Should 2020 be the year you give up social media? There's conflicting advice.
Every year around this time, many thought pieces and articles are published about social media – giving it up, that is.
Is that a good idea?
Or, more importantly, could abandoning your social media accounts for a while lead to increased feelings of well-being?
Believe it or not, research as to whether or not social media abstinence will make you "happy" is conflicting.
This article claims that "researchers at the University of Kentucky followed several people who stopped using social media. All participants filled out a daily journal to assess their feelings of loneliness and well-being, among other things. However, no significant change was noted in their mood and well-being. In addition, observations were made after 14, 21 and 28 days. However, abstinence time also seems to have no effect."
Other articles, such as this piece from Psychology Today, indicate that people do indeed feel a sense of personal connection when they use social media to connect with friends and family.
The author writes, "I find I cannot pull myself away from Facebook and Twitter. To do so would mean resigning a meaningful volunteer position, losing an avenue for connecting with my scout troop moms, and cutting myself off from a wise and caring network of academic mothers. I would lose connections I have made throughout my nomadic life."
If other users share this feeling, it makes sense that a lack of social media use may increase feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
HOW TO SET HEALTHY HABITS FOR YOURSELF
Rather than proclaiming to the world that you're no longer going to be active on social media (you may end up eliciting some major eye rolls if you go this route), it's essential to evaluate your relationship with it by asking a few questions:
1. Determine if a technology detox is in order. If everyone in your home, or you as an individual, set a reminder to be screen-free at a certain point during the day, it may help feelings of social media "addiction." Many articles claim that tempering use, rather than giving it up completely, is a healthy habit.
2. Decide whether or not a "following" clean-out would benefit you. Many people (again, they announce it publicly) feel a sense of relief when they unfollow people or accounts that yucky-up their news feeds. Mindful social media following is a practice to embrace daily, as what's in your news feed can end up feeding you mentally and emotionally.
3. Set a timer. Really. Permit yourself to scroll but for a certain amount of time each day. Set a reminder, or activate the timer on your phone to alert you when 5, 10, or 15 minutes pass. In a perfect world, perhaps many networks would send you notifications when you've been scrolling the site too long. Since that is what they're relying on to ensure users stay engaged, I wouldn't count on it.
If you set a goal or made a resolution to give up social media altogether: it's likely this article won't change your mind. However, there are alternatives, such as the healthy habits mentioned above.
Self-awareness is critical when it comes to social media use and creating boundaries around how much time you spend on social networks. Remember, these networks rely on you staying logged in as long as you can.
It will be a while before there's any universal regulation. Therefore, it is up to all of us as individuals to decide where our limits are.
What do healthy habits look like for you?
What boundaries do you have in place to keep you from over-using social networks?
How can you make social media health a priority in the new year?