Consider Limiting Social Media Time for Optimal Wellness: How to Unplug from Social Media.

Social media is a handy tool, especially during a pandemic, when we are engaging in physical distancing from friends and family. It's an easy way to stay connected to others and be informed about the pandemic and other events around the world.

While social media has its benefits, it can affect us negatively if used in excess. When we are not cognizant of our social media use, it's easy to spend hours plugged into a device rather than in the real world.

But, it's vital to our overall wellness to limit social media time. That's why I want to share a few tips on how to unplug from social media and offer some healthier alternatives.

But first, why should we consider limiting social media time?

The following are a few of the ways social media may negatively impact our mental wellness:

  • Fear of missing out - We may see friends and family getting together or doing fun things, which increases our feelings of isolation. This can tempt us to break social distancing rules.
  • Falling into the comparison trap – Many people post only the highlights of their life on social media. When we see this regularly, it's easy to compare it to the worst parts of our own lives, leading to feelings of frustration or inadequacy.
  • Overconsumption of news - While it's essential to stay informed, reading too much news can be stressful and overwhelming.
  • Negative impact on health - When we stare at a screen too long, it can lead to health problems such as eye strain, headaches, carpal tunnel, and neck pain. It also interferes with getting plenty of sleep, physical activity, and exploring opportunities for more creativity.

How to unplug from social media

  • Set daily limits - Many devices have settings to help you limit screen time. You can set your devices to turn off particular apps after using them for a designated amount of time or set periods when apps aren't accessible.
  • Make it harder to access social media - When apps are a click away, it's easy to engage in them more. Instead of setting social media apps to keep you logged in, reset or delete them. That way you have to log in each time through a browser page.
  • Keep busy - Engage in healthy alternatives to social media, so you're not sitting around bored.

Alternatives to social media

  • Connect with loved ones - Social media is a passive way to feel like you're keeping in touch with others without really interacting with them. There are many alternatives to social media for spending time with family and friends virtually. Send a text, make a phone call, or do a video chat. Depending on your area's restrictions and personal health risks, also consider visiting outdoors while maintaining social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.
  • Take advantage of extra time - Sheltering in place can feel frustrating and tedious. But look at it as an opportunity to do the things you haven't had time for. Read a book, listen to music, redecorate, start a garden, learn a new skill, pick up an old hobby, try a new type of exercise at home, or cook a new recipe.

Breaking established patterns can be difficult. But the benefits you gain when you limit social media time are worth the effort. To improve your odds for success, scale back slowly, set reasonable goals, and don’t give up if you slip up.

As you contemplate how to unplug from social media, consider limiting TV usage as well. TV is useful for keeping up with the news or as a distraction. But it has many of the same downfalls as excess social media use. So when you do watch TV, be intentional about what you watch and for how long.

It isn't necessary to go overboard and give up TV and social media altogether. Instead, strive for leading a more balanced life that supports your overall wellness.

Most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself.

Deborah Barkley, MA, LMFT