Last year I deleted all my social media apps from my phone. It has made me more present and content, helped me create good habits and made me less anxious. Clearly social media was bad for me. And research supports this theory.
A BBC story states that 3 billion people, around 40% of the world’s population, use online social media – and we’re spending an average of 2 hours everyday on these platforms.
More than the time we spend, its how we engage with social media that makes the difference. If you find yourself drained after 20 minutes of mindless scrolling on a social media platform, you are not alone.
In a press release called, Hard Questions, David Ginsberg, director of research, and Moira Burke, a research scientist at Facebook, acknowledge and comment on the scientific research linking social media to negative impacts on well-being, before outlining the steps Facebook is taking to solve these issues.
Here is what they say:
Just like in person, interacting with people you care about can be beneficial, while simply watching others from the sidelines may make you feel worse.
Independent studies by Facebook as well as other researchers indicate that passive consumption of content on social media is linked to negative social comparison.
From the Facebook press release again:
In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. In one experiment, University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on Facebook
In another study researchers studied 82 participants to understand how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives after using Facebook.
Here is what they found:
Our results indicate that Facebook use predicts negative shifts on both of these variables over time. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.
The reason we feel drained after mindless scrolling on any social media platform is because we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and make judgments about how we measure up. People’s posts are often curated and flattering, and we become a victim of the highlight reel – people always seem happier, better off on social media.
Last year when I was trying to simplify my life, Cal Newport’s TED talk and article caught my attention.
In his article, Cal Newport writes:
To be more concrete, I claim that most users could probably reap 95% of the value they get out of social media by signing in twice a week, on a desktop or laptop, to catch up on the latest photos, or check their organization’s group, or to browse the most recent chatter relevant to a movement they care about. Let’s called this controlled use of these services.
So, I decided to try this experiment.
I was an early adopter of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and have been mostly a passive consumer on these platforms. They swiftly made their way to my smartphone as soon as apps were available. Last year I deleted all my social media apps from my phone.
So, what changes did I notice?
I could go for months without logging into social media: Once I deleted these apps from my phone and I could only use social media on my laptop, I automatically used them much lesser. I made myself login every time I needed to access any of these mediums. This made me pause and think if I really needed to be on them now.
I felt content: The biggest change I noticed in a few months was how content I felt. I am happier with my life because I am not constantly comparing mine to someone else’s picture-perfect version.
I lived my life on my own terms: I stopped living my life based on what others were doing. I love to lounge around at home in the weekends – I did just that and did not go shopping in a mall every weekend.
I suddenly had more time: The endless number of hours I spent browsing feeds and agonising in my head about how little my life is were now spent doing things I really love. I read more, picked up yoga and meditation.
I could finally simplify my life: I shop less, own fewer items and I spent my time, energy and money on things that truly matter.
This is not to say that social media is all bad. I am still on all these platforms but I use them much lesser and I am mindful of the time I spend on them.
If you think you could do with a little less social media, try this experiment. Remove social media apps from your phone for a week and use a computer to access them. Notice how often you feel the twitch to login. Even if you decide to put them back in the phone after a week, you will be a more mindful user.