The average person will spend more than five years of their life on social media, and most users spend roughly two hours every day on some social platform or another. Social media accounts for as much as 30% of total time spent online, and up to 80% of social media usage takes place on mobile devices – meaning that, in many cases, we literally can’t get away from that next tweetstorm or Instagram notification.
Two hours a day is a huge chunk of time to be spent doing anything – let alone using services with known links to negative health effects, ranging from increased feelings of loneliness to sleep deprivation. For many, social media is a stressor, and it can be a trigger for anxiety and frustration – yet it can be hard to connect with friends and family without it.
And for many, social media isn’t just a habit, but a cornerstone of their daily life. That’s particularly true for people in our chosen field; working as we do in digital marketing, we’re even more plugged in than the average user, and large portions of our day are spent checking in on social media analytics, monitoring posts and comments, scrolling through feeds on Buffer, SocialPilot, or Hootsuite, and creating content for Twitter and Facebook.
What this means is that we sometimes have to check in and set hard limits on our social media usage – for the sake of our own mental and physical health. Looking for some help getting started with a digital detox plan? Just want to be more mindful when it comes to your social media consumption?
Here are a few strategies that we’ve found can be quite helpful, whether you’re just taking a temporary breather from social media or trying to set more productive habits for your future:
1.) Set Technology-Free Windows of Time
Take some time to completely unplug from the digital world every now and then. Besides just staying away from social media, remove yourself from all temptations by leaving your computer off, switching off your cell phone, and maybe even avoiding TVs. If possible, try to set an entire tech-free day – perhaps a Saturday or Sunday when you can take a break from work. If not, consider going tech-free for a few hours, perhaps at the start or end of each workday.
The benefits of the occasional digital purge have been documented again and again: A University of Maryland study found that students who unplugged for 24 hours reported higher levels of focus, clearer thinking, increased productivity, and more prosocial behaviors.
2.) Set Limits on Your Personal Social Media Use
Are you a compulsive social media checker? You may be, without even knowing it. To test yourself, try keeping a log (yes, with pen and paper) of every time you switch to a social channel during your workday. You may be surprised at how unconscious your use of social media is. Another method to try? There are productivity apps you can use to block certain designated websites or other apps, including Facebook and Twitter. If it’s agony being blocked for an hour or two, you may be more dependent on social than you’d think.
Whatever the case, you can use these same productivity tools to block social media for a set window of time each day. Any period of time will do; just be sure to set a feasible, realistic goal for your social media usage. You may be surprised at how much more you accomplish without the ever-present temptation of social media hanging out, just a tab away.
3.) Turn Off Notifications
Finally, some practical advice that has worked wonders for Eric, our social media guru. Simply turn off your mobile notifications from social media devices. That’s it. Trust us, it will help.
As Eric explains;
“Every time I would get a ping on my cell phone – representing a new “Like” on Facebook or a comment on Instagram – I would be tempted to open up the app. Rather than just checking my notifications and moving on, though, I would get lost in my feeds and waste a ton of time in the process. Getting rid of mobile notifications for insignificant updates gets rid of so many distractions… instantly. You’ll gain tons of time, you won’t always be looking down at your phone, and you won’t fall ‘out of the loop.’ Win-win-win.”
There’s not any social media update that’s so important that it can’t wait until the next time you’re at a desktop or have genuine downtime. That “like,” that comment, that new page view – nothing is so essential that you need to be bombarded with the information constantly. Take a break. Your notifications will still be waiting for you, even if you just check them every few hours rather than every few minutes.
Looking for more insights on the effects – and limits – of constant connectivity? There’s a lot of great literature out there; we’d recommend getting started with William Powers’ Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age or the works of Sherry Turkle, including Reclaiming Conversation and Alone Together.
We know, we know – tech wonks recommending books? We’re surprised too. If it helps, give them a look on your e-reader; we won’t judge! Want to keep the conversation on tech, culture, and social media marketing going? Be sure to follow Geek on Facebook and Twitter, where we share our geekiest passions and insights every day.