Too much social media can leave you feeling less connected and depressed. by Deborah A. Wilburn
Do you love Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media so much that you feel anxious if you don't check your news feed throughout the day for Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) on something important? You know -- that picture of your sister's cat stretched across the piano keyboard?
According to a recent State of Social Media study released by Harris Interactive and MyLife, 62% of adults who belong to more than one social network "keep an eye" on their networks daily. And 40% said they'd rather get a root canal or spend a night in jail than give up their social networking profiles.
That kind obsession suggests many of us need to go on a social media diet. All that tweeting, updating, and pinning is a major time suck, and it can have other negative ramifications.
"The brain can't pay attention to two things at once," says Joanne Cantor, PhD, author of Conquer Cyber Overload: Get More Done, Boost Your Creativity, and Reduce Stress. "The going back and forth not only makes tasks take longer, but the quality is inferior. Our brains aren't designed to constantly jump around."
Another sign that you need a social media slow-down? You feel depressed, sad, envious or just plain annoyed at the fabulousness on display on everyone else's networks.
"Belize is gorgeous … but face is BURNED … sunscreen fell into the drink during an afternoon of sailing!" (That's an example of the humblebrag, defined by Urban Dictionary as "subtly letting others know about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor.")
Showing off is nothing new, says Cantor. "It's just another way of keeping up with the Joneses, only social media gives you a chance to show off to more people."
But, remember, some who post have no underlying "I'm better than you" agenda. Without context, those vacay pictures on the beach may seem like boasting to an acquaintance, but you know it took your friend months to save up for that exotic holiday.
Also, "you're not seeing the ups and downs of other people's lives," says Cantor. "You're only seeing the ups, and those may be exaggerated."
Cantor says that if your social media use is making you feel bad about yourself or interfering with other aspects of life (like meeting a deadline or actually seeing a friend), it's time to regroup:
- · Use the control settings on Facebook and other outlets. You can always "hide" a friend from your feed (she won't know) for a while and visit her timeline when it suits you. It'll definitely cut down on every new display of look-at-me "affluence" or baby picture.
- · Take a hiatus. Limit the times you check in per day or even go cold turkey.
As one colleague said, "I went dark on Facebook. I was tired of feeling like I didn't have a great life because I was getting wrapped up in what other people were posting. Now I'm actually living my life as opposed to 'checking in' to be 'cool.' I recently went back on and realized I hadn't missed much. People are still posting about mundane crap while I've been out in the world having some great experiences."
Her current status? "I'm back off again."
Deborah A. Wilburn is Senior Editor/Producer at RealAge.com. While tired of the occasional gag-worthy updates, she still checks her Facebook page a couple of times a day.
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