Updated: Oct 31, 2020
By Ezra Elias Vivas
Image via Unsplash
If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media, you’ve probably heard some expression of the sentiment “I spend way too much time on here.” And, statistically, people saying this are right. It’s no surprise that as technology becomes more and more popular when more and more people are using it. The 2018 Pew Research Center’s 2018 survey of teens found that 95% of us have a smartphone (or have access to one) and that 45% of us say that we are online “almost constantly.” A 2019 study found that 12- to 15-year-olds who use social media for more than three hours a day “might be at a heightened risk for mental health problems.”
Teens are shamed and belittled for using social media by adults who often don’t understand the differences in our youth to theirs. And while it’s easy to list the negative effects of social media (and the Internet at large), it isn’t all bad. For a lot of us, social media was how we met some of our oldest friends, found ourselves and communities for people like us, learned about new hobbies or skills, and have provided lifelines and safe havens.
However, a 2017 ORIGIN survey found that whilst 62% of Gen Zers said that social media had a “positive impact on overall happiness,” 68% say social media “sometimes or often” makes them feel sad, anxious, or depressed. Understanding that you can both value something and recognize that it requires moderation is a difficult but important thing to learn.
Social media can lead to a perception of being lonely, and this effect is exacerbated by comparing yourself to others. Smart Social’s Josh Ochs suggests making sure you’re using social media to connect and communicate with others, and not to compare with them. He also suggests making sure you’re consuming it wisely; are you scrolling whenever you have a free moment? Do you find yourself barely even processing what you’re reading on Twitter? Is it productive to be arguing with people in the comments section of an Instagram post?
Sometimes the problem isn’t just how we use social media, but how often it’s used.
How much is too much? For an answer, we can turn to American Addiction Centers, who say “Like any other kind of problematic usage, addiction to the Internet is defined by the behavior having crossed a line, where it now causes problems in one’s daily life.” Whether or not excessive Internet use constitutes a diagnosable disorder is still up for debate among professionals, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t have a negative effect on your life, and it’s especially important to be mindful during lockdown.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re spending too much time on Instagram, or if you’re using Twitter wisely. If you feel your social media habits are right for you, then carry on. Otherwise, here are some tips for breaking a stubborn social media habit:
Identify what’s causing you to go on social media so often. Opening social media right when you wake up can lead to more stress and anxiety.
Think about how social media makes you feel, and if it makes you feel worse rather than better.
Make note of which sites make you feel better, and which ones make you feel worse.
Find something else to do. Instead of scrolling through TikTok for hours on end, consider organizing your closet, reading a book, drawing, or doing some other hobby.
Written by writer Ezra Elias Vivas