Why Social Media Isn't the Solution to your Pandemic Boredom

It’s 8:30 in the morning and the sun begins to spill through your blinds. You stretch your arms out and casually roll onto the other side of the bed. You’re pretty sure that today is Wednesday. After all, each day seems to blend into the next. You reach for your phone that’s nestled in your comforter beside you, as a result of you passing out last night during Tik Tok ‘black hole’ that had you scrolling until 2 am. You open your phone and immediately check all of your social media platforms. The day seems to quickly waste away until, before you know it, it’s time to do it all over again. 

Woman in Loungewear Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst/Shopify The rise of social media has allowed people to stay connected to friends and loved ones more than ever before. It also helps us stay up-to-date on news and the world around us. However, the reliance on social media can have a significant negative impact on our mental and physical health. Even though social media is a tempting way to conquer that COVID boredom, using social media platforms too frequently often leads people to feel isolated and unhappy.

Between the constant bombardment of perfectly edited Instagram photos that hinder self-esteem, and the obsessive scrolling through Tik Tok’s ‘For You Page’ that’s definitely affecting your sleep schedule, it’s important to be aware of when and how often we engage with social media. 

The Risks Associated with Reward

Using social media activates the brain’s reward system, and has a reinforcing nature that is very compelling to users. These platforms have been designed to have addictive properties, and are often linked to both depression and anxiety. However, despite the well-known negative effects, we keep coming back. Even when you check your Facebook feed and it makes you feel down, you’ll still feel compelled to re-check the app 5 minutes later. Why? Because the outcome is unpredictable. Think of social media like slots at a casino- if you always knew you were going to lose money, you would probably never play. The reason people keep coming back is because the outcome is unpredictable- and the same concept applies to social media. You never know how many likes you’ll get on your next post, or who is going to view your story. The aspect of unpredictability is what keeps us engaged with these platforms. 

Woman looks at a photo on Instagram on her phone. Photo by Kate Torline from Unsplash Another reason social media can feel addicting is because we are constantly looking for connection and validation. Lockdown has made us all feel distanced in some way or another- whether it’s from our friends, our loved ones, our job or the outside world. Social media helps us feel like we’re staying in touch with these aspects of our lives. However, it can easily become an unhealthy habit. Checking in with friends on social media can quickly turn into comparing likes and comments. People are treating online engagement as if it were validation from different social circles, thinking that it can replace a real-life connection. 

Distract Yourself from the Distraction

three girls during golden hour Photo by Simon Maage from Unsplash

Though options can feel limited, there are other ways to keep yourself occupied during the long hours of lockdown. Reach out to those friends and family you’re missing and video chat with them. Sit down and dive into the book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf. Play games with your family or the people you’re living with. Find ways to get active, either in your home or safely within your community. Set a time limit on your phone for each social media app, so you can monitor how much time you spend aimlessly scrolling on apps. Perhaps consider devoting as little as an hour a day where you put down all technology (if possible). It’s too easy to turn a quick ‘phone check’ into an hour of useless social media time. Though you don’t have to quit social media altogether, finding alternative ways to stay busy will do a lot of good- and might even make you feel happier altogether.