Your grandma is right: You’re always on that damn phone. It’s your shopping list, your recipe book, your workout buddy and your kids’ babysitter. You need it. But do you need to check social media every time you get a notification?
If you feel like you’re attacked all day with distractions, it’s because you are. We talked to Dr. Meredith Stanton, a psychiatrist with FirstHealth Behavioral Services, to see what effect social media is having on your mental health.
First, Here’s What You Should Know:
Social media algorithms are built to create an addiction, and feed it.
Social media apps track what you like and dislike, keep you engaged, and monopolize your time. The more time your eyeballs stay on the screen, the more money advertisers and influencers will fork over for engagement from you and people like you. Remember how you waited for Kendall Jenner’s last big announcement? Yeah, it’s all a trap.
Now, Here’s What’s Good About Social Media:
Social media allows adults who are isolated from one another because of distance, sickness or other reasons to stay more connected than ever. Social media allows you to connect with like-minded people, feel supported from day to day, and get information about community news and events.
Aaaand, What’s Bad About Social Media:
Those algorithms we told you about earlier? They’re built on what’s called an attention economy, and YOU are the product. Marketers use anxiety & fear to engage audiences — from inviting comparisons to encouraging FOMO.
At the same time, content creators (that’s YOU) are constantly comparing themselves to others. You’ll take 300 photos of your dog just to get the angle on his eye patch that will get the most likes. You’ll ignore your kids while you sit at the dinner table trying to come up with the perfect caption for the steak you just grilled.
Or maybe you’re an expert on all this, and crafting the perfect message takes no time at all. In that case, send us a DM.
How is This Changing our Brains?
While social media can help you find exciting activities, having a tool in our hands that immediately alleviates boredom can keep us from seeking out new things — while at the same time, looking at other people who are acquiring new things and new experiences can make you feel inferior in comparison.
And all that online interaction can insulate us from making real connections. When’s the last time you were in a waiting room and chose talking to a stranger over pulling out your phone?
Better yet, when’s the last time you went two hours without glancing at your phone screen? A time other than when you were asleep? We’ll wait. All those notifications, and clearing them, release dopamine. That feeds your addiction — and feeds back into the attention economy.
Ok, So What Can We Do?
Mitigate expectations. Remember that nothing and no one is perfect, and practice being happy with what you have.
Turn off your notifications. Practice being present, and don’t give yourself a reason to pick up your phone.
Turn on Do Not Disturb at night. Don’t make looking at your phone the first thing you do in the morning.
Take long-term breaks. Delete apps from your phone; or consciously restrict your access. Allow yourself to read news for 30 minutes a day; Facebook, every three months and IG, once a day.
Did we tell you something you didn’t know? Or do you have tips to unplug? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.