Social media was always something I loved going on when I needed a break from the confining grips of COVID-19. I found myself scrolling on my phone every day, every hour, even every few minutes to either post something or give my opinion on something that really didn’t need my two cents. I had to stay inside and listen to my teachers over Zoom talk about a lesson I really wasn’t paying attention to, and I never had a chance to take a break away from family like I could when going to school five days a week. I felt sheltered, alone in my own space, and even though I was texting friends every day, it wasn’t the same as talking to them in person. So like any other person would do, I turned to social media and implemented myself into a space that really couldn’t care less about me. I took strangers’ opinions to heart, got upset when an opinion I had on Twitter got ratioed and in turn ratioed other innocent people for something pointless because my own life felt pointless. I was, at that time in my life, chronically online and it took until now to finally get out of that state.
What does being chronically online mean and how do you find out if you are?
When looking up different people’s perspectives of what being “chronically online” really means you will find a lot of different definitions. One definition by Computer Network Abrar Al-Heeti is, “those who spend so much time online it skews their sense of reality and hinders their ability to effectively communicate about topics like politics or social justice because they lack real-world experience.” While a rather harsh one put onto Urban Dictionary defines it as, “Someone who is basically always on the internet and their entire existence revolves around being on the internet. People who are chronically online typically have no real friends IRL, and stay online starting useless debates that literally achieve nothing outside of a screen.” It may be a rather ruthless way to describe it, but this describes exactly how I was presenting myself on social media and it is often how I acted.
Now, I raise the question, does this definition of being chronically online define how you approach your social media pages? Do you start debates because you find it fun? Do you aimlessly scroll through your feed for hours on end? Do you think starting arguments with people online is a good way to destress from your personal life? Although you may fear your response to these questions, answering yes to any of them does not mean you are in any way a horrible person for using social media as a way to cope. At that point in my life, during COVID-19, having those social media accounts at times was the only thing keeping me sane. Nevertheless, you can’t always rely on arguing with strangers as a way to unwind, so here are some tips from a former chronically online person on lessening your presence on social media.
How to distance yourself from social media and ways to replace it
Firstly, ask yourself if what you are doing currently on social media is the right thing for you. Accepting that you are on these apps for the wrong reasons and establishing that you can do better is always the right first step.
Secondly, although it may be hard to do at first, delete those social media apps. If you really can’t find yourself deleting them completely, going to your screen time setting in your phone and setting time limits for those apps is an excellent way to start.
Additionally, finding other things you are interested in other than being online like reading, painting or even just taking time to write out what you are feeling is a great way to not only destress, but to vent about the things you would say on your social media on paper. Something I found really beneficial upon starting college was to get involved in numerous events on my campus, as well as see what different clubs were offered that I would be interested in. At first it was extremely difficult because not only was I getting out of my chronically online space, but I was very introverted and going to these events was hard. However, I really enjoyed myself in the end.
Finally, remember that you are not alone in this process, there are millions of other people dealing with the problem of being extremely online, and although it may seem like you will never get out of it, remember that everything the big wide world has to offer is out there waiting for you!