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Reducing the Influence of Social Media on your Daily Life

“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer possible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health issues.”

– Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH

“Fun” fact – the average person has five social media accounts and spends 1 hour and 40 minutes a day browsing these networks… 100 minutes of your day that you could be spending on enjoying much more fulfilling social interaction in real life.

As a final year student at Durham University, I have recently returned to Durham from my year abroad.  It was the most enriching experience I’ve ever had, but there came a point after six months working in Germany and five in France where all I wanted to do was go home, curl up on the sofa with my mum and do nothing.  At such low points social media can be very dangerous for your mental health – you watch other people post constantly about their “amazing” lives and end up comparing yourself to them.  Such insecurity applies to a growing number of people with regards to body image too.

Take a look at the graph below.  According to research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), YouTube is the only widespread social network ranked as having an overall positive influence on the lives of young people.  Instagram and Snapchat came out as the worst for mental wellbeing.  Interestingly, these two are the most image-focused of them all.  Shirley Cramer (see introductory quote), has confirmed that such social networks “may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people”.

There is no doubt that social media is perpetuating feelings of insecurity and loneliness in our ever more self-centered, hyper-capitalist lives.  Here is my guide (from personal experience) to reducing the detrimental effects of social networks on your daily routine and, more importantly, your happiness.

1.  Turn off your wi-fi and do something else.

Staring at a screen is not only bad for your eyesight, but it can also delay the onset of sleep.  A couple of hours before bed, try to put down your phone and pick up a book, do some drawing, listen to music, …  Such activities are much more relaxing and enriching than scrolling aimlessly down your Facebook feed and stalking “friends” who you haven’t made the effort to see for several years…

2.  Keep your phone data turned off unless you actually need it.

When wandering the streets alone, it is all too tempting to get out your phone and scroll, double tap, or type…  This is highly irritating if you are not attentive to passers-by.  More importantly, it prevents you from observing the beauty of the world around you.  If you keep your phone in your bag, you will learn to appreciate a pretty sunset, a cute little squirrel or even a good-looking human(!).  Then maybe you’ll only need your phone to take a picture of said sight (although snapping a stranger would be rather creepy).

3.  Log out of apps or even delete them.

A few months ago I deleted both the Snapchat and Facebook apps from my phone.  There is no doubt that this has made the world of a difference.  If I want to establish contact with someone I will actually send them a message rather than simply liking a photo of theirs or replying to a Snapchat story.  I’ve found that doing this really reduces the (worrying) superficiality of modern-day relationships.  Writing a personal message and receiving a response is much more meaningful and allows you to work out who your true friends are: those who show a genuine interest in your life and maintain a conversation with you.

4.  That being said, we should all favour real life interaction over instant messaging.

For long-distance relations you could start as I did by replacing texts with phone and video calls.  When it comes to short-distance friendships, on the other hand, it is so worth dragging yourself out into the British rain to catch up over coffee.  Establishing and maintaining a bond with somebody goes far beyond exchanging lines of typed text – it includes gestures, facial expressions, physical contact, …  It is for this reason that I deleted Tinder as well as the two aforementioned apps.  Call me old fashioned, but spontaneous and real-life encounters are much more gratifying.

If you follow one, some, or even all of these steps I can guarantee that you will feel so much more satisfied with life However, don’t expect it to happen overnight – it takes time.  One day you’ll wake up and, rather than scrolling down feed after feed, your first thought will be to open the curtains, go downstairs and enjoy a hearty breakfast.

Reducing your social media usage encourages you to appreciate the little things in life and to undertake activities out of genuine interest and pleasure – without obsessing over what other people think of you and how many likes you’ll receive. 

Please heed these guidelines and spread the word.  Let’s not let Black Mirror’s dystopian yet scarily realistic predictions come true…

 

Sources

Graph http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/instagram-dangerous-app-young-peoples-mental-health_uk_591b050ee4b07d5f6ba61e23

Photo 1 http://www.politeasflannels.com/blog/2016/10/23/slide-to-power-off

Photo 2 https://dailytimes.com.pk/31714/friendship/

Northern lass studying French and German (minor in Spanish) at Durham University, recently returned from a year abroad
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