particular person but not a certain type of content? Look for third party apps or mute functions. Facebook lets you unfollow without unfriending, Twitter lets you mute a person, Tweetdeck lets you mute a hashtag or phrase. Feel overwhelmed by all the apps in the world? Pick the ones you enjoy. I found myself anxious on Swarm because I wasn’t checking in at as many places or events as other people, sometimes I felt pressure to keep my streak alive. I didn’t like how I felt and deleted the app. Scrolling Timehop when I woke up became a habit for me but seeing breakups, relationships that became more distant, silly things that upset me changed my mood for the day. Then they had a garbage UI update and I rage quit. But really, figure out what adds and what detracts from your experience and your time. There’s no shame in the self care game, do what you need to do to enjoy your time.
Un-Pavlov Yourself - Can’t resist checking every notification? Use your phone settings or in app preferences to your advantage. Decide what is and is not important enough to show on your lock screen or make a noise. Every interaction will be there the next time you check in, you don’t have to see it immediately. My preferences? Facebook notifications off (even though I miss subbing yoga classes sometimes), Twitter notifications only for people I follow, Instagram shows count only rather than individual popups.
Set Boundaries - Be it time limits or distinct times to check in on your social networks being always on is exhausting, limit your access or your interaction times. Play around with what works best for your life and your mood. I found myself constantly scrolling in waiting rooms, coffee shops, and restaurants. Rather than spending my time that way I started carrying a book. I don’t read chapters at a time, sometimes only a few paragraphs, but I slowly make my way through a book and feel better about myself while doing it. Oh, and don’t scroll before bed. It’s bad for your sleep. Sleep impacts mood. Sleep is good.
Social media is a personal thing, even when it’s your profession, if you want to tackle all of the above go for it. See how you feel. Want to try one or two? That’s works too, or maybe it doesn’t. Just as how we use social media is highly personal so is how it impacts our moods, do what you need to do to feel your best.
Oh, but if you go on a friend cleanse, don’t announce it. That’s awkward.