Vacations are amazing. They help you to get out of your routine and see things from a new perspective. It’s a reset of sorts. You are able to focus on things you usually don’t have time or energy to focus on, and, temporarily, let go of some of your responsibilities. I always come back mentally refreshed from our vacations. One of the reasons our vacations serve as a mental break is that we cut out most digital distractions during that time. No social media, no phone at all times, and no uploading pictures until we’re back home.
It’s fantastic, and it’s a great time to truly connect for our family. The thing is, having a social media break is beneficial in our daily lives too. Having regular social media breaks makes everyone healthier in our home, so this week I’m challenging you to make a healthy change with us — one that’s very hard for a lot of us to make. I want you to take a social media vacation with us, and I want you to do it today.
Now, why would I ask anyone to do that?
Social Media is Fantastic!
Well, social media definitely has its perks: You’re able to connect and communicate with a large number of people, and you can keep up with what friends and family members in different parts of the country (or in my case, in a different part of the world) are doing.
As much as I hate to say it, there are also plenty of downfalls.
Social Media is Terrible!
Social media has a funny way of getting you stuck. Have you ever thought:
“I’m just going to check my Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account for just a minute.”
Instead of a minute, you end up staring at the screen mindlessly for much longer than that. Yep, that’s a downfall. But beyond that, there has been a lot of debate about social media leading to depression, isolation, and addiction. We’re starting to see people who just don’t know how to communicate in person anymore.
Before any of us get to these extremes, I want to start moderating or even slowing down our social media use. So what are some steps you can take today to decrease your social media use?
First, figure out how much time you’re actually taking with all of your social media activities. This part is important because you need to learn your social media patterns, so don’t skip over it:
Track Your Time
How are you spending your time on social media? Are you an observer or an active participant? What kind of benefit are you getting out of your social media involvement? (i.e. does it make you feel connected, heard, or does it do the opposite?) It’s so easy to stay connected with social media, that a lot of people aren’t giving their minds a much needed break.
Give Yourself Alternatives
Then, brainstorm at least 5 non-computer, smart phone, or tablet related activities that you can do to replace some of your online time. Now, this activity can be anything from going for a walk to calling someone on the phone. It can even be going to sleep earlier because you won’t stay up late checking on your social media status. It just needs to be realistic, and hopefully fit in with some of your motivations from step one. If you don’t have an alternative, the odds that you will go back to your old social media habit are much higher, so give yourself a few options.
Third, schedule your social media time. Preferably, you’ll want to limit your time to once or twice a day for a max time of 15 minutes each time. Realistically, you’ll want to start cutting down your time in half. That means, that if you usually check your accounts six times a day for an hour each time, you’ll be checking them three times a day for a maximum time of 30 minutes each time. You can gradually cut this time down once you get a little bit more comfortable with your new schedule.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Make sure that you’re keeping track of your time, use your phone, a stop watch or keep a clock handy, because it’s really easy to get lost in the social media world.
Your last step is to get an accountability partner. (Mr. AJ is mine) This step is very important. We’re usually more willing and motivated to get something done if we’re actually accountable to someone else. Make sure that this person is actually willing to challenge you, and that you’ll actually let them.
Own Your Life
The important part of all this, is to not let social media take over your life. By limiting your exposure to once or twice a day, you can be connected to others and share parts of your life, while still having your own experiences.
If all you’re doing is focusing on your social media presence, it’s easy to become just an observer and forget to have your own real life experiences. So for now, log off of your accounts, turn off the computer, and start a conversation in person with someone else.