According to this infographic from Media Bistro, the average internet user spends about 14 percent of her week on social media. Fourteen percent may not seem like much, but that’s about 23 hours…which may as well be one whole day!
Most of the people I know at least have Facebook. Let’s face it, it’s a great way to stay connected. It’s convenient, too. I can look at pictures of my best friend’s wedding before she’s even left for her honeymoon. All I have to do is search for the event’s designated hashtag and all the photos that have been posted in real time will suddenly flood my screen. And speaking of screen, do I mean my iPhone, my iPad, my laptop, or my desktop? Most social media is responsive over all the devices, which just adds to the convenience checklist. But is there such a thing as social media overload?
A large part of my job is social media, so this may seem odd, but I say yes. Social media breaks are good for your mental health. They can help clear your head and give you a chance to be with real people versus their online personality. I’m not telling you to go on a three year hiatus, but a two week pause might do you good.
As prevalent as social media is in today’s world, there’s still a need to effectively engage with physical people; and the more we put it off, the worse we might become at it. “Over time, you almost start to feel phobic about conversation,” says Sherry Turkle, Ph.D., MIT professor and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Do you really want that to happen?
A break may also be good for your self-esteem. Social media means that you have constant access to all the people who you were jealous of in high school. You may be tempted to compare yourself to your former best friend, who seems like she has it all together. But does she really? It may look like that online, but there are probably some things that she doesn’t want to open up to the virtual world.
Isn’t that what most people do? They post things that make them look good; things that don’t mention their struggles or problems. A study done at the University of Salford in England discussed this topic. Of the 298 partakers, roughly half of them said that social media makes their lives worse, in a large part because they’re constantly comparing themselves to their online counterparts.
Start small. Try and unplug for just one day a week. Still seem a bit much? Start smaller. Just cut the time you spend in the online world in half. You never know what might happen. You may just find that you enjoy that extra work out or the new weekly coffee date you now have time for. Maybe you should even enjoy a vacation without posting to Instagram…your “toes in the sand” photos will just make everyone else jealous anyway.