Take time out from technology

CHANCES are before reading this, you’ve checked your Instagram feed, posted to Facebook or Twitter; and you can’t go half an hour without looking at your phone for updates or WhatsApp messages.

According to a 2017 study by influencer marketing agency Mediakix, the average time spent each day on YouTube (40 minutes), Facebook (35), Snapchat (25), Instagram (15) and Twitter (1), adds up to five years and four months.

Imagine if you had all that free time? You could take up a hobby, or spend more time with loved ones.

Technology is constantly fighting for our attention and we’re happy to oblige. But what if you took a minute and considered the following? The reason for your Betty Blue mood could be because you’re constantly checking up on your BFF’s holiday on Instagram or you’ve been angered at a colleague’s rant on Facebook.

What if you just unplug the social media cord and quit altogether? Dare to make 2019 the year for a full social media blackout.

For Linda Waterfield, the decision to detox from various platforms was an easy one. “It was coming on for a while because I started noticing the time I was spending on social media in correlation to what I was feeling wasn’t balanced,” says the 39-year-old digital manager.

The first thing she did was to delete her Facebook account because it felt unnatural for her to have such a massive insight into other people’s lives. “I just felt for me Facebook was not really something that I wanted to be a part of anymore.” She then moved on to Twitter and closed her other accounts after that. Waterfield has been off social media for more than two years now. “In a nutshell, it just wasn’t making me feel good, so I decided to leave. I think it was the best decision I ever made. Whether we realise it or not, the constant onslaught of images have an effect on your mental health,” she said.

Counselling psychologist Claire Moore tends to agree, saying that social media has a profound effect on human psychology, some of it beneficial and some detrimental. But when it comes to research, she says the jury is still undecided.

In 2015, researchers at the Pew Research Centre attempted to find out if social media induces more stress than it relieves. After surveying 1800 people, they found women reported higher stress levels than men. Twitter was found to be one of the main reasons contributing to their stress because it increased their awareness of other people’s stress. For men, it had the opposite effect, due to their more distant relationship with social media.

Another study published in the Journal of Behavior Addictions concluded that the excessive use of social media platforms like Facebook can make users take risky decisions like drug addicts. “Around one-third of humans on the planet are using social media, and some of these people are displaying maladaptive, excessive use of these sites,” said lead study author Dar Meshi from Michigan State University.

Then there’s this thing called curated lifestyles. What you see isn’t always a true reflection of reality. “People tend to present their lives in a positive light on social media,” adds Moore. “Humans instinctively compare ourselves to others and therefore social media users are constantly comparing the reality of their lives to the filtered images that others have posted of their lives.”

If you’re still undecided if you should go cold turkey, Moore suggests:

* If you find yourself compulsively checking social media then it might be useful to try a social media blackout for a while.

* If you become anxious or depressed during that time then you may want to seek counselling to deal with a possible social media addiction.

* If your mood has become dependent on your social media feedback then you should consider taking a break to work on building your own self-esteem.

* If your relationships are suffering or friends and family are unhappy about your social media use, then try limiting the amount of time you spend on social media or set boundaries.

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