Sometimes your phone can feel needy. It demands your attention and pulls you away from time you wish you could enjoy. You find yourself constantly opening your apps, scrolling mindlessly through your feeds. It might be hard to notice how much time has passed!

You wish you could have a different relationship with social media.

Why social media captures our attention

Everyone around you is always on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook etc. and constantly posting about their lives. It’s how you stay in the know. Watching people’s stories and looking at their posts keeps you feeling like you’re in the loop.

Social media hijacks our entire outer shell of our brains, called the cortex. The main purpose of our cortex is to pay attention to our place in social networks to stay safe. Social media piggy backs on our survival instinct to stay connected and aware of our social situation.

It has been estimated that seven in ten Americans use social media as a way to connect with others, stay informed with news content, and entertain themselves. A recent study found that social media users spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes per day on an average of 8 social media and messaging apps

It makes sense – we’re really looking for safety in a social group.

What’s the problem with using social media?

Even though social media gives you a glimpse into the lives of your friends, family, and even strangers, it’s not a real, meaningful way of connecting with those individuals.

You often are not actually connecting with those individuals and engaging in thoughtful conversation that creates the basis of deep friendships. Instead, the mindless scrolling through social media, that so many of us are familiar with, can contribute to feelings of insecurity or loneliness.

It doesn’t have enough “bandwidth” to help us ever feel secure and connected.

So what can be done?

Tip #1: Take time off social media. Like a vacation! Delete your apps, or deactivate your apps. Do something that will help you separate yourself from the apps and minimize your chance of sneaking peaks in moments of weakness. 

Tip #2: Be specific. Set a day and time you will be away from social media. Give yourself a time frame for how long you will be off your apps for. This could be 1 day, 1 week, even a month or longer! But choose a time frame and hold yourself to that time frame.

Tip #3: Fill that empty time with something social. Our minds are used to spending time scrolling through social media. So simply abstaining from the apps may swing us back into dependence later on.

Identify something socially meaningful that you can engage in to fill up some of that empty time. Picnics at a park have been a great way to connect with others during this time! When you feel the urge to check social media, call a friend instead and feed your brain’s desire to connect and feel safe.

Or perhaps you’re needing some solitude. Identify what is recharging for you and spend time doing that activity. For some, that may be hiking. For others, that may be reading a book. Identify 1-2 things you’ve missed doing, whether its with others or in solitude, and replace the time you’d be on social media with those activities.

You can start creating a healthy relationship with social media today

While changing your relationship with social media might initially be difficult, it can also give you the space you need to reflect on how social media is affecting you, to understand just how unfulfilled you might be with it, and to identify other healthy, recharging activities you can engage in. These meaningful activities may allow you to actually engage and connect with others, rather than simply see their lives through the lens of social media.

So if social media is impacting you in negative ways, start today. Recharge yourself, recenter yourself, and reconnect to others.

Rose So, MA
Rose So, MA

I help adolescents and young adults overcome life transitions and learn to thrive, especially during this time of increased fear, boredom, and lack of motivation.