It’s so easy to get pulled into the world of social media and spend way too much of your time scrolling through Facebook, posting the perfect shot on Instagram, snapping endlessly on Snapchat, coming up with quippy responses on Twitter.
I made a very conscious decision a while ago to limit the time I spent on social media so that I had more time to actually experience life beyond the screen. I stopped spending time looking through friends’ photos on Facebook and deleted my Instagram account. I continued using social media sites but only to stay in touch with the people I was closest to.
It gave me an interesting insight into the many benefits that come from limiting the time you spend on social media…
1. You properly keep in touch with people
Social media provides a nice simple way of keeping in touch with people. It requires minimal effort to scroll through your news feed and send a quick message to someone you knew from school to say ‘Happy Birthday’, like a friends new profile picture, post about your weekend. Giving the illusion of being constantly connected, it encourages you to be lazy about actually keeping in touch with people.
Since I stopped using Facebook, I had to make more of an effort to stay informed on what was happening in the lives of my closest friends. I actually had to pick up the phone to call them, arrange to see them in person, or send them a longer message to catch up on what I’d missed. It leaves you with an actual feeling of connection much more authentic than the false one created online.
2. Experience the world beyond the screen
When I was living in Hong Kong and commuting to work everyday on the MTR I quickly picked up on the fact that everyone was glued to their phone screens. They were doing a million different things for a million different reasons: talking to loved ones, scrolling through photos, watching videos, checking social media, playing games, listening to music. But what they weren’t doing was looking around. I could go the entire journey without once making eye contact with another living person. No one looked up to people watch or just look into space or read an actual book. The outside world became background noise and they missed out on it altogether.
The same can be said of London and England and Europe and the whole world really. We’re so technology obsessed that we spend our whole lives staring at our screens and missing out on the things going on outside of them. I catch myself doing the same thing even though I try not to but it’s far easier if you limit your time on social media. It’s one less thing drawing you to your phone and it frees up a few precious moments to actually look around.
3. No more keeping up with the Joneses
Sites like Instagram and Facebook make it very easy to compare yourself to other people and judge yourself for not measuring up. Looking at photos of your friend on holiday with their new boyfriend, you berate yourself for not being in a relationship. Liking someone’s picture perfect profile, you despair at the fact that you always look awkward in photos.
I had a bit of an epiphany one day when I realised that the time I spent on sites like this always left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough, popular enough, pretty enough. I was desperately trying and failing to keep up with the elusive Joneses and that definitely doesn’t equate to happiness.
The easiest way to stop comparing myself negatively to other people was to just stop looking. It was a simple fix that has made a massive difference to my mindset and self-confidence.
4. You lose the fear of missing out
You couldn’t attend your friend’s birthday drinks because you had family plans. The next day, they post the pictures from the night online and you check them out of interest. Everyone looks like they’re having a great time and you become painfully aware that your face isn’t included in any of the photos. You get the horrible sinking feeling that you’ve missed out on something great.
If you don’t see the shots, you’ve suddenly lost the visual reminder that you missed out and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad. Over time, it becomes easier to turn down the events you don’t really want to go to without that fear of missing out on them.
5. You have more time
Let’s say that you’re meant to be doing something. Maybe it’s work or errands or house work. You reward yourself with a quick ten minute break to stay motivated and decide to spend that ten minutes having a brief look on Facebook. Before you know it, forty minutes have passed and you’re still scrolling through posts, stalking people’s profiles and sending one line messages to your friends.
Social media is cunning in the way it manages to keep you hooked and it can end up being a big drain on your time. Maybe that’s not a big deal if you have a lot of time on your hands but if you’re busy with a full time job and a life in the real world, it’s a good idea to limit how long you give to social media each day.
6. You become more authentic
The problem with social media is that it only shows one version of reality. You see a picture of a friend on a family holiday and admire their beautiful outfit, their smiling face and stunning surroundings. What you don’t see is the family spats that happened during the trip, the hours and hours spent on the plane, the sunburn.
Sites like Instagram encourage us to photograph and share the most photogenic aspects of our lives. We portray a perfect version of ourselves and hide away the real us, the complicated, flawed, human parts. We lose our authenticity while falsely believing that what we see online is the truth.
Spending less time on social media helps you to become more real. You take a photograph of your loved ones or a beautiful sunset not because you want to share it online but because you want a memento of a special moment just for yourself.
7. Your “friends” are actually your friends
I remember discussing with friends at school how many Facebook friends they had. Some had over 1,000. It baffled me. It’s hard enough knowing 1,000 people let alone staying friends with them all. The number of friends you have on social media can give you the false sense that your life is full to the brim with people you love. In reality, if you were to only have your closest connections on Facebook, the people you actually want to spend time with and actually like and respect, the chances are, your number of friends would plummet. That’s okay.
The truth, I’ve found, is that close relationships are so much more fulfilling than hundreds of Facebook “friends”. Cutting your time on social media encourages you to spend time with those special people in your inner circle who enrich your life. Maybe you look like you have fewer friends on the outside, but on the inside you feel more connected than you ever could online.