Hello everybody! Welcome to Episode 5 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino and today…we’re talking about the big one. It's obnoxious, and the one we all want to get rid of but damn it, it’s so difficult.
Today is about that friend in the group that no one actually likes: social media.
Got a lot of thoughts on social media usage, but let’s take a breath, hear this question out, and see what we can come up with.
QUESTION: “I’m really starting to see the negative effects that social media is having on daily life and productivity. What are some of the ways you might recommend to detach yourself from these networks versus quitting them altogether cold turkey?”
Yeah, social media has really been setting us back in a lot of ways — I think we’re all starting to realize that now.
Seems to me that it’s an issue many of us would LIKE to solve, but don’t really take steps towards solving…and I think that’s due predominantly to two things which will sort of springboard my answer for you.
Everyone is on Social Media
One, is that everyone is on social media. We go there to see other people, and we do it because other people are doing it and participating in it.
Staying on social media is due largely to a pack mentality.
What this leads to is very little questioning as to the value it brings us or what social media does for us individually. We usually don’t ask what purpose it serves us, if that makes sense. It’s easy to blindly follow the crowd, because the more other people participate, the more reinforced it is as something we too should join in on. That’s the first thing.
The Concept of “Breaking Free” is Vague
The second reason people don’t really break free from it is because the very idea of that is just extremely vague. Social media and its effects aren’t concrete. Yeah, we can see it’s getting in the way sometimes, but we can still function with it. It’s not like a broken leg where its effects are very clear, so as long as we’re still pretty much on top of what we need to do in life, we don’t take the effects of social media seriously enough to make alterations.
That is, of course, until they can’t be ignored and they become severe enough that you’re tempted to send in a question to an advice column podcast, ha ha!
Jokes aside, I think this is a great question as it's a question based in mindfulness. And it's a question that I think many people should be asking.
The answer though, does begin by sort of filling in the blanks of the two items I just mentioned. So the first thing I’d like you to do, relative to the first item, is strip away all the other people from social media. Imagine it’s not really a fad, and your engagement in social media is not influenced at all by the masses. It’s a decision you’re making for yourself. When you put yourself in this scenario, what is the purpose? What value does social media offer you? This is a question we should be asking of all things in life, certainly something as pervasive as social media.
Now, it can certainly have purpose — no question. Some people, like myself, find it a great tool for business and networking. Others limit their engagement to distant family members and see it as a way of keeping up with photos of relatives they might never see. But in most cases, social media is there to fill in gaps of boredom and uncertainty. It’s a quick distraction, mostly void of purpose and meaning. What’s the answer for you?
What are Your Thoughts on Social Media?
Whether you come up with an…uhm…“worthy” answer to this question or not, the real core we’re trying to get to by asking it is how that purpose aligns with the time spent on it.
For example, if going on social media is useless to you, then, logically — almost mathematically — speaking, no time should be spent on it. That might be when you want to consider the deleting-it-cold-turkey option.
But if your social media usage is, say, a specific relaxation technique, then how much time do you want to devote to that relaxation versus how much time you are currently devoting to it? The point is to first determine the value of social media and what amount of time out of your day that value is relative to.
This starts to blend into solving the second problem; the problem of how vague social media setbacks are and just how much they impact our lives. And that’s because time is measurable. So where is that time being spent, and what is it getting in the way of specifically? You mentioned that you’re starting to see the negative effects of social media. What are they? How, specifically, is the time you're spending on social media interfering with you? Getting clear about these and having some sort of measurement for the effect social media is taking will most certainly make you more driven in fixing the problem for yourself. The more detailed you are, the more detailed your strategy to overcome will be.
Let’s consider some examples:
- Maybe your specific negative effect is that you’re having trouble sleeping. Well, the most useful thing you could do is to maybe turn off your phone or computer an hour before bedtime.
- Maybe you’re not as productive at work. If that’s the case, put your phone away in your desk or on the other side of your office so it’s out of sight.
- Maybe you’re arguing too much on social media. Set an intention each time you log in that you’re going to offer three supportive comments on people’s posts.
You see where I’m going with this?
Create a Structure — and Be Specific
Now, all that said, sometimes the effects are indeed less specific. Maybe what you’re talking about is more long term like poor concentration in general, eyes that are sore, or less time being spent socializing with friends. Rest assured, there are always helpful ways to trim the fat like unfollowing or unfriending accounts that don’t serve you, logging in to only check notifications rather than scrolling, or setting specific time aside for yourself that you designate for social media instead of sprinkling it throughout your day. These are ways to generally decrease time on social media, and again, if you do become specific about that time giving it structure and a hard figure to work off of, it’s easier to decrease it.
Say you check your phone statistics settings, if that’s what it’s called (I’m definitely not an expert on the ins and outs of phones so do not quote me on that cause it sounds wrong anyway) and it says you spend an average of 3 hours per day on social networks. That’s a great number to have because you can measure it against how much time you want to spend, and use some of these strategies to steadily decrease that time. Quitting cold turkey can be hard, so why not go from 3 hours this week to 2:40 next week, then 2:20 the next week, and 2 hours the following week and so on.
You can make ongoing alterations and use ongoing strategies to wean yourself off social media to a point that you’re comfortable with.
But the most practical strategies to use start with you getting detailed about the role social media plays in your life.
So it turns out social media doesn’t have to run our lives after all. The struggle IS real though, so when it comes to things that have a strong hold over us and drive the car while we sit in the back helplessly, taking a mindful approach like the one I hopefully illustrated in today’s episode is of utmost importance.
So that does it for this one, friends. For those of you who would like to submit a question of your own and have it answered on the show, you can submit your question to email@example.com. Have a great day everyone, and hope you’ll stop in for the next one.