It is inevitable – we are all drawn to the bright, shiny lights of social media. We can’t help ourselves, after all, everything around us is digital.
Food is delivered to us at all hours of the day. Boarding passes are instantly at our fingertips. Friends lives are told to us through photographic stories, and sometimes not even told by the friends themselves. Everything happens electronically, without having to interact with another human being. The only time you interact with another person is to thank them for bringing food to your door, to smile cordially at TSA agents, or if you’re the one snapping the photo to post on Instagram.
The art of conversation is lost. Emotional connections with other people is lost. Technology has truly made it easy to connect instantly in that text messages are immediate, finding information is automatic, lining up dates for every night of the week is possible, and booking a flight to Europe is effortless. I have family overseas, and I know what my cousins are up to on a weekly basis (and thankfully have an easy way to remember names of their children!) because of social media. So, in this aspect I can stay connected with them. But, it’s never the same as being there with them and laughing until our stomachs hurt like we did when we were kids.
So often people tell me they think they should go on a “Social Media Diet” because they see upsetting posts about ex’s being happy, having FOMO because their friends went to a concert and they weren’t there, or being disappointed because online dating isn’t working. We all know diets don’t work. It’s lifestyle choices that will lead to success in sticking to a goal. Your ex can smile for the 3 seconds it takes for his annoying little sister to take a photo of them in the freezing rain as they wait for a table at Au Cheval before they give up on waiting because they are so hungry. Your friends ran into each other at the concert you decided to not spend your money on because you can’t stand that type of music. You swiped left so many times the muscle memory in your finger forgot how to swipe right.
Our perceptions and false narratives taint what is really going on, and we get effected in negative ways. As I’m sure you already know, social media contributes to isolation and depressive feelings. When we gage our happiness and self-worth in comparison to what we perceive from the flawless photos on Instagram, we are no longer in control of our own happiness. So, what do we do? Disconnecting can be a solution, but it feels like such an extreme (and, who can really tolerate being disconnected for that long?!). Here are some recommendations:
- Be mindful of your time on Social Media. Check your phone to gage how much time you spend on Social Media. Most phones have the capability to track how much time you spend on each app. Whatever you are doing now, cut it in half. Once that becomes more normal for you, cut it down a little more. Try to make your goal 30 minutes a day total on Social Media. Some people go days without being on Social Media. If that is your goal, you can reach it.
- Delete Social Media apps from your mobile devices. This will help with refraining from mindless surfing, and will free up time to be more productive, or to go out and meet people organically.
- Turn off notifications. Trust me, you haven’t missed anything. If it was that big of a deal, you would have gotten a Presidential Alert. And even then, reconsider if it was really that important.
- Put your phone away. It does not need to be on the dinner table, especially if you are on a date. Or having lunch with your mother. Or catching up with your friend. Or sitting at the bar trying to meet someone. You cannot truly be open and present with another person if you are distracted by your electronic device. Also, put your phone away at night to help promote a good night’s sleep, thus better mood the next day. The blue light is interfering with your body’s ability to secrete melatonin, and suppresses delta waves in the brain – both necessary components for sleep.
- Delete the dating apps. I hear the same thing multiple times a week, that everyone hates dating apps. But they are at a loss at how to meet someone otherwise. Yes, it is a numbers game, but you are not truly learning anything about anyone when you swipe so quickly. So how do you meet people in person (especially in Chicago winters!)?
- Go out for dinner, drinks, or happy hour with a friend. A friend. Not a group – that’s too intimidating to approach. Make sure you sit at the bar, and not at a table in the back of a restaurant. No one will find you back there. Even the wait staff will forget you’re back there! When you sit at the bar, people will automatically open the door for a conversation because they will ask you to pass them the drink menu.
- Read more. Try reading at a coffee shop with an actual book. It will be less tempting to check Social Media, and you will be outside of your apartment, because after all, no one will know to find you sitting on your couch at home. Plus, now the other person can see the title of your book and strike up a conversation.
- Join a team or a class, or volunteer. I hear Dodge Ball has made quite the comeback. Though, that sounds anxiety provoking to me. Maybe soccer? Painting? Dog shelter? You’ll meet like-minded people, so the conversations will be easier to start when you share the same interests.
- Be proactive. Make an effort to do some of these suggestions. It takes work, but you will be happier in the end. And, if you are on a dating app, please, for the love of all that is green on this Earth, ask her/him out on a proper date within a day or two of texting, and follow through. Coffee dates or a happy hour drink after work are cost effective and good ways to screen if you have enough interest in one another to set up a longer date.
If you’d like more tools to help you stick to your goals, the therapists at Encircle are happy to help!